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How to Be Patient When You Weren’t Taught Patience

Tell me if this sounds familiar:

YOUR KID: “Mom” 
YOU: “Yes, baby.”
YOUR KID: “MOm”
YOU: “Hold on, let me rinse this dish off.”
YOUR KID: “MOM”
YOU: “I’m almost done. Please be patient.”
YOUR KID: “MOMMM!”
YOU: “WHAT?!?”

Yeah, me too. Now, what about this:

YOU: You’re working on homework but stuck on a problem. You know you need help but don’t want to make mom/dad mad. Finally, you work up the nerve to ask, “Mama, can you help me?”
YOUR MOM: “Can you not see that I’m busy?! Let me just stop what I’m doing so I can do whatever you think you need me to do! What I’m doing isn’t important, right?”

Some of you (hopefully most of you) think that’s a bit dramatic. But a few of you, like me, know the sickening feeling of dread that washed over you every time you had to ask for help or simply found yourself existing in someone’s way.

I love my mom, but she was far from patient. And while I do not believe in living in a victim mentality, I do believe that our parents’ actions impact us just as our actions will impact our babies. 

I am not very patient. And every time I have caught myself snapping at my toddler for doing toddler things, it feels like a punch straight to my gut. 

I know I must do better, but how?

What is Patience?

If you do a quick Google for the definition of patience, you’ll find this: 

“The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

I think the Lord was intentional when He started 1 Corinthians 13 with, “Love is patient…” 

When explaining what loving someone perfectly looks like, He immediately addresses the fact that there will be instances when our loved ones will cause us delay, trouble, or even suffering, which can all encourage anger and frustration.

However, when we truly love someone, we will try to show them patience. 

I think it’s important to note that we live in a fallen world, and our natural desire is not to submit to goodness. So, if you are not completely patient, I promise this will not surprise Jesus. 

And believe it or not, He’s patient enough to teach you patience. 

Why is Having Patience Important?

Because Jesus Said So

First and foremost, Jesus tells us to be patient. 

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

Colossians 3:12 (ESV)

PLUS, Jesus Himself is patient. If we are called to walk in His footsteps and share His goodness with the world, we must also be patient.

We Model Patience to Our Children

Think about how much harder it is to grasp patience because you weren’t raised by parents or caregivers who modeled it. That’s the whole reason you’re reading this, right?

Our children learn by example. Therefore, we must lead by example. 

Mama, this is a HARD one for me. I have caught myself impatiently yelling, “BE PATIENT!” and “WAIT!” more times than I’d like to admit. 

Showing our kids patience is the best thing we can do to teach them patience.

Patience Brings Peace

I used to believe that peace brings patience. However, when referring back to the definition, we are shown that patience happens amid chaos. 

When we are content or, at the very least, tolerant, when things don’t go our way, we can be in a more peaceful state of mind.

As mamas, we set the mood for our homes. When we are snappy and stressed, it is natural for our homes to be that way as well. However, when we are patient and slow to anger, we build an environment of peace and comfort.

Proverbs 15:18 says,

“A hot-tempered person stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

Proverbs 15:18 (ESV)

Is it Possible for Me to Be Patient if I Was Raised by Impatient Parents?

Mama, you can absolutely learn to be patient with your babies, EVEN if you were never shown patience by your own parents. 

However, I won’t sugarcoat it: It’s probably going to be a little harder. 

Think about it this way:

If your mom loved to ride horses and regularly took you with her, wouldn’t it make sense for you to know how to ride a horse faster than if you had never ridden one?

Probably.

But if your mom showed no interest in horses and never took you, does that mean you can never learn to ride a horse? Of course not. 

It’s just going to take you a little longer, and you’re probably going to have to practice a little harder.

How Do I Practice Patience?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Practice patience” before, but what does that actually mean?

Well, like practicing gratitude or kindness, you actively apply the principles of patience to your everyday life. What are the principles of patience?

As its definition taught us earlier, patience is all about having the capacity to tolerate/accept delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry. Therefore, we need to grow our capacity!

But how do we do this?

How to Grow Your Capacity for Patience

Think of growing your capacity for patience like how your stomach grew when your baby was tucked away in your womb. It was a little slow and a bit uncomfortable, but your body did it to support your baby. It forced you to be selfless.

Patience also forces us to be selfless. Patience requires us to stop believing the entire world should constantly bend to our will and desires. It forces us to slow down, take our thoughts captive, and stop allowing our emotions to dictate our actions.

