Carter spills his milk all over the breakfast table and you snap. Charlotte announces she needs to go pee at the most inconvenient moment so you reply: “Really? Really? Your timing could NOT be worse."
Parenting takes a lot of patience. And I mean a whole lot. Kids are slow, indecisive, have a different set of priorities, poor workmanship and other qualities that just take time to improve during the course of their normal growth and development.
If you have low tolerance for such typical childhood behaviours, you’re at risk of losing it on your kids every time you’re with them. That can scare kids and it sure doesn’t make us feel good about our parenting. So, if you identify with yourself as someone who is impatient, here are some exercises you can do to improve your tolerance levels.
1. Commit to change
Do you believe being impatient is just who you are? If that is the case, you don’t have much hope of changing. However, if you can accept your behaviour is a choice you make and are responsible for, you are on your way to change!
2. Be attuned to your stress level
Chronic stress changes the chemistry of our body. Our flight or fight response is like a hair trigger waiting to be tripped and children are like tumble weed rolling into that hazard zone. Learn to recognize when your stress level is high. Many people acclimate to high stress and are unaware they are on edge constantly. We all need to eat right, sleep sufficiently and exercise regularly. Your children will love your improved mood. You’ll model well-being, so if you won’t do it for yourself – DO IT FOR THEM.
3. STOP and journal your self talk
When you feel you are about to snap. STOP. Practice putting on the brakes and simply take a deep breath and listen to the narrative going on in your head. Write it down. Make it very conscious.
The reason we snap is not because of the situation at hand, but rather the story we tell ourselves about the situation. What is it that we find so distasteful? These are your “hot thoughts” that entice us to generate negative emotions and snap. Write these down for a week in a little notebook.
Just learning to stop and write instead of reflexively snapping will be an improvement and proof that you can stop yourself if you wish.
4. Analyze your journal
In a time of calm – read your journal and see if you recognize any patterns or re-occurring thoughts. Especially watch for the following cognitive mistakes:
a) "All or never" thinking: You always make me late; you never eat what I make you.
b) Catastrophizing: If we are late for softball, I will look like the loser mother who can’t do anything right.
c) Personalizing: You never do this when you are with the nanny, you must hate me.
For a full list of common cognitive errors, click here.
5. Practice substitute thoughts
For each of your hot thoughts – decide on a cool thought substitution. Write them down. When you start running late and you hear your familiar hot thoughts in your head, stop, breath and say: "Hey old familiar friend, I am choosing new thoughts today to make me and my family happier. I am choosing to think THIS instead (insert calming thought).
Here is an example:
Hot Thought: If we are late people will judge me as being a bad mom
Cool Thought: There are plenty of valid reasons people are late for things occasionally. No one knows how I parent and one incident is not a reflection of my whole life. I don’t care what others think
Good luck! And let me know if this helps.