Becoming a mother makes you grow in all kinds of ways you don’t expect. In pregnancy, childbirth and those early precious moments, your physical endurance is nothing short of miraculous. Your capacity for love expands with each little soul you add to your family. I’ve also personally experienced a significant softening of my heart and sensitivity—you would have never called me a sap ten years ago, but now? I will always cry watching Inside Out. Every. Time.
But hands down, the most difficult challenge I’ve faced? My own capacity (or lack thereof) for patience.
I’m not naming any names, but I have a child who is brilliant but moves slower than a 90-year-old. He appreciates life. He will savor each bite of food—no rather, each movement of his jaw when he chews. He will stop and smell every petal of every flower, examine the minute details of each school assignment so that he can finish it flawlessly, and take a full hour to put a folded shirt into a drawer. He is a genius…and I go crazy trying to get him to move…his…feet.
And then there’s just the everyday mom stuff we all deal with. The kids’ noise, the fighting, the slowness in their understanding of how to function like normal humans. Everybody asking two seconds after you say you’re going to pour them some milk when their milk is going to be ready. The phrase “be patient” comes out of my mouth no less than 354 times per hour (is there a sign on me that says “food on demand” or something?).
“Be patient,” I say…as my sanity slowly unravels.
By the grace of God, however, I am slowly being transformed from someone who is always on the move to someone who waits, from someone who thinks and talks quickly to someone who listens.
Do you struggle with patience too? (Is there anyone who doesn’t?) While I’m not the psychological/spiritual/emotional expert on this topic, some practical strategies have helped me tremendously.
Pray for Patience
I mean obviously, right? I think asking for help with patience on a daily basis has probably been the most helpful strategy—because I’m not doing the heavy lifting there. Through surrendering our weaknesses to him, God literally transforms and renews our minds (Romans 12:2).
Prayer in and of itself is a practice that takes a lot of patience. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as I’ve battled to have a stronger prayer life, my patience has grown. (Do you need help learning to pray too? Try this.)
Bonus: when I do it in front of my kids, they can hold me to it!
Teach Your Kids About Patience
If anything, teaching a concept holds me accountable to it! My kids know patience as one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). My Bible studies with them are pretty simple; we memorize verses, listen to a lot of stories, and try to use Scriptures whenever we’re enforcing discipline (see here about incorporating the Bible into our day). If they ask more than once for something, I gently remind them to be patient, sometimes followed with discussion about what this means. For little kids, it’s as simple as, “Be happy while you wait!” For older kids, it may require more probing as to why they’re having an impatient attitude.
In doing this, I am constantly convicting myself of my own impatient attitude! Which leads me to…
Be Humble When You’re Impatient
For the record, I snap at my kids. I raise my voice and overreact in anger. And while they usually provoke me for some reason, that doesn’t put me in the right by any stretch of the imagination. So, I have to apologize. Often.
What’s great about kids is that they are so gracious and patient with me (umm hello, that’s humbling)! They are quick to forgive and move on…and seriously, they never bring it up again. That motivates me to continue to grow in loving them better.
Adjust Your Expectations
When I’m feeling frustrated and reacting impatiently, it’s often because I’m trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’m forcing my kids to get ready and out the door in 20 minutes when they realistically need 30. I’m trying to cross ten things off my to-do list when I can realistically only do five. I expect my three-year-old to process information like an adult. I expect myself to be firing on all cylinders when my sick kid woke me up 50 times last night and I’m exhausted. I push my family and myself to the limits…and then I snap and we all suffer.
Sometimes when I’m having “one of those days” when I don’t have the patience for anything, I need to take a little breather and reassess the situation, which leads to my final point…
Hit the Reset Button
Do you ever just wish you could start the day over and pretend like it didn’t happen? Well guess what—you can. God’s mercies are made new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), so why not every moment?
Doing a “reset” for myself or with the whole family is one of the most powerful patience-building tools I’ve discovered for my role as a mother. When I’m losing my cool and it seems like everyone’s running wild, I try to make us stop and assess what’s going on. Sometimes the kids need an attitude and behavior adjustment, which usually indicates that I need one as well. We pause, pray, look at a scripture, and try to get an expectation for how the rest of the day should go.
Sometimes we need to do this on a larger scale. As the holidays approach or the seasons change, I often do a little personal reassessment with my schedule and my goals. My husband and I also occasionally have what we half-jokingly call a “summit” when we reexamine our family objectives in relation to our finances, our time and our energy. From time to time we’ll do a family devotional to keep everybody on the same page with our household expectations.
When it comes down to it, a personal or family reset button is about setting ourselves up for success. And that helps me with my patience because I can have more realistic expectations about, well, everything.
Do you struggle with your patience? Let me know in the comments what you most need help with as well as what strategies you use to grow!
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