We live in such a fast paced society and the practice of patience is becoming a forgotten art. So how exactly do you teach your children to be patient?
1. You demonstrate it to them! This is one of the most effective ways but probably the hardest to do. I have become so aware of my own shortcomings when I face stressful situations. A recent example was trying to find a car parking space at the hospital which is almost near nigh impossible after a certain time! I was very aware that my patience was running out and for me it was evident in the exasperated statements I was making - such as 'This is ridiculous!' and 'They need to fix this!' Well, yes they sure do but do my children need to hear me repeat this every time we visit the hospital? I am glad to say a kind gentleman stopped me and gave me directions to a 'secret' carpark for visitors behind one of the outer buildings. His courtesy made my day and future visits to the hospital will be a lot easier now!
Being aware of how you react starts with asking yourself some hard questions. What do your children hear and see you do?
Do you for example
* Mutter under your breath?
* Demonstrate curtness/rudeness to shop staff when you receive what you consider to be poor service or neglect to say thank you when the situation is resolved.
* Sigh frequently?
*Let annoyance show on your face?
*Tap the steering wheel when waiting in traffic?
* Verbalize your displeasure when you receive poor service?
These are just a few behaviours and reactions and they will be seen and heard by those around us including our children. Children are very perceptive and will pick up on non-verbal cues.
So how can we be good role models to our children? Here's a few of the strategies that work for me.
* Smile at people! My children are happy children and their smiling is infectious. It affects people and I've seen them bring smiles to the face of others. They set the example for me!
* Greet people - not just those that you know personally. A simple 'good morning' when you arrive at a service counter after waiting in a long queue could be just what the person serving you needs to hear especially if they have been dealing with impatient people all day! Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 5.47
'If you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?'
* Use your time spent in queues constructively. Interact with your children. Play a game of eye spy with younger children. Talk to older children about upcoming events or projects.
*Begin conversations with others or respond positively when people ask you questions. When I face the inevitable 'Are they all yours?' I am presented with an opportunity to tell others about something that is precious to me - my children. I can then ask them about their family and have been amazed at how people have opened up to me. The longer the delay the greater the opportunity to bless someone with a sympathetic listening ear!
*Look for opportunities to serve others - could you help unload groceries for someone? Pick up dropped coins? Let the person who is behind you who is in a rush go in front of you. People are so surprised when you do this and their frustration at having to wait is replaced with gratitude.
2. Consider the environments you are taking your children into.
Do you frequent shopping malls, fast food restaurants and stores where the expectation is on fast food and faster service? Where you eat and run? Where children race through or not finish their meal because they want to go and play on the jungle gym? I'm not saying you should never go to a fast food restaurant - when you are on long road trips they may be your only option but there are alternatives. Pack everyone their own healthy 'happy meal' in a brown paper bag or noodle box. You could include a little surprise gift for the journey. Plan your journey and find out where the rest stops are that have toilets and picnic tables. We've tried this and it is a much more pleasant experience. In doing so we have discovered some lovely little picnic spots.
If your children have never been to a restaurant where staff wait on tables or bistros where there is a wait for your meal could you perhaps give up some of the regular trips to the fast food outlet and save up the money for a visit to a real restaurant? This is something we as a family have decided to do. There are special deals at some restaurants on certain week nights which makes it more affordable for our big family. The children have learned to be patient and know they must wait for a special occasion to come around. Maybe dad's birthday or whatever we decide to celebrate. It's a popular night so there is a long wait for the meals but they are served on real plates and the food is delicious! It is a fantastic way of teaching patience and making memories at the same time!
