Growing up, there was no such thing as “a patient parent” in my house. You either did what you were told or there were consequences. Now, times have changed and a recent study done by the Washington University School of Medicine found that kids with more supportive, nurturing and patient parents literally had more brain growth. They also were less likely to be depressed, better able to cope with stress and adversity, were better learners and had fewer problems in school.
So we have proof that being a more patient parent is important, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I understand this first hand as a mother of 3-year-old triplets. From open defiance from my kids, to public meltdowns to actually having one of them scream repeatedly in my ears, I know a little something about the difficulty of being a patient parent.
I also understand, though, that the rewards of being patient are great and that they’re real. I know from personal experience that being more patient with my kids has made their behavior over time better, not worse. It also made them happier kids who became better listeners and better learners.
So yes, being a more patient parent is hard, but it’s also important, and possible. Here are 6 life-changing strategies that helped me to be a more patient parent:
1. Ask yourself “why?” It’s hard to believe but most kids don’t just act up because they are defiant by nature or “out of control.” Most kids are acting up for a reason and we have to ask ourselves why.
The day I realized that my kids were acting up because they were either tired, becoming sick (which usually went along with not eating), or because they needed more love and attention was probably one of the most life changing events in my life as a parent. It was then I realized that, it wasn’t that my kids had a behavioral problem that needed to be corrected. Rather, they had a need that wasn’t being met and as soon as I met those needs, those same behavioral problems went away.
2. Keep perspective. At the end of the day, we are dealing with kids and not adults. Young children’s brains are still developing and will not be fully formed until they are closer to 25. So some things will take time, but with time comes maturity and with maturity comes more understanding.
3. Refuel your body and mind. Bob Marley wasn’t kidding when he said, “a hungry man is an angry man.” So eat something or hydrate yourself before dealing with your child’s behavior. Nourishing your body and mind before dealing with your child will instantly lighten your mood and help you to approach discipline in a more calm, constructive and creative way.
4. Take time for yourself. It’s probably not the best time to deal with your child’s behavior if you’ve had a tough day at work or experiencing other stress in your life. So if you’ve had a bad day (or week), take the time do something that will help you to feel better whether that’s getting a new hair style, exercising, or going out with friends. Taking time for your mental health will give you perspective and make it possible for you to be a more patient parent.
5. Get help when you need it. If you find yourself in a very difficult place with your child talk to a social worker or your child’s pediatrician. Studies show that behavioral therapy for kids really works and is most effective when kids are young. So if you need professional help. Get it. It could be life changing.
6. Say a prayer. Praying got me through the terrible two’s and it can get you through some terrible times, too. So don’t forget to pray if you believe in the power of prayer. Ask God for the ability to be a more loving, supportive and more patient parent and he will give it to you.