Let’s face it, while they are very adorable most of the time, children can be incredibly frustrating.
As mothers, we all struggle to be more patient with our kids.
And we ALL lose it from time to time. ALL OF US.
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I constantly struggle with feeling like I should be more patient with my children.
They whine and push and beg for more constantly…
Say “no” more than any other word in the English language…
Seem to hear but don’t listen, and agree but don’t comply.
And then I realize that I am truly very patient with them. I put up with a lot.
And then when they push me past my limit, I am not my best self.
And then I feel the guilt. You must feel it too.
The “I threatened to spank them,” or “I screamed and acted like a child,” or “they don’t even understand, they’re so young,” guilt. The “how did I actually want this?” and the “I need to get away” guilt.
But honestly, I’ve got to tell you something Mama:
IT’S NOT ACCURATE OR REALISTIC TO BE PATIENT ALL OF THE TIME.
Being eternally patient and constantly serene is not preparing your child for real life. It’s not preparing them for a world which will not put up with their shit.
Being eternally patient is not showing them that even the humans that love them the most have limits.
Nor is it showing them how to treat those who care for them the most.
It’s not teaching them how to be better human beings.
When you reach the point of anger and frustration and impatience, take heed:
This moment is teaching them that even love has limits…
It’s teaching them that their behaviour has consequences.
And it is teaching them that while you love them more than anything, you have a limit to your patience.
IT’S ALL GOING TO PLAN, MAMA
When you feel like you might hurt your child and need to walk away to prevent it, you’re doing the right thing.
That moment that you say harsh words through gritted teeth and feel justified, and then regret them minutes later, have some grace.
Or when you experience those terrible feelings that make you understand why people hurt their children, cultivate compassion for yourself.
You are not a bad parent. You do not hurt your children.
The parenting blueprint has been designed without our input. We are actors in a play with a script we haven’t read.
THIS IS ALL PART OF THE PARENTING MASTER PLAN.
They push. They don’t listen.
You’re patient, you’re kind. They push more.
You try even harder to hold it together.
They push one more time and you lose it.
THIS IS HOW PARENTING GOES.
So when you feel the rage and frustration and feeling of wanting to hurt them (which you do not), don’t make it worse by shaming yourself.
Don’t make it hurt more than it already does by slathering on a thick layer of guilt.
Realize that your natural reaction to be angry and impatient is in response to their natural reaction to push. It’s all part of the plan.
IN THIS POST (+PODCAST EPISODE), I WANT TO HELP YOU:
- Reduce the guilt you have around losing your patience with your kids.
- Provide you with some strategies and mindset approaches to help you become more patient with them 🙂
So how can you become a bit more patient?
REALIZE THAT YOUR PATIENCE IS A LIMITED RESOURCE.
I think one of the most critical things I have realized in my attempts to become more patient with my kids is that my patience is a limited resource.
It is not a bottomless reserve and I cannot expect it to be.
As such, I regularly visualize my patience as a gauge or tank that becomes depleted the more often I have to draw on it during the day.
Some situations require larger draws and may bottom the tank right away, leading to explosive outbursts, yelling or otherwise. Others demand smaller withdrawals and can be more easily replenished as long as things are smooth sailing.
The trouble is when the tank is completely empty, and there is no time or way to replenish it. Any parent knows what the bottom of that tank feels like, and it isn’t a very good feeling.
If you can visualize your own ability to be patient as a tank that can become emptied, you can work to become more aware of things that might drain your tank quicker and work to intentionally refill your tank throughout the day.
BE AWARE WHEN YOUR PATIENCE TANK IS RUNNING LOW.
What does it feel like right before you lose your patience?
You know, that flash point just before you yell, scream or “fly-off-the-handle.”
I’ve worked to become aware of when my Patience Tank is starting to run low, or when I’m approaching my flash point (the moment juuuust before I lose my marbles).
I may feel the tightness in my chest, hear the change in my tone of voice, or feel the tenseness in my movements and muscles.
