Learning to be a patient parent

Learning to be a patient parent

You’d imagine this gets easier as the kids get older. Patience is a virtue, you know? You’ve read about it, written about it and listened to podcasts about how it’s important to remain calm in the face of overwhelming odds. We all want to be that patient parent that our kids need us to be.

But here’s the truth.

Being patient takes effort. A HECK of a lot of effort, let me be clear. So don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself yelling at the kid today or frowning tomorrow as they throw a tantrum to level a skyscraper to the ground.

The good thing about learning to be patient is that, with time you find things getting simpler. Yes I know I wrote that post last month about going yell-free for 800 days. But what you may not know is the number of times I didn’t make it past one month or even one day. It was a constant, uphill battle and I found myself literally crying out of sheer frustration!

To address this in context, I am going to share an incident that happened just last week. I’d just put up a photograph on Instagram about this delicious smoothie that the husband had made and was savouring it with all my heart when it happened.

A loud crash and the sound of shattering glass echoed from the kitchen and my heart stopped for a few milliseconds. Setting down my drink, I rushed to the spot to find Gy staring at the floor, shaking, as the broken pieces of a glass lay strewn around her feet. Her eyes filled rapidly with tears as she caught my eye and started mumbling, ‘I am so sorry, Amma. I didn’t mean to do it. It just slipped from my hands.’

Now, before I go ahead, let me pause here and ask you to honestly examine this situation as a hypothetical one.

What is the first thing you would do in my place?

(A) Yell at the kid for breaking the glass

(B) Console her and tell her it doesn’t matter

There’s no judgment here and believe me, if you answer (A), I wouldn’t be surprised. Because, nine years ago, in a similar situation, that’s what I did. And would you believe the scenario back then? It was because she had done her business on the freshly mopped floor and I was furious. Me, angry at a two-year-old, for not using the potty! Oh believe me, I very easily qualify for the worst mom in the world award.

However, that was then and this is now. Last week, in that second, the first thing I did was to ask her if she was hurt. When she shook her head, I gently told her to pick her feet up and not step on any of the glass pieces. Once she left the kitchen, I sat her down, dried her tears and checked the soles of her feet for any stray shards of glass. Finally, I hugged her and said, ‘It’s only a broken glass. It’s not important. A glass can be replaced.’

While I swept up the glass pieces, I could hear her whimpering in the background. ‘But it’s been with you forever, Amma.’ I smiled, ‘Not forever. Only 16 years.’

’16 years?! Even more precious then! Why was I so careless?’

I stopped picking up the pieces and said, ’16 years is nothing. You are my everything. I couldn’t bear it if you were hurt. Trust me on this one.’

Finally, a smile broke through the tears and she came in for that soothing hug that washed all worries away.

As I reflected on this later that day it came to me that my response to the situation has come with practice. So, do you want to know what worked for me? A number of things, to be honest. And I’m going to tell you each of them today. These aren’t quick-fixes and I wouldn’t call them simple because then I’d be lying.

7 Ways to help you become a more patient #parent. Click to Tweet

But I will tell you this: they work. And the key to making them work and stick? Do it regularly, much like any other habit-building exercise.

Making myself accountable

Like any challenge I set for myself, I had to hold myself accountable. I began that in 2013 with my yell-less challenge. Putting it on the blog made me feel like I was being watched and that I had to try and tame the beast, come what may.

Creating a support group

A year after I started the yell-free challenge, a group of like-minded moms got together and decided we would try the yelling less challenge together. We set up daily, weekly and monthly targets. We awarded each other with badges of support and refrained from judging one another. We were honest in our admissions of guilt when we yelled and empathetic when people shared the frustrations of being a mom. This kind of invaluable support is something that truly helped me forward on this path.

Sharing my story- the triumphs and the failures

I believe being honest on this parenting journey is very important. When I share my victories, people took hope that this was possible. When I shared my failures, people understood that it was okay to stumble and pick yourself up. With time, the failures began to reduce and the wins began to hold sway for much longer.

Learning from my mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. Some of us yell, others threaten, many others tend to spank/hit their kids. And I can tell you that whatever you do, it is heartbreaking for the parent. Nobody wants to be the one who shouts at or hits their kids. I realised that the days I spent talking softly, Gy began to respond better. Yelling would terrify her and push her into a shell.

Parenting is challenging. But with practice, we can make it easier. Here are 7 ways to become a more patient parent, yell less and love your kids more. #ParentingTips #PositiveParenting
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Taking a second to pause

Most of us react on instinct to volatile situations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of social media conversations which deteriorate into name-calling. As parents, we tend to do the same with our kids. Not doing homework? Yell at them to do it. Too much time on the X-box? Yell at them to turn it off.

But what if, we took that second to address it better? What if we decide to respond instead of react? That’s what I learnt to do, not just in the case of parenting, but with all my relationships- online and off it too.

Operate from a space of love

As adults we tend to slip into the role of the disciplinarian very easily. At least, I do. Then, watching how my mom handled my daughter made me understand that children respond to kindness instead of aggression. So I began to put myself in her shoes instead of expecting her to live up to my standards of what was right. I tried to help her navigate turbulent emotions. Now that she is an adolescent, it’s even more challenging and some days are very difficult, I will admit. But it’s helping.

Let go

Each time you get that urge to yell, ask yourself, ‘Is this worth it?’ I know it’s not the first thing that comes to mind in the heat of anger. Yet, you will notice how much better you feel when you sincerely ask yourself that question. To make it simpler, keep a specific situation as a reminder.

What a broken glass taught me about becoming a patient parent.

