11 Realistic Tips to Help You Become a More Patient Parent
I’m not a patient person.
I wish I was. If I could change only one thing about myself as a mom, I’d choose to be a more naturally patient parent. Nothing causes me more guilt and mental anguish than those times when I let my frustrations get the better of me and lose my cool.
With that intro, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing an article on becoming a patient parent. The answer is simple: because I get it. I’m not one of those people who is zen and unflappable all the time. I’m easily frustrated. I’m quick to yell. And then I beat myself up for it, especially when my anger and frustration is directed towards my children. They don’t deserve it, and neither do I.
This article is as much for me as it is for you. If, like me, you struggle with patience, you need realistic strategies to take you from 60 back down to 0, and to stop your initial reaction in its tracks.
These strategies work for me. But they’re very easy to forget in the heat of the moment. My hope is that by organizing and writing down the strategies that work for me, I’ll give us all a resource to refer back to. I hope it helps you too.
Why are you frustrated?
Before we talk about strategies to become a more patient parent, I want to take a step back and talk about why we get frustrated and lose our patience in the first place. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t know what’s causing it.
First off, parenting is an exhausting, thankless, 24/7 job. Rewarding, yes, but utterly exhausting. Let’s acknowledge that right from the get-go.
I was a great babysitter as a teenager, and thought that would translate well to parenting. Ha! It’s easy to have patience when you’re on duty for a few hours, and your sole job is to take care of the children. It’s a lot harder to sustain that energy, enthusiasm, and patience when you’re dealing with the same issues day in and day out, repeating yourself for the hundredth time, juggling 17 other obligations, remembering everything for everybody, and getting very little sleep.
Situational elements play a factor too. If you’re trying to do too much in not enough time with young kids, chances are you’re going to end up frustrated. If you’re spending the entire day cooped up in a house with kids who are insistent on getting in each others’ space, that’ll do it too. If you have multiple children vying for your attention, while you try to make dinner and sort through piles of school paper, you guessed it – it’s a recipe for disaster. When you’re already pushed to your limit, you’re one mishap away from losing your cool.
Another factor that contributes to my frustration is hard for me to admit to myself. I’m a perfectionist. I expect the best from myself all the time, and with a bit of soul-searching, I realized I was expecting the same from my kids. Although I would never have said it aloud, I would find myself frustrated when they didn’t cooperate or live up to the impossible standards of behaviour I had for them. That’s unfair and unrealistic.
Your whys may be different from mine. But spending some time figuring out the why does two things:
- First, once you pinpoint the cause, or contributing factors, you’re in a much better position to address those issues.
- Second, it reminds you that you likely have very legitimate reasons for getting frustrated. Getting frustrated with your kids doesn’t make you a terrible person – it makes you human. The important thing is that you acknowledge when your reaction isn’t what you want it to be, and take steps to become a more patient parent.
Lay the groundwork to becoming a more patient parent
Once you’ve determined why you’re losing your patience, and the situations that are causing the most frustration, you can start to address those issues. The strategies I’ve outlined below are things we can do in advance to lay the groundwork for being a more patient parent with our kids, and to prevent a situation where we’re likely to lose our cool.
1. Make self-care a priority
We can’t make parenting a walk in the park. It’s always going to be an all-encompassing, 24/7 job. But we can carve out time for ourselves, to regroup and recharge, which helps us approach parenting with renewed energy and patience.
This isn’t a cure-all. An hour at the gym or an afternoon nap, is not going to automatically refill your patience reserves for the rest of the week. But it does help you get some breathing room, perspective, and a chance to be you for a change – instead of Mom – which can make all the difference.
Related: 30 Day Self-Care Challenge
2. Just say no
I’m more likely to lose my patience if I’m overcommitted, stressed, and short on time. Saying no – to activities and extra obligations – is difficult at first, but gets easier the more you do it. Recognize your limits, and don’t feel bad about sticking to them.
3. Focus on the positive
My Mom gave me some particularly great advice recently. She told me, “If you’re focused on the negative, that’s all you’re going to see.” The opposite is also true – if you focus on the positive, you’re going to notice things you might miss otherwise. When you make a conscious effort to focus on the positive – when you notice and appreciate all the good things they do – you’re going to have more patience for the inevitable mishaps and poor behaviour.
