Patience: A Parent’s Best Friend.
Today's Hectic Modern Family
Hurry lets go. OK that’s enough. No more toys . Your good. Where are your boots? For Pete’s sake can you get a move on. WE ARE ALREADY LATE! If this sounds like you well you are not the only one. A lot of parents find themselves rushing and scolding their children when they have to get somewhere and their child just seems to be taking their sweet old time. Your children aren’t really trying to test your patience but it sure feels that way doesn’t it? Their little minds aren’t usually thinking lets wind mommy up and watch her go .
For today’s modern family, life can get hectic and we can feel like we are always on the run. The more our adrenaline pumps, the more urgent things seem and the more impatient we get. Children often get caught in the crossfire of our adrenaline filled reactions, not knowing or really understanding why we are so worked up. They don’t have the same sense of urgency we sometimes do and they certainly don’t have the same sense of time.
Avoiding Urgency: Using Time Management
There are three primary ways to change how we deal with situations like the one above. The first is to use time management skills. Time management means organizing our time better and giving our children more time to get ready. The second is to practice a fire drill game to reinforce quick exits, and the third is to switch to decaf and work on our own patience. It really depends on how much this scenario bothers you and how much of an adrenaline junkie you really are.
Time management is not always possible. Sometimes we get an urgent call or we lose track of time and suddenly we realize we are behind schedule and we need to get going. One of the things parents can to is to be prepared ahead of time when they know they will be heading out the door later in the day. At some point in the day, when you aren’t in a rush help your child set out the clothes, shoes, toys, snacks, backpacks, or anything else they might need for the outing. Before you leave, start a countdown. With cell phones most of us can set an alarm to remind ourselves when to start getting them ready for the outing. The countdown might be fifteen minutes in advance or maybe ten depending on how much your child dawdles.
When the countdown begins, all distractions should be stopped. i.e. televisions, computers, should go off. The child should have a routine for putting things away and getting ready to go out. Some children might complain and say they don’t need fifteen minutes, which is fine because you can tell them if they are ready with five minutes to spare, you can make it a ten minute countdown the next time. By taking away from their play time or tv time you have now made quickly getting ready to part of their agenda, whereas before the urgency was only your agenda. My children were down to about a three minute countdown when I was younger and much more impatient.
I also tended to really reinforce the countdown when my wife was at home and any child who wasn’t ready to leave would miss their outing. This rarely happened after following through just once. I found that getting children to organize and set out their sporting equipment well before we left for games or practice was extremely helpful ( Impatient parents don’t appreciate having to turn around half way to a game because little Janie forgot a key piece of equipment).
Practicing a fire drill game is a great way to prepare younger children for a quick exit. Children love games and this one works well. We also used it as a way to get them to quickly clean up toys. If you have more than one child you can make it a friendly competition, or you can simply practice getting a better time for the family. It helps if you participate. Reinforce that it needs to be done quickly but calmly. Enforce a strict walking only policy as running around can lead to an unwanted accident (something we don’t need as we are rushing out the door). Brisk walking is allowed. My kids became excellent speed walkers, by the way. You should have seen them on pool decks heading to the diving boards!
Lastly, we can work on our patience. Ask yourself how much rushing around and berating your kids really speeds up your exit from your home. Sure we all have schedules to keep but if we leave things to the last minute is it really our children’s fault. We need to ask ourselves if we might be adrenaline junkies. How much coffee do we drink? Do we speed or get impatient in traffic? Do we really need parents in the grip of road rage driving on our streets? How much quicker do we get places with a rush rush attitude? Why not leave ten minutes ahead of time and relax?
Being Good Role Models: Patience is still a Virtue
We need to remember we are role models for our children. They will follow in our footsteps if they see we are impatient and have low frustration tolerance. Many cultures around the world consider showing impatience and other overt acts of frustration as shameful behavior. While some people in these cultures may feel impatient waiting in lines or traffic, they rarely show it. Many of us can certainly take a page out of that book. And the truth is, making a spectacle of ourselves in a situation like that is often perceived as being childish. I have watched adults standing in lines and observed how well they worked each other up into seething balls of impatience, despite seeing a cashier or teller doing their best to do their job. It really is an unproductive habit that seems to be common in our culture.
When waiting for our kids, or others for that matter, it always helps to count to five before reacting. We need to find ways to distract ourselves or other things to think about that don’t have us role modeling impatience for our children. We need to realize that our sense of urgency is sometimes very unnecessary. Getting worked up is a sign that we are adrenaline junkies and a sign that we need to change some of our habits and expectations.
Sometimes we really do need to leave in a hurry. We can get prepared by practicing our fire drill game and practicing leaving in a hurry. However, the rest of the time we can avoid unneeded urgency by planning ahead and being organized. Children learn by watching us. If you tend to find yourself raising your adrenaline unnecessarily you might want to find more productive ways to manage tension. I suggest some of these in my article on worry and anxiety. Exercise is one important way to manage stress. For now, count to five and collect your thoughts before getting too worked up. Patience is still a virtue.