Patience is the ability to apply self-control in compelling situations. Imagine you are travelling as family for a vacation and along the way you hit a lot of traffic, now instead of constantly cutting lanes, honking, huffing and puffing (hopefully not cursing) trying to get ahead by a couple feet, what if you turned your “patience” app on. Not only will you relieve yourself from the constant mental battle of getting “there” faster, but also give yourself a chance to have some meaningful conversation with family. And by doing this you would demonstrate to them, how important it is to “not lose your cool!”
So how can we develop this virtue of patience, without being complacent? Here are some tips that will help both parents and children cultivate patience.
- Re-evaluate your expectations: Often times we have unrealistic expectations from our children. Most of the times this stems from comparing them to other kids. For e.g. STOP immediately, when you find yourself remarking how quickly a friend’s child eats her meal when asking your child to finish hers quickly. Embrace the differences, reminding yourself of the things your child does well and the things you may be too slow at.
- Check your language: Do you often unnecessarily use terms such as “hurry up,” “quick”, “right now”, “fast”? A confession, I do! Hari once told me “mommy, for everything thing you keep saying fast, fast, fast, I am small, I cannot do things as fast as you.” Have you noticed that saying these really means nothing to them. It just tries your patience even more! Instead try substantiating these words with reasons, allowing children to understand why certain situations require them to be swift. So now, instead of just saying hurry up, I add, if you hurry then we can go and play in park before it gets dark.
- Listen with full attention: Give them a listening ear. Pay attention to what they have to say or show without distraction. By modelling such behavior they also learn to listen to you patiently.
- Identify triggers: Identify triggers that make you impatient towards your kids and try and work on them. For me it is making her do homework. It would get me really irritated because she would take FOREVER to finish one page. But the underlying cause of my impatience was a laundry list of things that I had to finish in the course of the day. So now, when I have to make her do homework, I remind myself to forget about that list and give her my time and patient attention.
Our practice for patience will act as a springboard from which the attitude of our children will take off.
- Slow down response time: No more “at the drop of a hat.” When they need or demand something, evaluate the need and then respond. For e.g. when you go to the mall and they want a toy or something, ask how important is it for them to have it? Can it wait till an occasion, like Diwali, Christmas, birthday? Making wish lists is also a great way of allowing their “I want it and I want it now” tantrum to subside.
- Make waiting fun: Children are intuitively impatient, so teaching them how to cope with waiting is important. When waiting in line at the mall, grocery store, bank etc play games or tell short stories. This works really well with little ones. Hari and I often play the game where we take turns to pick a color wherever we are waiting and either one has to point to or say the name of the object matching that color.
- Activities for Patience: Engage children in activities that require time like solving puzzles, art, planting/gardening, learning an instrument. Chess is a great game for cultivating patience. Taking nature walks (without any gadgets) is a great way to slow down and observe the pace of nature.
- Taking Turns: This is a big problem for little kids who have to wait their turn. Taking them to fairs, public parks, and kids events, where they have to wait their turn reinforces this behavior and helps them become more patient with others.
- Patience in small doses: Test their patience in small doses periodically to see where they stand. I do this by sometimes purposefully pretending to not hear what Hari may have said or sometimes even make myself look busy if she needs help with a puzzle, just to see how she gets my attention again, whether she gets angry or tries to solve it on her own.
And remember, cultivating patience is a process. So be patient and work towards it.