You wake up in the morning and resolve to have a better day. You are going to be patient with your child and you are both going to have an unruffled day…. Within minutes, however, he has insisted on carrying his cup of milk to the bedroom by himself and spilt it all over the floor from the kitchen to the room. He has started crying because you will not let him have a chocolate for breakfast and he wants to wear his swimming costume (or football jersey) to playgroup (or school) this morning. He refuses to eat his breakfast and is still not dressed by the time you need to leave the house. All hell has broken loose and you are now shouting like a banshee. Familiar story?
Parenting requires a saintly amount of patience if you are to get through it unscathed and relatively stress free. While the goal is always a patient and calm day, the outcome rarely is, but the first step in patient parenting is to give yourself a break too. Take a deep breath and stop being so hard on yourself. A lot of the time our lack of patience with our little ones has more to do with our own personal stress load than it has to do with their behaviour. Stressing out about your parenting style is likely to result in more stress and less patience on your part.
We all have days when we wish we had the magic parenting wand with which we could point in the general direction of our darling child (children) and they would happily eat their breakfast, get dressed without fuss and be willing and ready to leave the house when we are. Unfortunately, this magic wand has remained frustratingly elusive, so we have to come up with Plan B.
The simple answer is yes. Here are a few tips to help you practice.
- Am I ok?: The first step of patient parenting is to be aware of your own emotional and mental wellbeing. As parents, we rarely have time to check-in with ourselves and see if we are ok, but if you are not ok for any reason, your ability to parent in a calm and patient way is greatly reduced.
- Self care: This follows from the above point. Make the effort to look after yourself. Take a few minutes (or seconds) each day to zone out of the daily grind and do something you enjoy. This can be anything from daydreaming on the bus, reading a book, sitting on the toilet by yourself!!, checking your facebook, taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it, doing a few quick stretches, finishing your cup of tea, to taking a gym class, painting, going for a run, cooking, gardening….Looking after you as an individual will help in your role as a parent.
- Stop, think, then respond (rather than react): If you catch yourself getting frustrated about things then stop, take a deep breath, consider your options and start again. This is often difficult to do, yet we try to teach our children the art of taking a breath and slowing down when their emotions get too much, why don’t we try practice what we preach?
- Admit mistakes and apologise: Its ok for our kids to see us making mistakes and for us to apologise to them and explain how we should have responded. Children learn more from how we act and what we model for them, than what we say to them about the right way to act. The important thing is that we try to do differently next time and, apologise to others as required. When our children see us doing this, they are more likely to show this behaviour themselves.
- View life from a child’s perspective: When things are really spiraling out of control it is easy to get caught in the midst of it and believe our child is wilfully defiant. Try to empathise with your child and understand that little people are naturally irrational, emotional and intense. They are not maliciously trying to ruin your day and often have very real feelings about the issues you are dealing with. It can be helpful to remember that children do not have the same agenda as we do. For example, you may be stressing that you need to get to work on time, but getting to work on time is totally irrelevant to your child. Empathising and seeing things from their perspective may give you a little more patience to deal with the situation.
- Notice and celebrate the good times: It is all too easy to get caught up in recalling only the stressful, “parent-of-the-year”, my-child-is-possessed moments. Yes, parenting is challenging at times, but there are usually plenty of things to be grateful for as well. Enjoy the mornings that run smoothly, thank your child for having a shower when you asked her to, spend time doing fun things together, and make sure that every night when your children are asleep, you take a moment to look at their peaceful faces, listen to their gentle breath, and fall in love with them all over again in preparation for the next day……
- Be mindful off the life you have: There are many billion people in other less fortunate parts of the world that would swap their life and problems with yours in an instant. And there are many couples out there desperately trying to even conceive a child. It’s human nature to take the good things we have for granted and as givens, and to long for things to be better and full of more positive emotions – though it takes conscious effort and regular practice to be grateful for what we have and the people we have in our lives.
For more information, you can visit: www.changespsychology.com.au