How to be more patient with your kids. (From a mother who is NOT perfect.)
This morning I wrote a lengthy post about patience. It was actually quite profound. I imagined it taking flight around the glorious world of the internet; other (impatient) parents sharing it and writing 'This!' above the link; people I hardly know writing to me to thank me for helping them stay cucumber-cool in the heat of toddler battle. I was even going to illustrate my point with a useful and quirky graph, which would become the graphic hook for the whole concept.
Unfortunately I lost the lot in less than a second. Just by pressing the wrong button.
Which is quite illustrative, really, of the whole idea.
I don't know about you, but I really want patience. The problem is that I'm naturally not very patient. Waiting doesn't come easily to me. I have big plans for each day with no time to spare. People? Often frustrating. Kids? Mostly frustrating.
[Excuse me briefly while I just press 'Save'. I don't want to repeat the mistakes of this morning.]
Right. I'm back.
Over time, and because of *sheer, doggone necessity* I have learned to become more patient. Living with a child with autism who has his own particular behavioural challenges, it has been a matter of Patience or Perish. I've chosen (mostly) to not perish.
I've also thought a lot about it.
At first I prayed for it. A lot. "God! Make Me Patient! Now!"
I waited, but nothing happened so after five minutes I walked away. But I was cranky. Where was my magic zap of niceness? I'd asked nicely. I really wanted it. Why wasn't God co-operating?
It took a little more time to figure out that God (mostly) doesn't work like that. He chooses to help us change our minds and our lives. He gives us patience as tiny seeds. He helps us plant them, figure out how to water them, and make sure the garden doesn't die.
Thus, some of my observations about patience, and how to get it.
I get impatient when I get overloaded.
There are many ways to be overloaded. One can be with the sheer amount of stuff I put in my life. I'm a great one for having Things To Do, Places To Go, People To See. If there's a gap, I fill it. Being overscheduled is an absolute guarantee of being impatient.
Just as dangerous is being overloaded emotionally. If I'm having an argument with someone (no names, no confidences) you can betcha a metaphorical cat will get kicked. Chronic stress, grief or worry is extremely conducive to being impatient.
Sensory overload is one of my bugbears. It's the reason I don't often go swimming with children. If I have to deal with the sensory impact of being wet and cold and drippy and having to get dry and dressed, while having children talking and asking and making noise and constantly demanding my attention and wanting to know WHAT'S FOR DINNER, MUM? my body tends to shut down. I can't think if I've got someone in my face. I can't answer questions if I'm trying to cook dinner at the same time. I can't relax if I'm being pressed against and treated like a climbing frame. There are limits to how much sensory stuff I can process at any one time and when the limits are reached, you can guess the results.
I get impatient when I have lots of expectations.
They might be the obvious kind of expectations, like, 'we've got to be at school at 9' or 'you've got to finish your homework' but I'm convinced that under most of those expectations are the other, far more urgent and important expectations that shape our lives. Things like, 'If other people see my kids are always late, they'll think I'm disorganised and a slob and I don't like being disapproved of'. Or, 'If you don't do your homework, how will you ever be able to hold down a job, and CLEARLY I'M FAILING AS A PARENT HERE'.
Then there are the realistic vs totally out of the ball park expectations. Realistic says, 'my kid needs to eat that sandwich in the park for the sake of the other patrons'. Unrealistic says, 'a three year old should be able to sit quietly in any cafe for however long I choose.' Yeh. Ha ha.
Obvious, realistic expectations are one thing. They don't necessarily cause impatience. But the other ones - the ones that reside just under the surface, which relate mostly to us and to our perfectionism - those are the ones that'll get you every time.
Right here was where I was going to add a little graph for illustrative purposes. One side would have measured 'Load', the other side would have measured 'Expectations'. The higher the load and the expectations, the more the rate of impatience. But you know? I think trying to put a graphic in here when I'm pushed for time (high load) anyway, and have little talent with graphic things (unrealistic expectations) is actually going to lead me to failure which would mean more impatience. Clearly, this example has been illustrative in it's own right, would you agree?
I get impatient when I don't plan effectively.
Right now I'm on a get-my-kids-to-eat-vegetables crusade. I've tried this for years but it's never worked. This time, I'm tackling it with a plan. It involves taking small steps, being prepared to sit calmly while children retch and cry and using a kitchen timer (which is, actually, my second favourite kitchen implement, btw).
To make a plan, I've had to look at our reality, analyse it and break it down. I've had to honestly acknowledge what's not working. Then I've had to see where I need to unload my schedule and unburden my heart so that I've got enough energy and resources to cope with fixing the issues. Finally, I've had to come up with a strategy based on obvious and realistic expectations, letting go of my nutty ideas about having all-happy-dinner-times-like-the-Brady-Bunch and just accepting what we have right now.
[I've also had to remember to do the little things that keep it on track, like, for example, pressing Save. There. *Done*.]
Getting more patience takes changing your life.
Quite a lot for some of us. Practice unloading in all areas (decluttering is one of my pet topics) and being mindful of your unconscious expectations. If you can let even some of that stuff go you'll be on the road towards patience. If you can make good plans while you're doing it, you'll be even better.
This morning I was rushed as I wrote my blog post. I didn't give myself enough breathing space. My expectations for what I was going to achieve were WAY out of whack, and I clearly didn't plan ahead. Result: lost article. By-result: a leetle bit of questionable language and a comfort cup of tea.
How do you be more patient? Unload, know your expectations, make a plan.