I’ve mentioned before that I keep a Line a Day journal. Not only does it become a wonderful keepsake, taking the time to write down a memory from each day helps me appreciate the positive little things that happen every single day and make this stage of life so memorable.
4. Adjust your expectations
My one-year-old is not going to sit quietly in a restaurant for the entirety of a meal (if yours does, please tell me your secrets!). My kids are going to be at each other if they’re cooped up inside together all day. And we’re going to have freakouts and meltdowns before trying a new activity for the first time.
My kids aren’t perfect. They’re young, they’re learning, and they each have unique personality quirks that make some situations harder than others. We all do. Reminding myself of this, and adjusting my expectations, helps me approach these situations with more patience.
5. Give them your attention
It drives me absolutely crazy when I’m trying to get something done, and my kids constantly interrupt me. The best way to prevent this is for me to give them my full attention beforehand.
So when I can, that’s exactly what I do. I get down on the floor with them and play cars, build a puzzle, or play a board game. We build a tower out of stacking cups and knock it down over and over. Whatever it is, I give them my full attention.
Then, when we’re done (or, more realistically, when I’m done), I move on to something that I need to do. Sure, they’d like me to keep playing with them, but once they’ve had some quality time with me, they’re more understanding of the fact that I now have grown-up things to do.
6. Address your situational whys
The strategies above are all very general. Consider if there are any practical things you can do to address the specific situations where you’re likely to lose your patience.
For example, when I’m home with my kids all day, we have quiet time during the toddler’s naptime. This gives all of us a break from each other, and I come back with renewed patience for the rest of the day. Meal planning and meal prep make the after-work rush much more manageable. Having an evening routine and morning routine helps us to get out the door on time, and start the day with less stress.
How to be a more patient parent in the moment
We’ve talked about why we lose our patience, and some strategies we can implement to lay the groundwork for success. But kids are kids, and despite your best intentions, there are going to be moments that push you to your limit and test your patience. Here are some tips I use to temper my response in the moment.
1. Give yourself a time out
Sometimes the very best thing you can do is remove yourself from the situation. This gives you a chance to calm yourself down and get some perspective.
If you’re fed up from dealing with the kids and you have a spouse home, don’t feel bad about tagging out and having them take over. Take a breather in your room, or go for a walk.
If you’re the only parent at home, a lengthy time out isn’t realistic. But if you can separate yourself for a moment, and perhaps even call or text a friend or spouse for some commiseration from a rational adult, you’ll be able to face the situation with renewed energy and patience.
2. Take a deep breath
If removing yourself from the situation isn’t practical, take a deep breath before you respond. Those few extra seconds will help you be more intentional in your response.
3. Lower your voice
Don’t meet yelling with yelling – you’ll only escalate the situation.
Instead, lower your voice. This helps to de-escalate the situation (and the volume!) and forces them to pause to listen to what you’re saying.
4. Get down on your child’s level
A classic parenting trick – get on your child’s level, both literally and figuratively.
Physically bend down to your child’s level. I don’t know about you, but I’m much less likely to yell if I’m down on their level looking them in the eye. It takes me out of my anger that’s so all-consuming in the moment, and reminds me to see my child.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Why are they acting the way they are? Are they hungry, tired, scared, seeking attention, overstimulated? Pausing to consider what’s causing their behaviour makes you much more compassionate in your response.
5. Ask yourself a few questions
If all else fails, there are a few questions I ask myself that force me to take a step back from my anger and get some perspective:
- Is this going to matter tonight? I know this seems hugely important now, but is it going to matter in the big scheme of things? Probably not.
- How would I want somebody to respond to me in this situation? If you’ve ever had somebody yell at you when you’re frustrated, you know that’s the absolute last thing you need in that situation. Our kids are no different.
- Is my anger more important than how this is going to make my child feel? I can’t think of a time that the answer to this question would ever be yes.
Parenting can be frustrating, and our kids are going to push our buttons. But we have a choice in how we respond. These strategies can help make that choice a conscious one, so we can choose a response we’re proud of.
Do you have other strategies that have helped you become a more patient parent? I’d love to hear them!