Do you know how to choose patience?
Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, difficulty, or annoyance without getting angry or upset.
I don’t know any parent whose life is free of delays, difficulties or annoyances. In fact, I’m pretty sure most moms and dads experience them on a regular, probably daily, basis. Your patience may especially be tested at your child’s sporting event as you watch officials make questionable calls and coaches implement strategies that you don’t agree with. Or maybe you get impatient with your child because they don’t seem to be trying their hardest or because they keep making the same mistakes over and over.
In those moments, you have a choice. What door will you walkthrough? Patience or Impatience?
Unfortunately, choosing impatience is not good for you because it affects you in many negative ways. Research has connected impatience with irritability and a higher risk of heart problems. A 2016 study found that impatience was linked to people having shorter telomeres, the part of our DNA that affects how we age. This suggests that a lifestyle of impatient behavior might actually speed up the aging process. That possibility alone should keep us motivated to keep calm!
Here are 3 steps to take to help you build up your patience “muscles” and hopefully keep you looking and feeling younger!
Recognize when you’re starting to feel impatient. Why are you feeling that way? What emotion is at the center of your response? Are you angry that your child is not playing as much as you’d like? Are you tired and irritated that your kids are not doing their homework when they get home after practice or a game? Are you anxious that your kids won’t get that college scholarship because they aren’t working hard enough?
When things aren’t going our way, we most likely blame it on something that happens TO us, something external. It’s always our kids’ fault, our spouse’s fault, the coach's fault. But the reality is that the root of the problem is what’s going on in our own minds–our response to whatever we are facing.
Recognizing these triggers is a huge first step. This will help you slow down and focus on one task at a time and remove those things that stress you out.
Try to see the situation through a different set of lenses. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. The coach is doing the best he or she can with the team they have. Your child is tired and didn’t feel like going to practice today. Your kids are forgetful and cleaning up the mess in the hall is not a priority to them when they get home from a game.
Whatever triggers your impatience with your kids is usually not about you. They usually aren’t trying to get on your nerves or test your patience. They are just reacting to how they feel. Reframe your thinking from taking their behavior as a personal assault to understanding their behavior from their point of view.
See the Bigger Purpose.
The best kind of parenting is the kind that keeps a big-picture perspective. Sure, it’s irritating that your kids don’t try hard enough in practices or games, but they need to learn how to motivate themselves and so your objective should be: “what do they need to learn and how can I best help them learn it?”
Of course, it would be great if your kids didn’t complain every time they had to sit down and do homework, but it’s important that they learn the importance of learning and of being responsible.
Instead of just putting up with your kids’ behavior, look at it as an opportunity for them to learn a lesson about coping in life.
In Summary: Train for a Marathon, Not a Sprint
The most common mistake people make is thinking that sheer determination can turn them into a more patient person overnight. That type of thinking will make you feel like a failure and push you to just give up and assume, “that’s just the way I am.”
Marathon runners don’t run 26 miles on their first day of running. And they don’t train for the 100-yard dash either. Runners who are serious about completing a marathon don’t expect immediate results. Their training takes months and months.
In the same way, parents who want to build their patience shouldn’t expect it to happen immediately. You must TRAIN, not merely TRY, for patience. Make these three suggestions a habit: Take Notice, Reframe, and See the Bigger Picture.
At first, you will become aware of your impatience AFTER you’ve blown it. However, don’t give up. Over time, you will find yourself becoming aware of your impatience WHILE you are blowing it, and then eventually you will catch yourself BEFORE you blow it. Keep training with these habits and you will see your patience grow.