I use these signs as red flag feelings – moments when I need to step back and take stock of my experience.
Once I realize that I am moving closer to my flash point, I will try to take a break to refill my Patience Tank.
When I realize my tank is running low, I take an intentional break.
Breaks or “time-outs” are an under-appreciated strategy in parenting, and I’m not referring to the “time-out” we use to discipline our children.
I know it is not always possible, but even 10 or 15 seconds of a “break” can mean the difference between an emotional outburst that you will regret and a calmer approach to the situation.
On a particularly stressful day, this may mean being even more intentional about taking time to breathe, re-focus and do even 5 minutes of self-care when your schedule is chaotic or the day is particularly stressful.
This allows you to get a bit of a “refill” on your Patience Tank throughout the day, and therefore you have more ability to respond constructively in frustrating moments.
Finally, being intentional about recharging your tank helps you to return and approach behaviour management and discipline from a place of more calm and less reactivity.
BE AWARE OF WHAT DRAINS YOUR TANK.
If we continue the metaphor of the Patience Tank, there are factors that contribute to its depletion or empty it quicker.
For example, your tank will drain quicker when you’re tired, hungry or sad. Your tank will drain quicker in the later part of the day than in the morning.
Personally, I am considerably more impatient when I have not attended to my self-care. I am definitely more likely to snap at my child if I am tired or hungry. When my days are hectic or over-scheduled, I parent in ways that I know are not ideal.
Since becoming aware of this, I am purposeful about paying attention to my triggers and addressing them when possible to ensure I come to my parenting with all of my needs met.
Try to identify what factors may make you more likely to snap or explode. Take steps to mitigate those factors if possible so that you have resources to remain calm when you need it most.
USE PLAY WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
Have you ever considered this: If you have energy to fight and argue with your child, you have energy to make the task/situation happier and lighter with some play.
I try to infuse play into my day with my children as often as possible. There are a few reasons why this is helpful and effective to improve patience:
First, it helps me to almost immediately ease up and realize that more often than not, my children are just being kids. They are not intentionally misbehaving or being oppositional. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. We can make even the most “serious” situation more fun with some play.
Second, children love having fun and are more cooperative during play. I’ve found that if I make any request more fun, my children are considerably more likely to be agreeable. They are more likely take part in what you’re asking of them. So if it’s a race to the bathroom to brush their teeth, or their favourite stuffed animal asking them to get into their PJs for bedtime, children are more likely to cooperate when there is play involved.
Finally, I find it really hard to be angry and play at the same time. It’s hard to be frustrated when listening to the cries and whines turn into deep belly laughs and giggles as I tickle them relentlessly or play-wrestle them into their pyjamas. It might seem like it’s making the situation more work, but really, it is probably about the same (but a lot more fun!) I often succumb to laughter as well, which is a great stress reliever and breaks the tension of the moment.
Depending on your child, this may look like turning bedtime routine into a chase up the stairs or incorporating their current favourite toy/story into the situation in some playful way that encourages them in the direction you want them to go.
PROVIDE CHOICES RATHER THAN DEMANDS.
Children are independent individuals learning to express their own unique identities. As such, they tend to respond less cooperatively to rigid demands than they do to requests.
I’ve realized my children don’t care for or listen well when I am directing them on what needs to be done. When given a degree of choice in their day, children are more cooperative on average.
This may look like:
“Would you like to get in your pyjamas or brush your teeth first?”
“Which pyjamas would you like to wear?”
“Would you like to have carrots or cucumbers or both?”
If the situation is not a safety risk, I try to provide my children with choices throughout their day. When they have more choice, they tend to be more cooperative, and I tend to lose my patience less often.
HONOUR YOUR CHILDREN’S ENERGY
All children have an innate energy level and function better at a certain level of activity or stimulation.
For example, some children are very high energy and seem to constantly be in motion. They need lots of big body play and high energy activity throughout the day.
