7 Tips for Patient and Empowered Parenting
This post was inspired by a friend of mine who is one of the most patient and intentional mothers I know. I was amazed and inspired after watching her interact with her kids one night and later that night my mind fell into the trap of feeling guilty and inadequate as I compared myself to her. I knew better, but my subconscious brain woke me up in the night to write so I could process and purge my thoughts.
Several years ago when I was teaching first grade I had a parent in the classroom one day. After watching me teach and interact with the kids individually she commented with awe, “Wow, you are so patient. I wish I could be that patient with my child.” Her son had some particularly difficult emotions and behaviors.
I was flattered and I knew I was meant to be a teacher and I loved it so much and foolishly kind of thought, “Awesome, my patience will be such an asset when I’m a parent! If I can help 26-six-year-olds manage their behavior, then one should be no problem!”
Don’t get me wrong, I knew that parenting would be different than teaching. I saw how my students resisted their parents far more than they did me. I saw how I had the social peer pressure and positive momentum of a classroom setting working in my favor, and I do think my teacher training and practice in patience have greatly benefitted me in my parenting, but I just could not have anticipated just how much parenting would challenge my patience and stretch it so far beyond what I thought it was.
You see I never could have anticipated how my children and their behaviors would be like a mirror and reflect back to me my own personality problems in a way that my students’ never did because even though I loved them deeply they weren’t mine and their issues didn’t trigger my own. I couldn’t have begun to comprehend the guilt and shame I would feel when I felt imperfect and inadequate compared to the task of parenting. As a recovering perfectionist and without a strong foundation in love for myself it has been crippling at times to see these personality problems reflected back to me so clearly. And then to lose my cool over it was just fuel for a fire of shame.
But that’s one of the reasons I love parenting! I’m deeply committed to improving and always finding ways I need to. I don’t always love the process, but I want to. And I struggle too often with feelings of guilt, defeat and overwhelm like many parents, but deep down when I can push those feelings aside I know I am healing and becoming a better parent as I surrender to seeing more clearly what my children are showing me. In fact, it’s my turn to be the student again and theirs to be the teacher. I hope I can model and reflect self-love and acceptance back to them from here forward so that one day when it’s their turn to grapple with parenting they’ll see their flaws with grace and compassion and be grateful for the opportunities for healing and growth.
If occasionally parenting leaves you floundering, wishing you had more patience than you do with your kids or consumed by guilt, here are a few things that have helped me feel empowered and renewed my patience:
Ignore The Junk
As Ralphie Jacob puts it, “Ignore the junk. Don’t water the weeds.” What we give attention to grows. So ignore the junk (that means harmless, obnoxious behaviors that drive us crazy. *Beginniner tip: The more you do it the easier it gets!)
Be Kind to Yourself
When you see YOUR personality problems glaring you in the face be kind to yourself! If guilt and doubt and shame and overwhelm threaten to creep in keep telling yourself “I love myself! I’m doing the best I can!” And believe it! And keep striving to do better while being determined to love yourself abundantly!
Focus On Your Purpose
Usually, the purpose and reason behind the things we do and say as a parent all wind down to “because I love my child! I want the best for them.” So keep that purpose in mind. Is how you are parenting supporting that purpose?
Examine Your Own Behavior
Constantly ask yourself “is this behavior I want to model? Is this the language I want repeated? Are these the conversations I want overheard? If the roles were reversed right now would this be ok?”
Pinpoint the Trigger
When you find yourself reacting to something push “pause.” Freeze time for a moment and let yourself evaluate “what am I reacting to?” At first it will probably seem simple; “the screaming is driving me crazy!” or “I cannot believe that he/she would treat me that way!” or “I don’t feel good”, but if you push pause your intuition will help you begin to see beyond the problem. Something magic will happen and you’ll be empowered with insight to help you respond instead of react.
See Your Junk
We all learned some crappy lessons and behaviors as kids. We could point fingers at the people we learned them from, but wait a second, we’re parents and teachers now too and we know how hard it is and remember how we said: “we’re doing the best we can”? Well so were the people we learned them from! So instead of wasting time and energy pointing fingers look inward and see how you can fix and heal the crappy lessons and unlearn the poor behaviors.
Own Your Mistakes with Grace
You’re going to screw up. We all do! If you find that you reacted instead of responded, if you find that you projected your own stuff because you were triggered, if you find that you took out YOUR problems on your child, or you compared yourself to a friend who seems like a rockstar parent who has it all together, remember step 2 — remind yourself, “I love myself. I approve of myself. I forgive myself! I’m doing the best I can.” And then believe it and breathe! And don’t let guilt weigh you down! Guilt wants us to stay stuck. Love wants us to heal and change. So embrace love, own your mistakes, model what a sincere apology looks and sounds like to your child. After all, if they don’t learn it from you where will they? From being forced and coerced to do it? How well does that work for us adults? I’m seeing riots and revolts.
Love wins friends. Sometimes the problems and challenges of life feel daunting and overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to walk away to take some time to breathe. Show yourself compassion. There are days when I want to ask, “God, I’m supposed to manage the mental battle of a fight with cancer AND be a parent and a wife? If feels like too much!” But He knows it’s not. He knows what we need. He’s given us each divine curriculum tailored specifically to our needs for growth and learning! And He will be there. Time and time again as we call on His help and fall to our knees he will show us what we need to heal.