Why I Don’t Think Patience is Necessary

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed.   Copyright © 2018

Isn’t that a weird title coming from a parent coach?  You’d think I’d talk about the need for being patient with kids all the time!

So here is something I’ve been thinking about regarding patience: I don’t believe it’s necessary, at least not in the way most people see it.  What do you think of when you think about being “patient?”  I used to think it was gritting one’s teeth and WAITING for a child to get something done: blood pressure rising, muscles tensing, fingers drumming, and negative thoughts starting to take over.

So how do you avoid “being patient” when you have children?  It’s not entirely avoidable, of course, but there is a way to reduce the stress of being patient considerably. Here’s the thing: patience is needed when you think something other than what’s happening should be happening.  If you’re ready to go out the door and your child has been looking for her shoes for 10 minutes, you start to think, “This kid needs to find her shoes!” and you’re impatient, and in a less-than-peaceful place.

But she’s only four, and she doesn’t have coordinated searching methods.  She actually needs some help, which you’ve been resisting giving her because you don’t want her to go to college not being able to find her shoes.  See the disconnect here?  She has 14 years to develop into someone who can find her shoes, but your thoughts are leap-frogging to college and you’re refusing to help. Four is sometimes, not always, too young to be held responsible for finding shoes on one’s own.  When you realize this, and just kindly help her, you don’t have to be patient.  You’re seeing her through the eyes of understanding child development, and remembering that in a year, she likely won’t need this help.

Another example is that your son has homework and he’s delaying getting started.  You expect him to come home from school, have a snack, and sit down to do his work. Somewhere you read or heard that “children should get their homework done right after school,” but when you try to get him to sit down at the kitchen table and open his math, he has a melt-down.  But in sticking to this rule, you’ve missed that he’s still mentally exhausted from keeping it together and thinking of the answers all day at school, and his brain needs a rest. You try to “be patient” and your voice gets tight.  He picks up on your tension, and the resistance to homework increases.  Pretty soon there’s an all-out battle, and you can’t understand why he’s acting this way.

Patience has not served you.  Instead of letting your blood boil, look at your child and realize how tired his whole being is, and that he may need some down time before his brain can come back online for homework. When you see the individual in the context of development, you realize that he’s a kid and he just can’t do math right now. He needs a mental break before he’s ready.  Now, with understanding, you plan for the break and suddenly there’s no need to be patient any more.  You’re attuning to your child instead of setting an agenda he can’t fulfill.  You can include him in the plan for homework, knowing that this works much better than “telling him” when it should be done.  He feels respected and seen, so he doesn’t have to resist.  The homework gets done with hardly any discussion.

The point is that if we see children as children, we don’t feel such a need to be patient, as we’ve allowed for their developmental phase.  We make room for the fact that they are not mature enough for certain things, and give them a hand.  This is not spoiling, but simply seeing what’s realistic for a child this age and offering assistance when it’s appropriate.

Here is a great resource for child development in all areas.  If you have a question about what’s reasonable to expect at what age, take a look at this site.  Some children with a trauma history, ADHD or autism will be behind in their development, so look at the info for a younger age. We aren’t born knowing what’s normal for our children, and we have to learn as we go.  Instead of setting unrealistic expectations and going to battle when they aren’t fulfilled, you can educate yourself and create a much more peaceful home life.  Once you see the child in context, the need to “be patient” dissipates, as you understand that he’s just acting his emotional age.  What a relief for both of you!

If you’d like help with this or any other parenting issue, click here for information about parent coaching.

 

 

 

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