3. Cook at home from Scratch.
There's evidence that suggests many children have no idea where their food comes from. I would also suspect that over reliance on processed foods and instant meals can lead to impatient children who come to expect their meals to be ready in next to no time. They miss out on the delights of the aroma of a pot of soup simmering on the stove or fresh bread or muffins baking in the oven. They learn to be patient when bread or muffins are baking in the oven - they know that something good is coming! My children have also learned that sometimes 'waiting' means they get something even more delicious. Their anticipation builds. They then have to hold on for just a few more minutes when the goodies come out of the oven and are too hot to handle. Sometimes they say 'they cannot wait' when they see something going into the oven but of course they do and it's always worth the wait, especially when it's cinnamon buns! The photo above is my savoury adaption of cinnamon buns. Leave out the sugar and cinnamon and add feta cheese and sundried tomatoes. They still prefer the cinnamon version of course!
4. Don't buy your children too many toys.
Over the years we have culled the number of toys in our home and cut back drastically on what we buy for our children as I realized that not only does it build in them expectation of receiving more and promote selfishness but presented with too many choices they flit from activity to activity, only playing with one toy for a very short period before moving onto the next. This deliberate choice we made as parents has paid some dividends. Children with active imaginations who are happy to play outside for hours on end who don't need to be entertained and for me - a clutter free house. Of course they do own toys ( e.g lego sets, toy cars, bikes, a wooden dollshouse) but as parents we are much more considerate of the value of what we buy and the quality too - how long is it going to last and can it be passed on down to other children? By not spending on plastic and novelty toys we have been able to buy special gifts that have been treasured and will be for years to come. It was worth the wait for this special car to be shipped from America bought from Vision Forum during one of their special sales when the exchange rate was very favourable. It has been raced down our hallway by a little boy this past year who still loves and appreciates his car. It is much more than a toy - it is a family heirloom that will be kept, God willing, for future grandchildren!
5. Consider your schedules and if need be, cut back on the number of extra-curricular activities you are involved in. Racing here and there with little children strapped into car seats so you can get the older children to all the activities you enrolled them in, all adds to the stress of a fast paced lifestyle. Homeschooling parents can be just as guilty. I've been to that place and know that you can't homeschool if you are never home! You can read more about my experiences with sports and extra-curricular activities and how we turned things around for the better at this post 'Why I'm not a Soccer Mum.'
6. Plan activities at home that require your children to wait for a result.
Gardening is one that immediately springs to mind. Grow a sunflower, plant seeds, give them their own patch in the vegetable garden. Force a bulb and patiently wait for it to bloom. The result of this - a teaching activity that gives you a beautiful decoration for your home. Love it! You could also try art and craft activities that have several stages or processes - where you must wait for paint to dry or a sewing project that requires delicate stitches that need to be carefully worked - patience is required but the end result is worth it!
6. Try to avoid giving your children their presents before Christmas. You may decide to have a family tradition and open one gift on Christmas Eve and that's fine but when the presents from grandma arrive weeks before Christmas don't rip into them because they pleaded with you. Teach them to be patient as the Wise men had to be as they searched for the baby Jesus. An advent calendar with simple little gifts for each day is a wonderful way to countdown the days. In our home it is just one gift a day so they take turns and eagerly wait for their day to to come around. It is a sweet way to teach patience and counting skills too. Place the other gifts under the tree and tell your children they must wait. Don't rob them of the joy of anticipation!
The advent calendar we created for last Christmas and will use again this year.
And speaking of anticipation. Christmas is drawing nearer! I am not as prepared as I would like to be this year as I have been extra busy these past few weeks being a mum and relishing my new role of 'movie promoter'. I have been patiently waiting for the movie 'Courageous' to come to Australia. It opened here on November 10TH and it is coming to a town near me next week. When I found out it was not coming to my region I decided to do something about it. And now it is actually happening - in less than a week! I have been busy emailing, speaking to people I know and those I have never met before. Contacting pastors and organizations that reach out to fathers. Selling tickets too and telling everyone about this amazing movie and the difference it has made in the lives of families! I hope to be able to tell you about our Courageous evening next time!
Here are some words that seemed very apt for this post. They speak of patience, courage and family relationships and I hope they inspire you today!