My primary method of teaching my children patience is by impatiently demanding it. I combine this strategy with constantly modeling exactly what patience isn’t (so they can tell the difference, you see). In addition to my quick-to-anger parenting, they also overhear me whining to my friends about life’s circumstances not keeping pace with my expectations, and always extolling the benefits of tomorrow over the realities of today. Yet of course, I demand patience from them constantly, when I’m on the phone, when I’m handing out snacks, basically whenever they want anything.
My only redeeming feature in this area is that I’m a very patient driver. Well, not really, as I’m the perfect synergy of Captain Rush-Rush and Ms. Lane Expert, but I do tend to give other drivers the benefit of the doubt and am not a fist shaker. (In part because I know there is no inconvenience I can be caused that I haven’t egregiously caused another driver myself, probably very recently.) I just smile and wave forgivingly, hoping it will bring me good karma so no one pulls out a gun and road rages the next time I make the same mistake.
Still, it is safe to say that impatience permeates our home on every level, from the top down. Today, because patience was yesterday a lively discussion topic at church, a dear friend sent me a link to a highly recommended speech on patience by Gandhi’s grandson–which I couldn’t finish because I was too impatient with how slowly he talked! (Don’t worry Jen, I’ll finish it tonight.) I’m so doomed.
Another clear indicator of my poor example is the fact that my two older children have already settled on having between 0-1 children themselves (“because kids are annoying”). Yikes! I’m not just losing my self-control, I’m losing my grandchildren!
Jane Nielsen in Positive Discipline states that we cannot make our children act better by making them feel worse. (This statement makes me feel bad, does that mean I won’t act better either?) Yet, this has been my primary strategy for teaching my children, despite constant evidence to its ineffectiveness. Plus, I’ve only recently woken up to the fact that so much of my parenting behavior is completely selfish–I’m not trying to teach principles and form good habits so much as make the day go my way.
Patience is a form of acceptance, both of who we are right now, who are kids are right now, and the state of the world right now. It is not complacency, it’s not resigned bitterness. Patience is trust and hope that things will work out with time and love rather than cajoling, guilt and manipulation. Sure it’s hard for me to replace reactionary words with a deep breath, but at the same time, when I try on a little patience, it is so much more comfortable than the frustration and anxiety–I think, “Why don’t I try this more often?”
In the lesson yesterday, a quote said, ” Acceptance is taking our children for what they are right now, without comparing them to others or wishing they didn’t have their particular flaws. Acceptance is letting go of unrealistic or unfair expectations. It is understanding the seasons of our children’s lives.”
Just today, as I actually made a conscious effort to accept my kids for who they are right now and show patience, I literally felt a knot in my chest unravel a bit. I had to talk myself through it a little, like I was role-playing, “Look, here I am being a patient mother.” Sure, it felt awkward, but a little less like I might seriously have a heart attack.
Has a patient mother ever turned out low-quality children because they mistook her patience for consent of their mistakes? Highly unlikely.
But, has a patient mother ever taught her children patience by example, so they can be more able to diligently work through life’s difficulties, including their own weaknesses? Without a doubt, probably thousands of them.
So, my assignment for tomorrow–less of the yap yap and more of the deep breathing.
PS: BTW: The computer goal for today was successful–it totally makes a difference!