By Elsie Anakwue
These are two important skills in parenting. Patience means remaining calm, particularly in difficult situations such as when a child’s misbehaviour is extreme while perseverance means not giving up on your child or parenting duty even when you are presented with challenging situations.
Patience and perseverance require parents to keep their emotions under control so they can respond appropriately and effectively, rather than yelling, swearing, or saying things they will regret later.
Parents often question if it is humanly possible for one to be patient during their parenting journey? I say, yes, it is possible.
Why are that children seem to be programmed to behave in ways that sometimes trigger parents? Firstly, it is not their fault. It is the way they are wired. It is also because their brains are still developing. Studies show that children’s brains are not fully developed until they are adults around the age of 25.
Children sometimes, behave inappropriately failing to listen to their parents and more. It’s worth understanding that sometimes they do not do it deliberately. Some of their behaviour occurs because they are exploring, trying to find their voice, learning through play, words, and actions. As a result, parents must be understanding, patient and persevere to enable better connections leading to a trusting and loving relationship with their children.
No matter what you do in life to be successful, you must be patient and persevere particularly when things are not going as planned. Parenting is therefore not an exception. Children are a blessing as we know. As babies, they are cute; you feel like your world and life are complete by having them but as cute and exciting as they are, they can test your patience. The key is how you react to the test. The test as we know is lifelong. I wish I can say that it only lasts a few years from birth, but you already know that is not the case. How you respond to the test matters a lot.
For parents of very young children, the first few years can be extremely tiring, challenging, and burdensome. Parents can sometimes fail to see the so-called gifts and blessings as a result. I will say, don’t give up. Persevere. Try your best. Use the strategies which I will be discussing to help yourself.
Irrespective of the hard work involved in raising children, parents must be patient. Parents must find appropriate tools to help them parent with care, love, patience, and perseverance. Parents should also continue to pray for strength and wisdom to enable them to undertake their parenting duties.
It is common for parents to sometimes feel like complete failures because of things that may have happened at home. It may have been that they shouted at their children, called them names because they misbehaved, shouted back, failed to listen, and take instructions. They TESTED the parents’ patience and the parents felt they failed the test.
Well, I have good news, it is okay! These moments do occur occasionally. You are an imperfect human. No one said parenting is or will be easy. Remember that there is never a long-distance journey that is not tiring; no matter how much fun you create during the trip. It is still tiring. Parenting is the same, you will get tired sometimes.
Just as you must be patient with the children, you must also be patient with yourself and avoid beating yourself up. What are the things parents can do to help them to be more patient and persevere in their parenting journey?
1. You need to want to do it for it to happen. A question for you – do you want to? If so, then read on!
2. You need to be open to change.
3. You will need a mindset change – a growth mindset. Ability and willingness to learn and be ready for a transformation.
4. You need to accept as I mentioned previously that you are human. You have flaws. There will be good and bad days to start.
5. Avoid guilt.
6. Think before you speak. Words are powerful. The tongue can be a weapon of mass destruction. The words we speak and how we talk to our children can make or break them. Remember that it is hard to take those words back once they have been spoken. Tread carefully. Avoid using negative words to describe or speak to children. Don’t use disparaging words when disciplining no matter how difficult it may appear.
7. Identify your triggers – try to pinpoint when you are most likely to lose your patience. Where and when is it most likely to happen? For some people, it is when they are tired, have deadlines to meet, or things are not working out as planned.
Once you have identified your triggers then you can work around them. An example could be pre-warning your children that you are not in the right frame of mind to respond how they would like or to do what they are asking. You can say “mum, dad, aunt, grandma, grandpa is feeling very tired, hungry pressured and you know what happens when I am feeling like that.” There is nothing wrong with saying that. You are likely to feel even better knowing that you have vocalised it and shared your feelings with those around you.
It is also a good way to model the regulation of one’s emotions. It also helps you to pause and reflect on how you are feeling, and you will work towards addressing those emotions.
8. Once you have a clear understanding of your triggers, you can proceed to consider how you react to your children’s actions. What happens to you physically and mentally? If you are not aware of it next time you have triggers, pay attention to these. For example, increased heart rate, sweaty palms and difficulty breathing.
9. Establish ways to control your triggers. This could be through self- talk, breathing exercises, conversations with your children, agreeing on house rules to deal with issues, setting boundaries, having consequences for failure to adhere to rules, walking away, or focusing on other things.
When talking about triggers, an apology must feature. This is a powerful tool. When you feel that you have overstepped the mark, you should apologise to your children.
Parents must become comfortable with apologising to their children. By doing so, you are modelling the importance of accepting that you are human and understanding that when you offend someone you should apologise and equally strive to change your behaviour. You are also modelling being accountable for one’s actions. Apologising to your children does not in any way lessen your authority as a parent.
10. Find a place of refuge when you feel that you are about to lose it and unable to exercise some patience. It is better to remove yourself from a situation than allow yourself to be caught up in it that you end up taking action that you may regret.
Walk away, shout at the wall, express your emotions however you feel best but away from anyone. It is good to step back, find a quiet place, have some reflective moments, gather your thoughts, and think of what had happened and how you can make things better.
This may also involve finding ways to help your child with their struggles. For instance, a child regularly triggers you due to their failure to heed instructions. You may use the time to think of ways to help the child understand the importance of obedience, adhering to rules and not pushing boundaries.
11. Self-care- Irrespective of whether our lack of self-care and compassion for our bodies is visible, it still manifests in what we do! Yes, where there is inadequate or lack of self-care, it will affect our productivity, actions, words, and behaviour. It will surely lead to a lack of patience and perseverance. Parents need to take care of their minds, souls, and bodies if they want to be healthy and able to perform their parenting duties.
12. Self-love is not selfish; finding time to take care of yourself is a necessity. When parents do that, they will reap the rewards of their hard work. You cannot be a good parent, wife, husband, partner, friend etc when you are worn out and frustrated.
You will not be able to think accurately; patience and perseverance will be far from your mind. Take time to do things you enjoy like activities outside the home, or at home relaxing. You will also be modeling the importance of self-care for your children. Failing to act will lead to impatience, lack of perseverance, irritability, anger, frustration, and anxiety.
Finally, a quick reminder that you’re human. What if I told you that losing your patience has some positive aspects? I bet you are thinking, how, what? Let’s think about it.
When you have been impatient or you find yourself constantly losing patience, it will hopefully help you realise that it is something you need to work on. You will hopefully be intentional about working to change things. You will take steps to look inwards and see what you can do to turn the situation around.
We all have limits to how much we can tolerate—we are only human after all! This doesn’t make us bad parents—it makes us normal parents.
Elsie Anakwue, a Parenting Coach, Mentor, Multi-award-winning lawyer, an Author and Mediator writes from England, United Kingdom.