If there is one virtue I have been challenged to practice every single day since becoming a parent, it is patience.
In the baby days it was learning how to breastfeed and figuring out how to soothe my baby. In the toddler years it was accepting the slow pace of walks while my child explored everything, or waiting (what felt like a million years) to get more than five straight hours of sleep in the night. With a preschooler came the never ending questions about dinosaurs, and the list goes on and on… and on.
Every day there are dozens of opportunities to practice patience.
Here are five ways I try to be a more patient mom.
I try to see the situation from my child’s point of view.
My son doesn’t feel the urgency to get the muffins in the oven by 10am. He just wants to enjoy stirring the mixture. If I have time to spare, I try to take his viewpoint into account and do my best to accommodate it. Does it really matter if the baking takes 5 minutes more than planned? It may feel a bit unproductive to me, but he is learning so much through the experience that it is worth taking the extra time to let him get involved.
I plan ahead.
It is not realistic to get through a trip to the grocery store with the kids in 20 minutes, even though I regularly get the shopping done in that time if I am by myself. Instead of setting myself up for disappointment, where I’m likely to be rushing everyone and feeling stressed, I try to plan in extra time whenever possible. This means leaving on our walk to school 10 minutes before we have to get there instead of five minutes, which is the time it actually takes us to walk to school. Some days we get there early, but more regularly we simply have some extra time to look at a spider or go back to get a forgotten water bottle. Planning in that extra time allows me to relax and therefore be more patient as unexpected events arise.
I take one thing at a time.
I find that when I am feeling stressed about “waiting” or when I am prone to snap over some behavior, that I am usually focused on more than what is in front of me. My kids may be taking a long time to get into the bath but I’m not actually concentrating on getting them into the bath, I’m already worried about brushing teeth, finding the favorite PJs, getting the dishes put away, and wondering if we are ever going to get to bed on time. If I step back and try to do one task at a time, I am less likely to lose my temper and more likely to be working through the present situation with focus and patience.
I ask myself, “What will the situation be in one hour from now?”
When I am dealing with tantrums or high energy situations, it can be very draining and easy to lose my patience. If I take a moment to look at the bigger picture, I am reminded that things will be different in half an hour, one hour, or one day from now. Asking myself how things might be different gives me hope and the incentive to do my best in this moment as “this too shall pass.” It wont be this way forever, but the way I behave can (and will) affect the future. Do I want my kids to look back on a mommy who was kind and patient, or otherwise?
I remind myself that patience is a way to show love.
It never feels good to lose your patience, and it is even worse when you see how your temper affected your child. Having foresight and remembering that patience is a way to show love is a great motivator to actually practicing it. When I feel my patience is being tested, some big deep breaths and reminding myself how much I love my kids can really help me stay focused on the goal of modeling patience and embracing the challenges of parenthood… because love is at the root of it all.
Patience Pays You Back
When I look back and think about the times I was patient, versus the ones I was not, I can see a clear difference in my willingness to connect with my child and be accepting of the challenge that is parenting. Rushing through things or willing things to be different does not help in tough situations. Instead, opening my heart and actively trying to practice patience can make a world of difference.
If you are looking for ways to explain the concept of patience to your child, check out these six hands-on activities for teach patience where you can explore the topic together. You may also want to check out these journal prompts for moms about patience.