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The Best Parents Have Patience

Updated November 24, 2007

There is one quality above all others that influences how relaxed your family will be, patience.

Life Without Patience

When we lose our patience, we become frustrated. Our frustration turns into anger and resentment. Family members pick up on such emotions rather quickly, even when you think you're hiding them well. Eventually, you may find yourself acting out your anger actively, such as by yelling or snapping at your family, or passively, such as by ignoring or avoiding your loved ones.

Children who grow up in homes where they often feel like the source of frustration may develop low self-esteem. Low self-esteem may grow into depression, anxiety, and anti-social behavior.

Parents who frequently feel frustrated often feel like failures as parents, especially when their kids begin to act out in response to their frustration.

If a lack of patience continues, everyone ends up feeling stressed out most of the time.

The Importance of Patience

Patience, however, creates an environment of compassion and respect. When you're patient with your family members, it's just as though you are saying, "I respect how you feel because I respect you. I want you to be happy and independent because I love you and want the best for you. I want to help you find your own happiness, so I'm going to slow down and take time to calmly assist you. Sometimes I do this by doing things for you, such as tying your shoes when you can't do it. Sometimes I do this by teaching you to help yourself, such as helping you take deep breaths to calm yourself down or standing back and waiting for you to learn things at your own pace, in your own way, without my intervening. Sometimes I do this by giving you my attention and sharing in your joy."

When you remind yourself that at the end of the day, all of the important things will still be accomplished (showing love to your family being the most important thing of all), then you can stop rushing and complaining and start enjoying the ride during the ups and downs of life.

Losing Patience

Your children will push you to the limits of patience. They don't mean to do it. Some of those patience killers are just a part of normal, healthy development. Kids just don't realize how their behaviors impact others. When you are in a rush, they will dawdle. When you want to focus on a project, they will interrupt you. When you simply want a moment of quiet, they will shriek, make annoying sounds, and fight, often for no reason, it seems, other than to disrupt the peace. When you easily see the solution to a problem, they will argue with you, throwing tantrums at times, because they cannot see the solution at all. Sometimes, it is the child who lacks patience, and that alone can cause you to lose yours.

There will be days when you want to demand compliance. "You will listen to me." "Move faster." "Stop fighting, and leave each other alone." It is effective for the short term, but it loses it's effectiveness over time because it conveys a message to your children that says "I don't respect you."

Finding Patience

When you're ready to accept that you don't always need to be in charge or on schedule, that a few extra moments in your day tending to the emotional needs of your family will actually make things run more smoothly in the end, then you're ready to develop your patience.

Make a point to be patient. You may even set a day or time to start, such as right after dinner. Decide to pay more attention to your family members by focusing on them rather than handling their issues while focusing on something else. Decide to handle things calmly. Even do your best to speak with a delightful voice (the fake it 'till you make it technique).

If you catch yourself losing patience (or even if somebody else points it out to you), simply stop, close your eyes, take a deep breath or two (count if you have to), and remind yourself that you are going to try to be more patient because it will make things easier in the long run. Then calmly address the problem. Don't let yourself feel guilty for not having patience 100% of the time. (Nobody is that perfect. I lose my patience at least once per day, and even more when we're in the middle of something already stressful, like family vacations.) Just be proud of yourself for catching your slip-up and reminding yourself to redirect to a more patient practice.

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