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Patience: Why and How We Must Teach it to Our Kids

Patience- Why and How We Must Teach it to Our Kids
Picture of Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

"A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

Recently I prayed that God would help me be more patient. In His kindness, God gave me a project that would take months or years to finish. Did I have what it took to work hard for that long? I wasn’t sure.

Patience sounds easy. But like other good things in life – it is simple but very hard. Without learning to be patient, we will fail at many things: doing a good job at our work, being a considerate person, extending kindness and empathy to others and most importantly – raising great kids.

We live in a world which teaches our kids instant gratification. If they want a snack – they want it now. If they want to buy something, they only want to work a short time to get it. Whatever they want, if it doesn’t happen quickly our kids get frustrated and complain. This isn’t their fault; this is what they have learned. The truth is, we’re not a lot better.

If we’re watching tv and the screen goes fuzzy, we jump up and try to fix it. If we can’t, we get mad, irritated and throw the channel changer.  If a friend or spouse doesn’t change behavior they promised to work on, we are tempted to throw the relationship away. If a coach refuses to put our kids on varsity because they aren’t good enough yet, we explode. If our child continues to struggle with math after we speak with his teacher, we get mad at the teacher. We forget that it might take him a year or two for him to master it.

Electronics have compounded this. When I was looking to hire a new lawyer, I did a test. I emailed five lawyers and the one that responded most quickly was the one I would choose. I wanted a lawyer right away – regardless of how good they were. When my kids were young, if they didn’t stop fighting immediately after I told them to, I’d explode. Being impatient wasn’t fair and it certainly wasn’t a trait that I wanted to teach my kids.

Learning to be a patient parent requires discipline because for most of us, it doesn’t come easily. We must teach ourselves to be patient, to wait for results and to work toward goals that won’t be reached for months or years.

One of the most important lessons we must teach our kids is that good things take time to accomplish. They can’t be successful in school, sports, or friendships if they aren’t patient in them.

Exhibiting patience with our kids is crucial if want good relationships with them. If a child frequently throws temper tantrums, we feel like we’ll lose our minds and yell at them even though we know those tantrums will end as they mature. But we can’t wait that long. If we help our child do better with reading, and we don’t see an improvement in a few weeks, we feel like we’ve failed. If our child walks two months later than a friend’s child, we wonder if he has cerebral palsy or a neurological disorder. If a spouse fails again at getting home in time to be with the family, we get angry, disappointed, and wonder if our marriage is about to come to an end.

Every one of these problems would have a different ending if we applied patience. Our kids will eventually read better, we can relax and enjoy our child when he walks later and if our spouse fails again, we encourage him to try again and be patient – it may take a month or two to improve.

 

Patience changes the way we see others and strengthens all of our relationships.

In order for our kids to succeed in life, we must train them to be patient. But how? How do you train a 3-year-old who stomps her feet because she has to wait 20 minutes for a snack? Here are some ways I have found to be successful.

First, we must be an example of patience. If we yell at our kids when they make a mistake, they learn that they can’t make mistakes. When they fail algebra again, we wonder why they can’t get it right, but their classmates can. When our kids see us react quickly with anger to any problem, they see impatience. This makes them believe that they are failures. When they see us erupt, they believe that they are failures. Impatience can be destructive to kids.

Then, we must talk to them about patience. When we share that we have struggled with it, they are far more likely to work on being patient. If we get angry too quickly, we need to admit to our kids that we blew it. We need to talk about what we should have done instead.  We need to illustrate how our impatience can hurt others.

Kids will understand patience when you make it personal. Remember a time when they were impatient and talk about it without being judgmental. Review what they did and then tell them how the problem could have been resolved with patience. For instance, if your child is impatient doing homework and slams his fist on the table when he can’t understand his math, say “I’ve noticed that doing your math homework is tough. I know what it’s like to not understand something too. The problem is, when you get mad and quit, you’ll never conquer it and I know that you can.” Give your child time to respond.

“What if you try this. When you get frustrated, get up for a few minutes and walk away. Then sit back down and try again. You can succeed at math but it’s going to take time.”

Give them scenarios where they can practice learning to be patient.

“I know that your little sister drives you crazy. This makes sense because you’re older and understand things that she doesn’t. When you practice being more patient with her, you’ll feel better and then you’ll get along. Try this: the next time she bugs you, take a breath. Count to 10. This will help you calm down. Then – walk away. I know this is really hard, but I know you can do it. I’ll help you. I promise, being patient will help her stop bugging you.”

The book of Proverbs calls patience a virtue for good reason.

If you grow more patient as you mature, you’ll have better relationships with friends, loved ones, and siblings and you’re more likely to reach personal goals. You will become more joyful, calm, less stressed and build tenacity to reach your goals. And your kids will watch you.

They’ll see the benefits of waiting to get something, achieve a goal and improve relationships. After all, those who never learn patience lose out on good relationships, joy and finding success in their work or other ventures.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Abraham Lincoln

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