13 Expert Tips for Becoming a More Patient Parent

13 Expert Tips for Becoming a More Patient Parent

What to do when your kids are out of control and you feel like you’re about to lose it.


By Leah Maxwell

For many parents, one of the hardest parts of raising children is remaining calm when their kids are driving them nuts. But how do you muster that motherly patience when it’s the end of a long day, and you find yourself yet again trying to make dinner while a small child yells in your face for no particular reason? How do you pull yourself from the brink and find an appropriate balance between calm parental authority and crazy-eyed woman who means serious business? It’s not always easy, but it can be done. Here, 13 expert tips for finding more patience as a parent.

1. Remember, they’re probably not making you crazy on purpose. “Despite what you may think, your children are not intentionally trying to drive you crazy,” says Sara Au, a parenting expert and the coauthor of Stress-Free Discipline. “Sometimes, driving you crazy is just a byproduct of their learning.” Even if your kids’ behavior is driving you up the wall, often just reframing the situation by realizing they’re not doing it on purpose is enough to give you the ability to find extra stores of patience.

2. Your kids are bonkers, and that’s perfectly normal. Much of what your kids do that you wish they wouldn’t is simply a part of their age-appropriate learning and development. “The fact is that most child behavior is normal, or at least explainable -- even the stuff parents don’t like,” says Au. “It’s simply part of how children develop.” But that’s not to say you should let bad behavior go unchecked; discipline is as important as ever, but it can be doled out with a calmer demeanor by parents who understand that a lot of the problems they’re encountering are par for the course.

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3. Check your expectations. Along those same lines, it’s important to always remember that kids are kids, says Dr. Edward Hallowell, a child and adult psychiatrist and contributor to the online parenting resource Understood.org. “A lot of parents forget this and expect kids to behave like little adults. But kids are more disinhibited and less organized, [and] they don’t have the same agenda driving their day that adults have. They are prone to play and amuse themselves. That’s not being disrespectful or disobedient, that’s being a child.” Hallowell advises parents to set reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for their kids and to remember that the goal should not be perfect obedience but “reasonable collaboration” in managing behavior.

4. Don’t talk at them, talk with them. “Make every interaction with your child be about connection rather than lecturing or scolding,” advises Maria Mara of EmpoweringParents.com. “Practice listening rather than speaking, and be reflective rather than reactive when communicating with your child.” This shift in attitude can dramatically change the way you interact with your kids when the going gets rough.

5. See things from your kid’s perspective. If you feel your patience wearing thin, take a moment and put yourself in your child’s shoes. “By looking at a situation from your child’s point of view, you can figure out what’s motivating them, and you’ll be more able to react in a way that will make sense to your child,” says Au. “It’s not easy, but having the patience to see the situation from his or her perspective will pay off big time. This is how you shape future behavior effectively.”

6. Give yourself a time-out. If your kids are acting up, and you feel close to the end of your rope, sometimes the best thing you can do in the moment is remove yourself from the situation temporarily. “Take a minute,” says Hallowell. “If you find yourself starting to lose it, walk away. Go to the bathroom, count to 10, do whatever works for you. Just regroup, and then, reengage.” You probably can’t get away with putting yourself in time-out for one minute per your own age, but in most cases, a few seconds per decade will do a world of good.

7. Fake it ’til you make it. Just because you’re not filled with unending patience doesn’t mean you can’t act like you are. Try this: As soon as you hear your voice getting loud, pull back to a whisper; if you feel your heart racing, take some deep, slow breaths. At the very least, your outward behaviors might fool your kids into thinking you’re calm, and at the most, you might fool yourself into actually feeling more relaxed and able to handle the situation with composure.

8. Make your expectations clear and consistent. One way to improve kids’ behaviors so they test your patience less is to make sure you’ve given them structure they can understand and count on. For instance, if it’s OK to jump on the couch at home, they might not understand that it’s not OK to jump on the couch at Grandma’s. The better handle kids have on what you expect of their behavior, the more able (and likely) they are to live up to those expectations.

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9. Let something else be the bad guy for once. Instead of nagging your kids to get dressed in under one million minutes every single morning, let a timer or chore chart “wear” the bossy boots instead. Post agreed-upon family rules and consequences, so you can feel more like a mother and less like a drill sergeant.

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10. Consider what you’re modeling. Every time you lose patience with your kids, you’re teaching them something about behavior. Yelling at a child to stop yelling makes no sense, and neither does answering a child’s bad behavior with bad behavior of your own. Before you act out in anger or frustration, think about what example you’re setting for your kids. Remember also that even though sometimes it might feel like your kids don’t deserve any more patience than what you’ve already given them, that might be the moment you should switch from thinking about what they “deserve” to what they need. There’s a reason it’s called being the bigger person.

11. Seek out community support. We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child, and one facet of that concept is parents having access to other parents who have been there, done that. Support groups, both in person and online, can provide valuable tools and advice to parents struggling to maintain their patience. Hallowell points out that often just hearing the stories of people with similar struggles is empowering and can help stressed parents feel less isolated, less stressed, and more normal.

12. A parent with knowledge is a parent with control. Doing some research on the psychology behind child behavior is a great way to stock your parenting toolkit and find more understanding and patience. Reading books or articles on child development can give you a peek inside a child’s brain that, combined with the knowledge and instincts you already have as a parent, can give you a better handle on difficult situations. According to Au, knowledge is always a great de-stressor, because it more fully informs our decision-making and reactions, leaving us less susceptible to knee-jerk responses we won’t be proud of later.

13. Trust your gut. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all method of parenting, the key is to collect all the knowledge and advice you can, and then build on the parenting tactics that resonate with you in your specific situation and with your specific child, leaving the rest of it in your back pocket, suggests Au. “You know your child better than anyone else; you are your own expert, so believe in yourself!” she says.

How do you find patience with your kids when they’re making you crazy?


Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/Nadezhda1906


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