Tag Archive for patience

The Absolutely Essential Battle for Successful Parents

I’m sure you have heard someone say “You have to pick your battles” when it comes to parenting. It’s true. Sometimes it’s not worth the battle to make our children wear matching socks and tie their shoes when we have to wage battle to make them wear modest clothes. We do not want to force a victory in the small battles only to harm our parent-child relationship and lose the greater battle for maturity. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting. Of course, other battles are definitely worth the fight. Some battles must be won if we are to help our children become mature adults. Ironically, the most essential and difficult battle that successful parents wage has nothing to do with our children’s behavior.  No, the most difficult battle we encounter as parents involves a far more alarming enemy—ourselves. That’s right. military policeSuccessful parents battle with an internal enemy. We come face to face with the enemy of our own impatience. We battle to overcome our impatience while repeatedly addressing the same problem behaviors over and over again (wait a second, was that repetitive?). We battle our impatience early in our parenting career by watching the same shows and movies time after time after time during our children’s preschool years.  We continue to battle impatience by changing our expectations to match our child’s developmental abilities and accepting that part of our duty as parents is to continually repeat requests, household expectations, and simple routines.


We also wage war with our self-centered desires. Our self-centeredness raises its ugly head when we demand everyone watch “my TV show” or when we demand that our children enjoy the activities “we” enjoy. Perhaps the most dangerous attack of self-centeredness comes when we expect our children to promote our status as a “good parent” who has a “good kid,” a “sport’s star,” a “smart kid,” or an “excellent musician” and got into a “good college” with a “good scholarship” as a result.  In our self-centeredness, we might expect our children to promote our status by “never throwing a tantrum,” “never getting in trouble,” always being the “perfect child” with multiple talents and an excellent academic standing. But, our children do not have the role of making us look good. Their job is not to make us feel good. Thinking they have that role is the epitome of self-centeredness. We battle our self-centeredness by allowing our children to be children, misbehavior and all. We continue the battle by allowing our children to discover their own interests (even if they are different than our own) and accepting the joy of having wonderfully average children.


Successful parents also look directly into the monstrous eyes of worry and anxiety. We battle to not let our anxieties rule our parenting decisions. If worry informs our parenting and anxiety guides our decisions, we will create a legalistic prison of rules and demands for our children. The rules and demands we develop in response to fear will push grace out of our relationship. Our children will eventually rebel against our rules to assert their independence. So, successful parents look squarely into the eyes of worry and respond with confident grace. We battle against anxieties by nurturing interactive relationships filled with trust. We conquer fears by giving our children meaningful roles in the family and responsibilities to complete various duties independent of us…duties like chores around the house and “age appropriate self-management tasks” like waking up and getting dressed for school independently…from an early age.


Successful parents also battle against the strong pull of self-doubt. Nothing will raise self-doubt like becoming a parent. Every decision seems to raise doubts about our adequacy and wisdom. We battle those doubts by seeking the counsel of others who have already raised children successfully. We surround ourselves with wise counsel and loving support.


We will also find ourselves standing on the edge of awkward situations, thrown into moments of embarrassment while raising our children. You know the times I speak of—times when your child throws a tantrum at the mall or, worse yet, in front of your parents; times when your child stands up in the middle of a crowd and begins to do something inappropriate, even though they do so in innocence; times when your child blurts out an embarrassing comment. The list goes on. We battle that embarrassment with the realization that our children are their own person. Our worth does not rest upon our children’s childish moments…after all, they are children. We need not lose the battle to embarrassment; we simply use those moments of immature behavior as opportunities to calmly and patiently teach our children more appropriately behavior.


Yes, as parents we must pick our battles. And, the most important battle for us to pick is the battle with our selves—our impatience, our self-centeredness, our worry, our self-doubt, and our embarrassment. As our children witness our victory in these battles, they too will grow more mature.

Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting

I learned my lesson when I took a 6-year-old boy to his neurology appointment. I had no control. He was all over the place—climbing the walls (literally) and touching everything. The neurologist walked in to see my exasperation. Then he performed a miracle. He produced a small wind-up toy from his pocket, wound it up, set it on the bed, and walked out of the room. The toy took three small steps, banged small cymbals, and did a flip…over and over again. The 6-year-old stopped running around and watched the toy. When it stopped performing, he wound it up and started over. Throughout the process, he stayed calm. He began to learn the art of waiting. And I began to learn my role in helping children learn to wait. Since then, I have learned several lessons to help children wait. Here are five tips to help your child learn the art of waiting…and keep you from pulling your hair out at the same time.
     ·         Learn the art of engagement and distraction. Engage your child in some activity that will distract him from the waiting. You can play “I Spy,” a game of cards, or tic-tac-toe. Your child might enjoy telling stories or singing songs. You can ask questions about his day, a book he is reading, life at school, or his plans for the week. In the process, you learn about your child and distract him from waiting.

·         Plan ahead. Pack a small bag with toys, books, games, and even a small snack to engage your child while waiting. Let him bring his favorite book or project to an appointment where he may have to wait. Enjoy a small snack while waiting. Play a game of cards, build with Lego’s, or play with a handheld game. You can even plan something special immediately following the appointment that demands waiting, such as a trip to the ice cream store or a special meal at home.

·         Don’t rush ’em, let ’em finish. During your daily life, allow your child to focus on his activities without the stress of having to quit early. In doing so, you recognize how much your child values that activity. He feels understood and appreciated. And, with that understanding firmly in place, he will become more willing to wait when necessary. Sometimes you will not have the time to allow your child to finish his project before you have to move on to the “next thing.” When that is the case, give a warning. Let him know he only has 20 more minutes to finish what he can and clean up. Help him determine a good spot to stop for the day. Warn him again at 10 minutes and then at 5 minutes let him know it is time to clean up.