It is not natural, especially if you haven’t been practicing it, but your capacity for patience can grow.

Here are a few pointers:

1. Understand Why You Want to Be Patient

Why do you want to be patient? Maybe it seems silly, but nailing down your motivation will help you endure when quitting would be easier. 

You must decide for yourself if growing your patience is worth it. As your friend, I have to tell you it definitely is. However, I can’t control what you do. 

Is it worth being patient with your babies? Is it worth being patient with your husband? Your faith? Your friends? Only you can answer that.

Once you figure out your “why,” I want you to write it down. Then, every time you catch yourself believing the lie that you aren’t good at this, and it’s hopeless, remember your “why” and start over. Genuinely apologize for snapping and try again.

2. Take note of when you are the most impatient. 

When are you most impatient? Is it a certain time of the day/night? Is it while you’re doing something specific, like cleaning, scrolling, watching TV, or talking to someone? Is it only with specific people (like your little one)?

Once you can pin down when you are the least patient, it can help you realize your priorities. Mama, washing your dishes isn’t bad. Trying to get out of the house on time isn’t bad. Watching a show isn’t bad in and of itself. 

One thing I’ve noticed about myself and the people around me is that we tend to have a narrow perception. I tend to become impatient, selfish, and inconsiderate when I view time as something that belongs solely to me and the present moment. Meaning, “This is a waste of MY time” or “They need to listen/perform/submit right NOW.”

I’m going to encourage you to try the five year method. Every time I stop and ask myself if whatever my toddler is interrupting will truly matter in five years, it reminds me of what truly matters. 

No one will remember in five years if I was late to church on December 3, 2023. I won’t even remember!

But my toddler, after being continuously snapped at or ignored, will eventually feel like he’s in the way or like whatever he is eager to show me doesn’t matter to me.

I do NOT want my babies to feel the dread I mentioned earlier. And I think it’s safe to say that you probably don’t want your kids to feel that way, either.

Now, I do not say that to guilt you into complying with your children’s every wants and desires! Not at all. I only say it to make you a little more aware of what your impatience COULD lead to.

3. Actively Practice Patience

To actively practice patience, you have to be aware of your actions. It’s easy to get swept up in whatever activity you’re doing and completely forget your mission.

Therefore, you need to be INTENTIONAL.

Right now, I want you to think of specific ways you would like to practice patience. For instance, maybe you don’t want to yell at your toddler whenever she repeatedly says your name. How can you respond?

  • You could stop what you’re doing and look at whatever they’re trying to show you.
  • If you’re in the middle of something that cannot be interrupted (i.e., driving, a conversation, etc.), you can say something like, “I will come with you as soon as I’m done here.” This idea will apply mostly to children old enough to understand what you are saying.
  • You could take a deep breath and think about life five years from now.

Go ahead, pull out your journal, phone notes, or whatever you use, and make a game plan.

I’ll give you mine as an example.

“I want to improve my patience with my son while I’m working on my laptop. Whenever Jackson tries to get my attention, instead of getting angry, I will stop what I’m doing and give him my full attention. 

If he needs a snack, I’ll get it for him. If he wants me to read Diggersaurs for the 15th time, I will remind myself that in five years, I will regret not taking all the chances I get to read to him now. So, I will continue to read it to him another time. 

Once I’m done, I will find something to keep him occupied and then go back to work. If I can’t do that, I will put my work away and continue it later when he’s asleep.”

Will this be easy? Probably not. And I will definitely have to pivot as more kids come into the picture. Still, intentionality goes a long way. 

Remember, perfection isn’t the goal; growth is. We want to love our babies by showing them patience.

4. Assume the Best Out of Those Your Practicing Patience With

I heard this advice concerning marriage, but it works well when applied to parenting, too. 

Most times, when we catch ourselves snapping at people, it is because we have unconsciously assumed that they are purposefully trying to inconvenience us. 

Here are a few examples:

  • My toddler just dumped all the chips on the floor because he loves making me clean up messes.
  • My husband threw his dirty clothes on the floor instead of in the laundry basket because he doesn’t care about my having to clean it up.
  • My child just pooped again because she knows the last thing I want to do right now is clean another dirty diaper.
  • My sister is calling me right now because she knows I was about to try to get some work done around the house.

If you haven’t noticed, impatience with those around us is usually rooted in self-centeredness. 

When we force ourselves to stop the false narratives we tell ourselves every time we are inconvenienced, we’re likely to be less insulted when we are interrupted.