Other children may have lower energy levels and can easily become overstimulated. They may prefer quiet activities more often and get overwhelmed easily with chaos, high levels of activity or changing environments.
It’s so critical to be aware of and try to honour these innate energy levels in our children.
When we fail to meet our children’s energy needs consistently, children can have a harder time listening, cooperating or behaving appropriately. They become more irritable, agitated and at times, antagonistic.
This is not intentional, it’s simply that often their level for processing and behaving as expected have been surpassed by either excessive energy or overwhelm.
When children are behaving difficult more and more often during the day, our Patience Tank is tapped more often and we are more likely to lose it and explode.
Pay attention to the dominant energy level of your child and be aware of when they may be more over or under-stimulated.
Children requiring lots of activity are best served with plenty of unstructured time in safe environments allowing them to make loud noise and participate in big body play. In contrast, those children who are more comfortable in calmer, quieter environments should have structured time in their day for activities that meet these needs and have limits on how many chaotic or high energy activities comprise their day.
If you can structure your day to honour your child’s energy, they will *hopefully* be less challenging and you will lose your patience less often.
ENERGY STATES CHANGE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
And while a child may have a dominant energy level most often, Denaye Barahona of Simple Families discusses the idea that children frequently alternate between the energy states of expansion and contraction throughout their day.
They continually shift from engaging in activities that require more contraction (close, detailed activities that require cooperation with their sibling)) to those that require expansion (large body play, active running or wrestling).
It is often during periods of transition between energy levels that children feel restless (read: act out) if kept in one state for too long. For example, they may become irritated, angry or frustrated if they are expanding and want to run or move around, but are told to sit still or keep quiet.
If you’re in tune to these routines, or at least aware of the signals they provide in needing to switch phase, you can plan your day to match their energy levels and reduce the likelihood and frequency of those critical flashpoint moments.
REMEMBER: YOU ARE HUMAN.
Maintaining patience when you feel like exploding is a universal parenting struggle. Trust me, it happens to all of us. However, implementing even small strategies, such as developing a morning routine can help us to refill our Patience Tank and approach our days with more intention.
Given that research has estimated that “conflictual interactions” or situations of conflict/disagreement between parents and young children occur from 3.5 to 15 times PER HOUR, it is obvious why it is a challenge to remain patient at all times.
And remember, it is not serving YOU or YOUR CHILD to expect that be patient at all times.
When you realize that, it is easier to have compassion with yourself when you inevitably reach your limit and snap at your child.
You are not flawed because you cannot stand your child incessantly whining while you cook dinner.
You’re not even flawed when you cannot understand why your child feels the need to antagonize their sibling relentlessly.
You are human and you are imperfect. And so is your child.
LET’S GET INTO ACTION:
VISUALIZE YOUR PATIENCE AS A TANK: A tank will be drained throughout the day and need to be refilled. Work to be intentional about identifying triggers and taking breaks to refill your Patience Tank throughout the day.
BE AWARE OF YOUR OWN TRIGGERS: If you’re tired, hungry, sad or lonely, your Patience Tank will run out quicker. Be aware of this and be sure to tend to your own self-care. This is your responsibility.
USE PLAY WHENEVER POSSIBLE : Children are more likely to be cooperative if you’re being playful, and it takes as much energy to be playful as it does to fight and argue. Remember that.
USE REQUESTS RATHER THAN DEMANDS: Honour the fact that your children cooperate more often when asked rather than directed.
HONOUR YOUR CHILD’S ENERGY: Has your child had enough big body play lately? Do they need quiet time to do a puzzle? Are you structuring their days to support them best, so they can behave their best and drive you less crazy? Honest question.
HAVE COMPASSION: You are human and will lose your patience. This is inevitable. Remember that it’s not always TERRIBLE to lose your patience and that those moments are teaching both you and your child valuable lessons.
What’s your favourite strategy for improving your own ability to be patient with your kids? Share below!
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