4 steps to becoming a more patient parent

Psychotherapist Liza Finlay shares key steps to becoming more patient with your family—and yourself.

Ok, so you lost it. You blew your cool. You totally flipped your lid. And when you think about it, you find your short fuse has become something of a chronic condition. You’d like to be a more patient parent, but how?

You’re in luck. I have a four-step plan to “patient-hood.” Ready? Here we go…

1. Befriend your impatience Yes, you heard me right. Emotions—all emotions—are bellwethers of family harmony. They are internal regulators, sounding the alarm when something is wrong. By learning to embrace those alarms, rather than shunning them (“I’m such a bad mom. I’ve got to be more patient!”), we become proactive as opposed to reactive.

2. Diagnose Once we accept that our emotions—even our impatience—are signalling a problem, we need to determine the nature of the problem. A couple of common parental patience-pitfalls are power struggles and ploys for attention. So, if you are locked in combat with your son (everything seems to be a battle), then he’s telling you, with his behaviour, that he’s ready for more autonomy; it’s probably time to hand over more freedoms and responsibilities. And if you find yourself in a state of constant irritation with your daughter’s attention-getting ploys (whining, clinginess), then it’s a good idea to invest in some more quality time with her.

3. Identify triggers
Children’s behaviours aren’t the only things to trip us up. Sometimes we get ignited by past hurts and resentments that lie trapped in our subconscious like powder kegs. All it takes is one little thing and... kaboom! We need to sort old anger from new anger. Is the mess of hockey equipment in the hall really the cause of your anger, or is “being treated like the maid” a sore spot for you from way back? Is the kids’ sibling bickering truly the source of your frustration, or are you petrified your children will drift apart the way you and your sister did?


4. Fill your bucket We lose the ability to regulate our emotions when our inner reserves are empty. If you’re running on fumes, then it’s no wonder you're easily frustrated. Take a minute to consider what fills you up. Walks in nature? Cocktails with the girls? A movie and dinner with your main squeeze? Now, ask yourself this: When was the last time you did any of those things? You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself. Mutually respectful relationships require us to be self-respecting, too. So practise some self-care. Go for a massage. That’s an order!

This article was originally published on Mar 12, 2014

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