Patience is a Powerful Parenting Virtue: 5 Secrets to Increasing Yours

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“Hurry up!” is a message I can remember hearing from my parents. I often felt rushed or that my parents didn’t care about what I was doing. They expected me to drop everything and come running at the drop of a hat but if I asked for anything, it was always, “I’m busy, you’ll have to be patient.” I realize now, in my adulthood and parenthood that I was completely impatient as a child, but it seems that I have not yet grown out of it or at least it is something that I am continually working on.

Patient not ImpatientEven as I write this my son asked me to tie his shoe and I said to him, “Wait just a minute, I’m working on something.” Patience is an incredible virtue that has power to alter negative cycles and place them on a more positive path. Mutual respect is fostered and relationships thrive when patience is nurtured.

Good things come to those that wait. In counseling families, I’ve found that often kids find themselves in trouble, not due to their own defiance, but because of parent’s impatience. Patience with children can introduce us to a whole new child; a more compliant and happy child.

Just wait a second or two!

I made an observation while doing some play therapy. I wanted the parent to have the opportunity to have a positive, fun play experience. As we started the activity the child’s mother noticed her son’s shoe was untied. She said, “tie your shoe.” Her son was playing with one of the toys. Within a second she repeated her instruction in a more stressed tone, “Please tie your shoe before you trip on it.”

The child turned his head, a little startled by his mother’s tone. He said, “OK Mom.” He started to walk toward a chair in the room to sit down. As he moved toward the chair, Mom raised her voice a little more and exclaimed, “Can’t you do anything I ask you to do. You’re going to trip on those. You’ll be sorry you didn’t listen.” He responded in irritation, “I’m doing it!”

From there the conversation took on a whole new turn. Now we weren’t just dealing with not listening, or tying his shoe. Now we were dealing with what Mom perceived as “talking back.” Everyone knows that talking back is not tolerated.

I stepped in at that point. I redirected attention to a different activity. They reluctantly dropped the argument and moved on with the session. The problem and the potential it had for further disaster in this example were manufactured by impatience. The child was not disobeying or being defiant when asked to tie his shoe. He was engaged in something else and he simply moved slower than Mom wanted him to. Chances are that if Mom had waited 5 more seconds, there would have been no problem at all.

 Five ways to increase patience and avoid creating unnecessary problems:

1. Demand less. (Was the argument above worth the child tying his shoe.)

2. Give the benefit of the doubt. (Expect that they will do what is asked despite past experience to the contrary.)

3. Wait. (Give longer than a second and respect that your child may be doing something else. Giving a count of 3 slow seconds is usually sufficient. If they are in the middle of something, you may want to let them finish their current task and then they can devote their full attention to the requested task.)

4. Repeat or write down your request if needed without irritable or angry tone of voice.

5. Give deadlines and consequences. (Don’t nag, just follow through with consequences of not completing the requested task.)

I’ve learned that we can avoid great deal of conflict and increase the joy we find in our children, if we are willing to wait just a little longer. When we give our kids the same respect and consideration we would like others to show to us we see incredible things happen.

Question: Where can you stand to employ greater patience in your life and parenting?

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