A virtue ... really
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
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I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I am not an especially patient person. Okay, let me say it this way: if everything is going exactly as I would like, according to my plan, and on my timeline, I am patient. If not, well, then I can be a little agitated. I can hide that from those who don't know me well; to my friends and family, they know that I am biting my tongue and biding my time until I can fix it and do it my way.
Yeah, so this is not really a good thing for a parent. How many of you, though, know what I am talking about? Sure, some of us are amazingly patient and can sit and let their child do things at their own time in their own pace and in a manner of their choosing. Others? Me? Not so much.
When the kids were little, and we would go on walks or they would I-do-it! for every little task, it was cute and adorable and I didn't mind. Now, though, I feel like they should know better and be more responsive and … sometimes it just needs to get done already! Not always, true, but … I need to work on my patience. I need to work on it, with myself, with my family, and with others.
How do I be more patient with myself?
This is often a kindness we do not always allow ourselves. We tend to be especially harsh with ourselves, because we know (or we think we know) that we can take it.
We need to manage our expectations. Perhaps if we can be more realistic with ourselves, especially considering the external demands on us and on our time (family, work, social, etc), we can adjust our expected outcomes to be more sensible. It's okay to say no. It's okay to say 'I don't know'. It's okay to drop a ball, especially when juggling as many as most parents do.
Give yourself space to grow, to perhaps make a mistake or two or to not do it 100%. You never know, maybe that 95% you achieve is actually better than anything ever seen before. Give yourself permission to maybe hesitate, or at least take a deep breath before jumping in. Give yourself the nod to do things your way, to the best of your abilities, even if it is not the way others might do it. Give yourself the gift of listening to your needs, and regularly prioritising them. If you make a mistake, rather than berating yourself, acknowledge that it happened and then think about what you can do better or differently next time. Don't give up, you deserve that chance for a do-better.
Give yourself permission to take things off your schedule. We all have a tendency to over-program. If you take 5 things off your list - especially things that really are not that important, or that can be done by someone else - then that means that you will do the remaining 25 things that much better and more thoroughly.
Tune in to what your triggers are. What makes you snap? What makes you see instantly red? What do you need to avoid to keep your patience in check? I bet you can identify at least 5 red flags. We live interrupted lives as we try to multitask and it is frustrating when we feel we aren't making progress. Remove the things that just cause unnecessary stress.
How do I be more patient with my kids?
How can those we love the most require so much attention and energy? There must be some complicated formula somewhere that properly depicts the increase in time and energy that one requires in relation to the love we feel for them. Especially for our kids, starting from when they are literally little blobs of eating, pooping, crying, sleeping humans to their No-I-do-it! preadolescence to their eye-rolling tech-immersed teen years. Then through their glacial shift to independence as they straddle flying the coop and entering uni. Our kids vacillate between needing us and being (irrationally) angry at us. Throughout these stages, there is a special kind of love you feel for them, which amplifies your patience abilities, but likely there have been moments where this is tested.
While pushing you to the literal edge, these same little people deserve your patience more than any others. How to achieve that, especially if you are not inherently a patient person?
First, it is a skill, and in such, a skill can be learned. That kindness I was suggesting you should and could extend yourself is most definitely required for your kids. Every exchange they have with you is absorbed and helps them to develop their own interpersonal skills. How they see you treat them, treat others, treat yourself, they will learn from. Possibly even adopt. That alone should motivate you to learn to bite your tongue and bide your time. Your kids are little monkeys, mimicking your actions, expressions and vocalizations. They are also sponges, soaking it all in.
Especially when your kids are young, they rely on just a handful of people for literally everything; I think I read somewhere that humans have one of the longest maturation processes amongst all mammals. partly because we have few young at one time, giving us the opportunity to raise them and tend to them. (A related aside: Animals with higher birth numbers tend to birth them and then leave them to fend for themselves, taking very little part in the process. But that is okay, because they have 40 babies at one time). Perhaps it is not enough to KNOW that they need and deserve your patience. With proper self-care (for yourself), it will be much easier to maintain that calm and loving presence that your kids deserve and require.
Patience isn’t just a gift you are giving your kids. It’s good for your peace of mind, too. The power of patience helps effective parents deal calmly and rationally with day-to-day problems and annoyances. It lets you stay focused on the "bigger picture" and not get bogged down by daily hassles. Patience helps you maintain emotional stability even in times of crisis or stress or (teen) angst.
