Let’s hypothetically say there’s a mom out there who struggles with patience, who tends to ramp up situations with her overreactions. So she decides to take on a potentially stressful situation to purposely develop greater calmness, self-control, and endurance: a tea party themed birthday bash for a group of six-year-olds.
Here is the mother’s science experiment:
Take ten young children; add borrowed porcelain tea sets, hot chocolate, and carpet. Stir with six-year-old birthday energy. Add fear of broken dishes, wiggly children and an inexperienced mom. Wait sixty minutes.
Results? Like any science experiment, some were predictable: crumbs, a spill or two. Surprisingly though, there were smiles, not high stress; kind words, not bottled anger. Not because this mom is an angel, but because she learned some valuable lessons on patience from the experiment. These are her scientific observations:
Preparation invites patience. Predicting stressful situations allows us to choose patience ahead of time. Many of the daily bouts of irritation and unkindness I demonstrate toward my children come in situations that come up over and over again. This means I can identify those times and prepare my responses. With the party, I knew there would be spills and potential squabbles, noise and some wiggles. I mentally practiced how I would respond to the situations. I also prepped the children how to handle the china.
Realistic expectations invite patience. These children were six years old. They were balancing tea cups of juice. They were in a new environment. Accepting these facts made my inner monster stay away. Instead I felt in control and grown up. The kids responded to that stability with respect toward me and our home. Remember Dr. Laura’s truism, “You can’t cure normal.”
Perspective invites patience. The essence of patience is perspective, the ability to step out of a situation and see it in a new light. I needed to keep the long-term goal of the party forefront in my mind, which was to allow the children to enjoy one another in a safe environment. Remembering the purpose of the party helped me to push “reset” on myself when frustration started to creep in. Perspective can come from introspection, a talk with a friend, or even a brief time-out.
Compassion invites patience. When we consciously demonstrate love to others, it is much easier to overlook their imperfections, immaturity or inexperience. To develop compassion for the children, I needed to see their point of view. I needed to appreciate each one for their individual strengths and great worth. As I tried to look at them the way their own mother or grandmother might, it made me feel deeper delight and interest in them.
Respect invites patience. All people deserve to be treated with respect. Patience is a form of respect. Those little girlies at the party all dressed up in their gloves and beads were precious people who merited my patience. It is possible to develop patience with anyone. Think about it: we may holler at our own children or lose it with a neighbor child who irritates us, and yet we’d never yell at a child in a classroom, in front of other adults, or on camera. If I can control myself in those situations, then I can control myself with those closest to me. Patience is a choice.
QUESTION: In what situations over the last year have you demonstrated patience? What helped you to stay calm? How do mothers you admire demonstrate patience?
CHALLENGE: Write down the reoccurring times when you know your patience will be tried. Then write down how you will respond to the situation with calmness, compassion and self-control. Write down some instances when people were particularly patient with you and how their consideration helped you to grow. Pay it forward.