For me, it could be this broken glass. Each time I am tempted to raise my voice, I need a trigger phrase like ‘Broken glass’. The image will then come to mind. At that second, I will remind myself that it is, after all, just a glass. It’s not the end of the world.

And  on a day, many years from now when Gy and I look back, this broken glass will remind us of the moment that I didn’t yell and chose to empathise, instead. With it, I pray that the way of the peaceful and patient parent is precisely the path we all choose to walk today.

***

Featured & pinnable image courtesy: Shutterstock

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17 thoughts on “Learning to be a patient parent

  1. “16 years is nothing. You are my everything.”

    It’s such a reassuring statement to say, Shailaja. Gy must have reflected on it and felt much calmer.

    While I’m not a parent, I’m sure it’s the toughest full-time job in the world – no holidays, no time-offs, nothing. Yet, I believe it’s the most gratifying part of your life.

    Made a note of the all the points you’ve mentioned. Will practice them when I’m a parent. But point #2 resonated the most – creating a support group. We often get stuck in our own heads while doing something difficult and draining. The presence of a support group – knowing there are people who go through the same thing as us and have the same goals as us – is incredibly powerful, in every aspect of life.

    1. Absolutely, Vishal. The idea that we are not alone is so reassuring. That’s why I began blogging in earnest. To share my story and learn from others too.

      Thank you for the kind comment.

  2. Loved the idea of the image and phrase to go back to, to more easily remind ourselves of what is important :). This is one situation where I learnt to react similarly, and from very early on. Even now I think the kids are surprised when I don’t get angry at some things like this, but still do at other stuff where I’m still trying to temper my reaction :D. Keeping them on the edge of the seat, seems to be my parenting style at the moment :P. Lovely post, Shailaja.

    1. Yes I know! It’s surprised me too, my response in these situations. I mean I do falter at times and find myself doing things I’d rather not do but it gets progressively easier these days to choose response over reaction. Thank you for the lovely comment and the share, Apu 🙂

  3. I love your no-yelling posts Shailaja. As a child I remember getting shouted at really badly for breaking things – perhaps because crockery was so much more expensive and unaffordable back then. As a result of that I never yelled at the kids for broken things. However, the mess is what drives me crazy and the though of cleaning up brings out the worst in me. Oh and you have an advantage that Gy is a child with a conscience. I may not get angry but I do express regret if I feel it, specially if it is a prized piece they’ve broken. They need to be taught to be careful.
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    1. Regret at a prized piece is understandable. And I know they need to be careful. And in most situations, a scenario like this is enough to make them careful in the future.

      Thank you Tulika 🙂

  4. I’m not at all a patient person. So, you can imagine the kind of parent I am. I have had some awful days as a parent when I just lost all control but there have been days when I have been patient, much to my surprise. The latter though is rare. I don’t know how to cultivate this trait of being calm and patient when all my life I have been anything but the opposite. But I’ll definitely try inculcating your advice in my day to day life as a parent 🙂

  5. Answering your question about what will I do when faced with a similar situation of a glass breaking, my answer will vary. I shall say nothing and lovingly move D out of the mess if I am at peace with myself in that moment. But there are moments when I feel stretched and then I shall yell or go dead silent not because the glass was broken but because it increased my cleaning work. Thus, I understand it well enough when you said ‘Take a pause’. Taking a pause prevents many meltdowns on my part but it does not happen every time.
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  6. I loved reading how honestly you shared your experience. As a child, I was never yelled at. I really marvel at how. Most older parents of my parents’ generation thought nothing of yelling and spanking their kids. I was blessed with my parents. All my father needed was a stern look and it had the effect of a thousand yells. But, I haven’t managed to achieve that with my kids. 🙂 Yet, I hardly ever yell at them for breaking things or injuring themselves. I am the most compassionate then. It is things like incessant sparring that really gets my goat. And all the refereeing that they expect me to do. Absolutely, every word you say and all the inputs shared make sense. The only reason most parents falter is because they are dead tired or overworked and don’t have the energy or the patience. Or that sometimes kids just repeat the same clumsiness over and over again. But, in the long run, yelling at the drop of the hat is very ineffective.
    Rachna Parmar recently posted C Section Delivery and My ExperiencesMy Profile

    1. So true about the exhaustion that parents face. That was one of the things that was the biggest trigger in my parenting group. And we allowed a lot of leeway for sick days, lack of sleep, tantrums for no reason. Big help that group.

  7. This is such a brilliant post Shy! A non-parent like me can learn so much from this too.

    Honestly, patience has never been one of my virtues. But once I got married, I learnt its importance.

    Gy is lucky to have you and you are acing this parenting thing if I may say.

  8. Reading this, I could only see myself on one of those days 2 years back, when my 2.8 yr old was devastated when she accidentally dropped her dad’s phone (which caused the screen to break into cracks). And she just happened to do that just when she jumped up in excitement to show something to me.

    And there were tears welling up in her eyes out of fear and she just uttered while fumbling, “I’m sleeping now” and covered her eyes to weep. That was when I just grabbed her by her hand and hugged her tight only to say,”That’s OK, sweetheart. I would have surely yelled if you had done it on purpose. But I see that it was an accident.” She was startled and still mustered the courage to ask,”Papa is going to feel bad.” To which I said exactly the same words that you reassured Gy with. It was just that the screen had to be replaced with 2500 bucks. Money Vs the Kid’s impressions makes no sense.

    But then I wondered if I stayed calm only because there was no mess to clean up or that the phone wasn’t mine, or the innocent excitement that just vanished from my darling’s little face.

    It was perhaps your writings & the intense love I have for her. However, now when she flaunts my instructions for fun, I found lose my mind. But then I’ve learnt to start practising patience.

    And thanks for mentoring crazy mums like us, Shailaja
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