It’s important to know your triggers, and to know your kids’ triggers. In order to be more patient, you cannot allow yourself to be drawn into a negative place. Losing one’s patience, saying things you don’t really mean (and aren’t proud of) is usually an “automated parenting response.” Meaning: You’re reacting without thinking, thanks to stress making your brain light up and trigger a fight-or-flight response, perpetuating a negative thought cycle, and thus negative actions.
Know this: your kids are cute, but they are probably not yet rational human beings. It's hard to be rational when you are so young, and you get so invested in little stuff. But to them, the little stuff feels REALLY big. Focus on that, focus on their emotions. Try to see below the behavior to what is driving their response. Know this too: the thing your kids want more than anything in the whole world is acceptance and love from you. One of the easiest and most effective ways to show children that they belong is to show them compassion when they are struggling. Honestly, this might be one of the hardest, too, when they are lashing out at you in self-defense. Give yourself a break if you mess up or end up losing your patience. That will only start a negative cycle causing a rash reaction from a place of panic and negativity. You are a good and loving parent. You love your kids! Focus on what you’re doing well and what’s going right.
How do I be more patient with my spouse?
All of the above goes for your spouse, too, right? Bless their hearts, they can be trying, can't they? They are probably the one adult in your life who can push your buttons better than anyone else ... well, maybe not if you have siblings. But unlike family you are born into, spouses are the people you have CHOSEN to be with. So that should make it easier to have patience with them, right? I wish that were true.
Best suggestion? Don't list their grievances, don't focus on their flaws and faults. Don't dwell on what they do wrong. Honestly, isn't that the key to happiness ignorant bliss? Maybe that is the same for marriage. Focus on what they do for you. With you. How they take care with you. What they bite their tongue about. What they sacrifice for you. The more of these positives you notice, the less their grievances will annoy you. Your spouse is a good person. Remember the reasons you chose them, even if that was years ago.
Your spouse is probably a rational person and you will be able to communicate with them. Having positive communication with your spouse – even during a heated discussion will help you to actually communicate instead of just say loud things at one another. As much as possible, try not to lash out at your spouse. Maybe they had a crappy day. Maybe you did. Sometimes, we need to just let them have a fit, let the tantrum just go. And yes, I am talking about your adult spouse, not your children. Sometimes they need to vent and get angry. But remember, that is not your fight; don't join them. That will only fan the flames.
Know that some things are just not that important. There are times when you will actually have to engage with something, some bothersome irk that you just can't let by. Pick your battles. Others are not worth the fight, I promise.
Know that you, too, have some annoying habits. I know, hard to believe, but you probably do some things that are just driving him batty and he is not jumping down your throat about it. There is no need to start comparing notes of annoying behaviors, though, as this will only end up in a yelling match. If you must say something, try to sandwich your criticism into a “communication sandwich.” For those of you unfamiliar with this, it basically boils down to using praise and affirmation to sandwich criticism.
How do I be more patient with others?
Your coworker, the passersby on the sidewalk, the other people at the grocery store, your waitperson, your fellow road users, all of them are not deliberately trying to annoy you. You know that, right? Also, it must be said: you are a very quality, very important person, absolutely. So are those around you. Unless someone is deliberately trying to do you wrong, it is important to focus on that very fact: they probably inadvertently stepped on your proverbial (or literal) toes. Get over it. Don't plot your revenge. Don't waste your energy dwelling on it. I promise you, there are probably hundreds of better uses of your time and energy.
In my experience, people are not always aware of how their actions (or nonactions) might impact others. Especially when one is focused on a task, be it driving, writing a report or walking to meet a lunch date. A hard fact to hear: it's not always about you. Just as your probably didn't intend to cut off that driver with your illegal yellow light turn this morning, or know that the four red peppers you grabbed at the grocery store were the last four, and now that shopper that just walked in the store will not be able to make their intended dinner recipe. Perhaps you were a little hasty jumping in during the staff meeting, volunteering to head the working group (your chance to finally show you are ready for more responsibility) and you did not intend to step on toes, but I promise you, someone else had the same plan, and now they are miffed at you. That's the thing, right? We can't possibly consider every implication or impact of our actions. Sure, we should try to minimize the negative consequences, but if we spend more and more time on this 'what if'-ing, then we will be spending a lot less time DOING things.
Who am I to say what you should do. I promise I am not perfect. I definitely lose my temper often enough. But focusing on it, paying attention to triggers, noting what works for me and what does not; it all makes a difference... a positive difference moving towards a more positive outlook. Patience - with yourself, with your spouse and kids, with others - is a virtue. One that benefits you just as much as others.