Ah, yes, patience… one of the resources most lacking in the world today. Everyone needs it, everyone wants it, but nobody wants to go through the process of learning how to obtain it.
If there is anyplace that we need patience, it is in raising our children. Losing patience is probably the single greatest cause of child abuse, especially in toddlers. The simple acts of being a parent put a constant drain on our patience, constantly working to pull us towards frustration. This is especially true when our children are too young to understand what we tell them.
However, the greater we learn the lesson of patience, the greater a parent we can become. We teach our children better, we become a better encourager for them, we discipline them more consistently and we do more things to help them grow and mature. Patience is not only a virtue, but an essential tool of parenting.
So, what do we do when patience wears thin? Or, better yet, how do we avoid allowing it to get to the point where it wears thin? Let’s look at a few suggestions for becoming a parent with great patience:
- Learn your limits. Each of us has an individual “breaking point” in our patience. We need to know where it is, so that we can avoid getting too close to it. When we see the signs that we are getting close, it’s time to arrange a time out, where the child is doing something safe, and we can get away from them for a moment.
- Develop safe activities that your child can do without your direct, constant supervision. Whether it is coloring, playing in a sandbox, or a bucket of snow in the bathtub, your child needs things to keep them occupied. Be inventive; think outside the box; just make sure they can’t get hurt, or hurt anything else. That will give you the time you need to attend to other things.
- Learn your triggers. Not only do we each have a breaking point, but we each have certain things that are likely to make us lose our patience, and our tempers. When we are aware of these things, we can work to avoid allowing them to happen. Or, we can pass the child off to our spouse (or other care giver) to deal with those issues.
- Don’t let your child be your boss. Children are born as the center of their universe. All they have to do is cry, and they get whatever they want. That’s okay as a newborn, but we need to train them away from that as soon as possible. It’s one thing when a child cries because they have a legitimate need, it’s another thing when they do it to control. The best cure for the controlling cry is ignoring it.
- Schedule breaks from your children. Parents, especially parents of toddlers, need breaks from the job of parenting. It is essential to your sanity and to your patience to have times of recreation, to rejuvenate you and recharge your batteries.
- Never deal with your child when you are angry. It doesn’t hurt to postpone discipline; nor does it destroy a child to be dirty for a few minutes while you cool down. If you find that they’ve made you angry, find a way of cooling off, before you deal with them.
- Direct your child’s energies into constructive activities instead of destructive ones. A child left alone will often find the worst things to do. Make sure they not only have something to keep them busy, but better yet, something that will help in their development.
- Put it in perspective. Whenever your child has done something to try your patience, step back and take a look at the big picture. Is that thing really worth getting mad over? Is a spilled glass of milk really worth being upset about for the next two hours? Or, is it an opportunity to teach your child how to clean up spilled milk? Many of the things we get upset about really aren’t all that big, when we put them in perspective.
- Finally, always remember that you love your child. It is easy to forget that for a moment, especially when they are trying our patience. So, put reminders where you can easily see them; things that are visual triggers to make you proud of that child.
If you apply these few little secrets to your life, you’ll find yourself much more peaceful. Your friends and neighbors will see you as a paragon of patience. You might even be able to win the parent of the year award for your great patience.