Ask any seasoned parent what skill is the most difficult to perfect, and I bet the number one answer will be patience. Successful parenting takes so much more than just meeting a child’s physical needs. It also requires nurturing developmental and emotional well-being while providing a stable and loving childhood. Whew! That’s a big responsibility!
Children are unpredictable, attention-grabbing, needy little creatures that rarely do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it or as fast as we wish. They mess with our schedules. They create chaos when we least want chaos. They ruin our best laid-plans.
Have you ever lost it when your child has made a huge mess or made you late for an important event? And don’t you feel so awful about yourself later when you think about it more clearly? Don’t you ever wish you had handled a situation that seemed worse in the moment, after you thought about it? Emotions have a way of blocking higher-level thinking and making us respond in ways we wish we didn’t.
Here are some strategies for being a more patient parent in the moment.
Acknowledge that we all lose our cool once in a while. We all want to be patient parents. But there are times when a situation sneaks up on us and we lose it! Our kids won’t be damaged if it is a rare occurrence and we own up to our mistakes and apologize. We need to reflect and think about better choices, and then move on. The best we can do is work on staying focused, grounded and emotionally healthy, and model those traits to our kids! Good parenting doesn’t have to be perfection.
In order to do better, we have to plan ahead. We need to think about what triggers us to lose control. Is it that we have too many things on our plates, and one step out of line from our child pushes the button? Is there a specific behavior (such as whining, screaming or fighting with siblings) that pushes us over the edge?
We need to listen to our bodies. When we feel the tension building, we need to do something to relieve it. Some suggestions are to walk away, count to 10 or 100, or remind ourselves of what is really important.
Fill our buckets
It's necessary to have internal resources that give us energy, calm and control in our lives. Everyday commitments, children and just life suck those resources. Refilling that personal resource bucket makes life much more manageable.
We all know we are not the best parents when we’re stressed, tired, hungry, worried or overscheduled. We need to remove things from our lives (at least for the moment) that aren’t absolutely necessary. We need to ask for help on the rest.
Once we lower our expectations of ourselves, we can figure out what re-fuels us and make time for it. Sometimes just five minutes with peace and quiet and a cup of coffee is all it takes. Or a short phone call to a friend before we walk in the house at the end of the day. It's important to schedule that time so we actually get it! We can even plan to pick up our kids from child care ten minutes later than usual so we're re-grouped and ready to greet them with love and patience.
Jeanne Labana, from Milwaukee, has been an educator for over 25 years. She teaches parenting classes and is a parenting coach.