My preschooler, like almost all 3-year-olds, has a patience problem. Not that I blame the little guy. I have a hard time waiting to see the doctor, waiting to get my food in a restaurant and waiting in line in a store; and I’m a full-grown adult! However, we needed to stop the temper tantrums that happened anytime our little guy had to wait for something. Patience is a virtue, but it is a virtue that must be learned. My problem was that I was coming up short with ideas on how to teach patience.
Inspiration struck after a long, tiring of day trying to entertain my preschooler and sick baby. Tired of being cooped up in the house, my little guy was engaged in a day-long tantrum, fueled by his frustration at receiving so little attention. After hearing “I want it now!” for the fifty-seven-thousandth time that day, I suggested we make bread together.
I usually reserve making bread for nap time or after bed because I assumed the lengthy process would frustrate my little guy. The second I suggested making bread, my son’s favorite treat, I questioned whether it would only make the problem worse. I wanted to take a worn-out preschooler and make him wait three hours for his favorite treat? Had I totally lost it?
About fifteen minutes into the first rise time, the little guy wanted his treat, and he wanted it immediately. Period.
We sat down at the table and talked about fun things that we had to wait for. We talked about waiting for Christmas and his birthday. We talked about waiting for daddy to get home from work and waiting for a friend to come over to play. I asked him how he felt when he had to wait, and my astute little guy thought for a minute then responded that it made him feel yucky inside when he has to wait for things he wants.
In that moment, I sympathized with my little guy. I understood exactly what he meant when he said that it felt yucky to have to wait. I also recognized that he learned that from me.
I looked back at the tantrums I had thrown over having to wait for my husband to find a job after graduating college. I recalled my dour mood the entire time we were trying to get pregnant with our second child, which was a long and arduous process. I’m a big person, and big people have big problems. However, my child’s daily inconveniences are as paramount in his mind as empty bank accounts and infertility are in mine. Not to mention the mini-meltdowns I also experience when day-to-day things take longer than I deem necessary.
Waiting for our bread to bake, we discussed ways to combat our impatience. Not surprisingly, the techniques that I suggested for my three-year-old were also the same ones I needed to implement in my own life:
Both of us need to learn to control our emotions when we feel frustrated.
Both of us need to find healthy outlets to distract ourselves during times of boredom or frustration.
Most importantly, both of us need to look at the big picture and remind ourselves that we will eventually get what we need. Not that we will necessarily get what we want, but that we will get what we need.
As we were eating our warm bread, my little guy smiled up at me and said, “This was worth the wait.” I thought back on all the times in my life that have taught me to have greater patience, and I completely agreed.
QUESTION: What are some experiences in your life that have forced you to learn patience?
CHALLENGE: Get your children talking about their emotions in a productive way. When they seem frustrated, ask them to describe how they are feeling physically and mentally. Help them learn new words to express how they are feeling and discuss ways to control difficult emotions.
Photo courtesy of Heather Hale
Allyson Reynolds says
We really aren’t that much different than our children, are we? Thanks for this!
Heather Hale says
Thanks, Allyson! I certainly have my days where I feel like more of a 3 year old than an, um… I’ll just leave it at “old enough to have two kids” 🙂
[email protected] says
I was just complaining to my husband about something my daughter wasn’t doing and he said, “Now we know how Heavenly Father feels, huh?” It is so true that we are not too different from our children and can all learn together, as we raise our sweet angels. Thank you!
Heather Hale says
I love your husband’s mindset. He’s totally, 100% right. Thanks for sharing this; I’m going to be thinking about this a lot for the next few weeks.