Your kids may not know much about the world, but they are bar-none experts at pushing limits and trying patience. However, you don't need to be a zen master to handle the trying times of rearing your children. Practicing patience with your children comes with deliberate effort, empathy and perspective.
Put yourself in your child's shoes. Like you wouldn't chastise someone with a physical limitation, know that your child hasn't fully developed in terms of maturity, behavior and social graces. There are some things she might not be able to do yet, and no amount of yelling or losing patience will hurry her along. Get down on her level and try to experience life as she sees it. In other words, empathize.
Help your child understand the general concept that his behavior affects other people. For example, if he tarries in getting ready for school in the morning, his tardiness can disrupt the classroom and make you late for work and could affect your employment. If you are concentrating on a project and he constantly interrupts, use terms he can understand to let him know what the consequences are if you don't finish your work on time.
Examine your reactions. Ask yourself what emotional trigger your child has pulled when you react with impatience. Consider that you may be embarrassed and think her actions are a reflection of your parenting skills. Perhaps you're concerned about your child's future or worried about how her behavior is affecting you.
Set a good example. Make sure your child isn't learning his off-putting behavior from you. Determine whether he is yelling and fighting when he doesn't get his way because that's what you do. Maybe he is procrastinating and putting off chores because you've taught him that. Accept that some of his behavior is learned and take that as a challenge to clean up your own act.
Set boundaries and behavioral expectations for your child and enforce them consistently. Plan ahead for the trouble spots. If every night you have trouble getting your youngster to start her bedtime routine, announce early in the evening what she has to do. Repeat it. For example, tell her that after dinner she can play, then clean up, and then she must take a bath. For an older child who puts off homework, delay the time-hogs that help her procrastinate, such as the television, games or computers. Anticipate whatever it is that is going to cause a behavioral problem that then sets off your patience meter.
Give your child opportunities to practice and succeed in self-control. Use age-appropriate strategies to set him up to do things, such as wait without complaint, get along with siblings, complete a set of chores without being closely monitored. Activities such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves and making dinner require significant amounts of time. Concentrating on these tasks can be helpful in allowing your child to master control.
Practice patience. Think of it like a muscle. When you sense yourself losing patience, have a mantra or routine that you can use to immediately diffuse your anger or frustration. Count backwards, recite verses, take a walk, talk it out, laugh -- whatever is appropriate and easy. Then address the real issue at hand with a calm mind, rather than a frazzled one. The more you consciously practice patience, the more of it you will have.
Don't expect changes overnight -- in your child or yourself. Recognize your impatience is as much an issue as your child's misbehaving. Have patience with yourself. Many years of conditioning take time to respond to change.
Release your need for everything to go right all the time. That alone may help you come down the emotional roller coaster of impatience. Some days you have to be late. Some days the kids will fight, and some days you will lose your patience.
- ASCD Edge: Staying Calm When Children Use Challenging Behavior
- Helpguide.org: ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips
- Child Mind Insitute: Stop Yelling!
- AskDrSears.com: Top Ten Discipline Principles
- "Psychology Today"; Patience May Be a Virtue, But...; Art Markman, Ph.D.; Dec. 29, 2009
- American Psychological Association: Overwhelmed b Workplace Stress? You‘re Not Alone