Instead of taking the actions of others personally, try assuming the best in them. This applies to everyone from your toddler to your husband to the lady at the checkout line. Give it a try. I promise it can be helpful.

5. Pray for Patience

For so much of my life, I was afraid to pray for patience because people scared me into thinking that God would make my life miserable. How stupid is that? Will He make you more aware of your impatience? Probably. Is He going to punish you for asking for His help in growing your patience and love for others? NO! 

Matthew 7:11 says,

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:11 (ESV)

I truly believe that if you ask the Lord for more patience, He will help give it to you. He is Good and He desires for us to reflect His goodness to the world, and ESPECIALLY to our babies.

Will it be automatic? Probably not. More likely, it will be a slow growing and stretching that happens over time. 

A Few Things to Understand

I focused most of my college career on studying child behavior and the family unit, so I’m about to get a little nerdy with you. But please, KEEP READING! This information has been super helpful to me, and I think it can help you, too.

Toddlers are what Jean Piaget (a psychologist who focused his studies on child development) called “egocentric.” This means that they tend to only be aware of their own needs and thoughts. 

In their mind, this is their world, and we’re just living in it. 

They do not do this to be selfish. They do this because that is how their brains are wired. If you really dig into it, you’ll find that it is based on survival instincts, but I won’t bore you with the details.

All that to say, your child isn’t screaming at you to be annoying. Your child actually believes the world revolves around them. Therefore, when they need something, they think they need it right now, and you better believe you’re going to hear about it. 

Now, does this mean we shouldn’t teach them how to be patient? Of course not! We would be doing them a disservice if we allowed them to continue in life, believing the world revolves around them. 

But this should give you a little understanding of why your kids act the way they do.

Practical Steps to Practice Patience

Now that we’ve learned why patience is crucial and why it’s essential for us as parents, let’s explore some practical strategies that can help us nurture patience in our everyday lives:

  • Deep Breath Moments: When you can feel that wave of frustration rising, take a pause and breathe deeply. Deep breaths have the power to calm the storm within and give you that crucial moment to gather your thoughts before responding.
  • Count to Ten, Mama: Before you leap into action in the face of a challenging situation, count to ten quietly in your head. This small act can help you sidestep impulsive reactions and instead opt for a more patient response.
  • Embrace Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation and practices are like little superpowers for self-awareness. By weaving mindfulness into your daily routine, you can gain better control over your emotions and grow your patience.
  • Realistic Expectations: Kids, especially the little ones, are like sponges still soaking up the world. Set realistic expectations for their behavior and remember that they might need a bit more time to grasp certain things or complete tasks.
  • Positive Affirmations: Create your own set of positive affirmations centered around patience and whisper them to yourself throughout the day. For instance, “I am a patient parent,” or “In challenging moments, I choose patience.” If you’re interested in Scripture affirmations, check these out!
  • Time-Outs for You: When your patience is on the brink, consider a mini time-out for yourself. Stepping away briefly from the situation can help you regain your cool and see things from a fresh perspective.
  • Active Listening Magic: When your little one is pouring out their thoughts and feelings, be an active listener. Give them your complete attention, ask open-ended questions, and acknowledge their emotions. This can ease frustration for both of you.
  • Nourish Your Well-being: Remember, looking after your own physical and mental health is vital for maintaining patience. Ensure you get enough rest, savor nutritious meals, and engage in activities that recharge your spirit.
  • Routine Reliability: Establishing a consistent daily routine can be a lifesaver. It cuts down on surprises and helps you and your child know what to expect. Predictability can be a secret weapon for staying patient in various situations.
  • Lean on Others: Don’t hesitate to lean on other parents, friends, or supportive communities when your patience is put to the test. Sharing experiences and learning from one another can be a game-changer.
  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Boost your toolkit with effective conflict resolution strategies. These skills come in handy in situations where your patience might be challenged, whether it’s resolving disagreements with your partner or managing sibling squabbles.
  • Count Your Blessings: Infuse your life with gratitude by regularly reflecting on the positives in your world and the beautiful moments of parenthood. Gratitude can be the switch that turns frustration into appreciation.

Keep in mind that the path to patience is a journey filled with twists and turns, and yes, occasional stumbles. Be gentle and forgiving to yourself as you strive to become that patient parent you aspire to be. With time and effort, you’ll create a home filled with harmony and love, a place where both you and your children thrive.

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