zenhabits : breathe

How to Become a Patient Parent

Every Tuesday is Finance & Family Day at Zen Habits.

I don’t claim to be the world’s most patient parent — but it’s a goal of mine for this year, and it’s something I’m dedicated to becoming. Every parent loses his or her patience — it’s a fact of life. There are no perfect angels when it comes to moms and dads — we all get frustrated or angry and lose it from time to time.

But patience can be developed over time — it’s a habit, and like any other habit, it just takes some focus.

Here’s a list of 10 great tips and methods I’m trying out and experimenting with to help me become a more patient parent:

  1. Count to 10. This one really works. When you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry, stop. Count slowly to 10 (you can do this in your head). When you’re done, most of the initial impulse to yell will go away. Alternatively, if you count out loud to 10, your kids will learn quickly that this is a good sign to run away. :)
  2. Deep breaths. This works very well in conjunction with the above tip. Count to 10, and then take three slow, deep breaths. Feel the frustration draining out of you with each breath.
  3. Tally marks. One of the most effective and important methods for controlling an impulse — these worrisome urges that we have difficulty controlling — is to become more aware of it. And to do that, you should carry around a little pencil and paper all day, and each time you feel the impulse (in this case, to react with anger), mark down a tally. This is an extremely important first step. Once you become aware of your impulses, you can work out an alternative reaction.
  4. Pretend someone’s watching. I forgot where I read this tip (a couple places, I think), but it’s effective. Pretend you have an audience. You’re less likely to overreact with your child if someone’s there watching your every move.
  5. What would mom do? My mom is one of the most patient people I know (although she’s human like the rest of us). So when I find my ire rising, I think … “How would my mom handle this?” And using this role model, I begin to change my behavior to something more positive. You can use any role model you want — not necessarily my mom.
  6. How does this help? When I’m about to say something to my kids, when I can remember, I ask myself, “How does this help my child?” This helps me to re-focus on what’s really important. Yelling or getting angry rarely helps any situation.
  7. Take a break. Often it’s best just to walk away for a few minutes. Take a break from the situation, just for 5-10 minutes, let yourself calm down, plan out your words and actions and solution, and then come back calm as a monk.
  8. Teach. This is something that helps me a lot. I remember that my kids are just kids — they are not perfect, they do not know how to do things, and they have a lot to learn. I am their teacher. I must be patient, and teach them how to do things — even if I’ve tried to teach them 10 times before, it might be the 11th time when things click. And remember, none of us learn things on the first try either. Find new ways to teach something, and you’re more likely to be successful.
  9. Visualize. This works best if you do it before the frustrating situation comes up. When you’re alone and in a quiet place. Visualize how you want to react the next time your child does something that typically gets you mad. How do you handle the situation? How do you look? What do you say? How does your child react? How does it help your relationship with your child? Think about all these things, visualize the perfect situation, and then try to actually make that happen when the situation actually comes up.
  10. Just laugh. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that no one is perfect, that we should be enjoying this time with our kids, and that life should be fun — and funny. Smile, laugh, be happy. Doesn’t always work, but it’s good to remind yourself of this now and then.

Bonus tip: just love. Instead of reacting with anger, teach yourself to react with love. Your child spills something or has a messy room or breaks your family heirloom? Yells at you or gets in trouble at school? React with love. It’s the best solution.
Got some tips of your own on developing patience? Let us know in the comments.



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