On edge. Irritable. Tightly wound, ready to snap. This is how I would often describe myself. Last month, I decided it was time to change. I studied everything there is to learn about patience, “The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” With patience as my goal, I had to get a little creative because patience does not come naturally to me! Here are a few of the tricks I used to get started on becoming a more patient parent.
- Under-react to a problem. I love this advice from Gretchen Rubin in her book: Happier at Home. I am typically quite the opposite and can get pretty worked up over pretty much anything. When I put this sneaky little practice into place, the results were almost immediate. I felt better. My kids felt better. Our house was instantly more peaceful. All I have to do when confronted with a problem is keep my voice low and slow. When I focus on under-reacting, I can stay calm and move forward without getting stuck in a whirlwind of emotion. Even if I’m only fake-calm, it helps hold off the angry-mom tornado until I get my feet back under me and see it’s really not that big of a deal.
- Master the Botox Brow. My second favorite trick came from Michelle Icard on today.com. This is a perfect example of how to under-react:
“Research shows that the part of the brain we use to read facial expressions isn’t properly functioning for middle schoolers. As a result, they often mistake a wrinkled brow (whether it be out of curiosity or interest or shock) as anger. When talking to your middle schooler, keep a smooth forehead and facial expression. Moms tell me this is the number-one tip they’ve received from me for keeping the lines of communication open.”
When I focus on keeping my forehead smooth and happy, it is a lot easier to keep the rest of me from getting angry. Sometimes I give myself a little forehead massage as a reminder.
- An Apple a Day. I read a study that says eating apples will help increase patience. I’m not sure how exactly but I decided to eat one in the afternoon around the time my kids get home from school. Something about the fiber and effect on my blood sugar gives me just the boost I need during those stressful hours of homework and dinner prep.
- Time Out for Mom. Even the greatest athletes need an occasional time-out during a game. If I feel myself starting to lose it, I step into my room for 5 minutes and do a couple yoga stretches, square my shoulders and head back into battle. They might think I’m having bathroom issues but I’m totally not, thanks to all those apples.
- Pencil in a Plan. I like to pencil in a schedule for my day. It makes such a difference to have a plan! Then I know if we get thrown off schedule, I can be flexible and simplify somewhere else in the day so I’m not trying to cram everything into an impossible amount of time. Doing too much in not enough time is a great recipe for stress.
- Order of Operations. I’ve learned to ask myself a few times throughout the day: “Is this the best use of my time right now?” If the answer is no, I try to think strategically, because I lose patience the most when I’m trying to do two things that don’t go together, like playing Candyland and texting my mom. I can hear how their day was while I fold laundry, but not when I’m reading. I can wash a sink full of dishes while my kids are doing homework at the table. I try to save the things that need my full attention for when they are in bed.
- Set the Tone. I’ve learned that I am the one who sets the tone for our home. If I’m patient, it goes around like the flu. I can create a better atmosphere by opening the windows, playing soothing music and even plugging in a relaxing scent. We are the gatekeepers of the feeling in our homes and it sometimes takes a little creativity to get the mood that we want.
- Personal Health. If I notice myself getting snappy and irritable, it is almost always due to poor sleep, lack of exercise and improper nutrition, especially eating too much sugar! For me, getting up a little earlier and making my personal health a priority is the best way for me to be a patient mom.
These are a few of the tricks that have helped me become a more patient parent. It takes practice, but I can feel it is helping me become the mom I’ve always wanted to be!