·         Show your child that you are reliable. When you say you will do something, do it. When you make a promise, keep it. A recent study 
showed that children who experience reliable interactions with an adult are better able to wait. The 3-to 5-year-olds in this study delayed gratification four times longer after experiencing a reliable adult who kept their promise. So, keep your promises. Show your child that you are reliable. When your child knows you as reliable, your word and your promise will help them practice the art of waiting.

·         Model the art of waiting for your children. Children learn from watching. They mimic their parents. They repeat the patterns of behavior they see in their parents. So, if you want your children to practice the art of waiting, let them see you waiting patiently as well.
Waiting is an art that we have to learn and practice. Begin teaching your children today…and begin by modeling the art of waiting yourself.

My Family is Killing Me

My family is killing me. I know that may sound a bit extreme, even over the top; but, it is true. Every time I turn around they want to end some part of my life. I believe it is all part of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. God Himself is in on it. They have all joined forces to conspire against me…to make me a better person, to force me to grow more mature in character, to become godly, even Christ-like. Yes, my family is killing me…and, well, it’s a good thing. I hate to admit it, but I tend to be impatient at times. If you do not believe me, take a ride in rush hour traffic with me. I don’t understand rush hour traffic. It makes no sense. I have no patience for it. I hate rush hour traffic. Anyway, I am impatient. Fortunately, my family is killing my impatience. They have located the tumor of impatience and, with surgical precision, they are cutting it out of my life. In traffic they make comments like, “Gee Dad, we’re behind a big, slow truck…your favorite thing.” We all smile. Well, they smile and I grit my teeth; but, it helps me stay calm…and patient. After all, I want to model patience for my children. They also help me remain patient when I feel the urge to shoot my computer or when I mumble a desire to avoid the long line for everyone’s favorite ride in the amusement park. Thanks to my family, impatience is dying a slow, sometimes agonizing death. While impatience dies, my family is painstakingly grafting in patience to fill the emptiness left behind. Patience…what a nice change.
My family is also killing my need for control. You may find this hard to believe, but controlling teenage daughters is like herding cats. They want their own lives. They have friends they want to hang out with and activities that seem to call their names. I cannot control their interests. I cannot control their thoughts. I cannot control what they do when they are out with friends. I can only trust them. As much as parents like to believe we have control over our family, we cannot make our maturing children do the right thing. We have little control over their behavior when they leave our presence to go out with friends. Don’t get me wrong…I believe in discipline. And, I do have wonderful daughters…I am truly blessed. But, truth be told, as children grow into teens and young adults, parents have less and less control over their lives. We can discuss behaviors, point out consequences of various choices, and encourage appropriate behaviors; but, we cannot control their thoughts and actions. We have to give up control—let it die. We have to learn to trust that they will remember what we have taught them through the elementary years. We have to trust their decision-making skills and their ability to learn from their experience. We have to trust them…and sometimes it is killing me. See what I mean? My family is killing me.
I don’t know about you, but I like to be right. No, I love to be right. In fact, I have argued over the dumbest things simple because I want to be right…and sometimes (only sometimes) I was. Sometimes I even continue to argue, trying to prove myself right, even after I realized I was wrong, very wrong. I know it doesn’t make sense; but really, come on, you know what I mean. We love to be right. However, my family is slowly killing off my need to be right. They are teaching me that some things just don’t matter. I’m also learning that they really do know things I do not know…like what color the living room is painted or how the Federal Reserve works or…oh, there are so many things they know that I do not know. So, I’m learning to listen carefully, completely, and with the intent to understand before I offer my “right answer.” Many times I don’t even have to offer “my right answer.” I just need to listen. I don’t have to be right every time. Other people can be right. In fact, other people are often right! And, I can be wrong…and it’s killing me.
One more thing. We can all be somewhat self-centered at times. I know I can. I want that last piece of pie. I like to sit in a particular chair in the living room. After all, it’s my house and my chair. Oops, sorry family…it is our house and our chair. We are a family…and, my family is killing my self-centered me. They are helping me learn to use words like “our” and “we” instead of “mine” and “me.” Interestingly, I find myself becoming happier as my self-centeredness dies. I have discovered that I experience greater joy when I help my family rather than help myself, when I compromise rather than demand my way, when I listen to their needs rather than push my agenda. Truly, I have never had more excitement and joy than when I watch a family member achieve a personal dream and excitedly talk about it. Yes, my family is killing my self-centeredness and replacing it with a good dose of unselfish benevolence.
So, my little secret is out. There is a conspiracy afoot. Yes, my family is killing me…and, well, I am glad! It is a good thing to let some character traits die and replace them with something better. So, go ahead family. Give it your best shot. Cut out my immature character traits and graft in some new improved traits like patience, trust, understanding, and unselfish benevolence. Aye, if I get enough new and improved traits grafted in, I will be like the six million dollar man….”We can rebuild him. We can make him better than he was before. Better…stronger…faster….” Oops, sorry about that. I got carried away. It’s all part of the conspiracy!

Learning to Love in the Wilderness of Adolescence

My daughters are currently navigating their teenage years (yes, I have the privilege of fathering two teenage daughters). My wife and I are very proud of them. They have made excellent decisions in life so far; and, they are both wonderful, loving people. Still, my wife and I are now trying to guide them through the wilderness that stretches between the confinement of childhood and the promise land of adulthood. They lack life experience and the related foresight to fully understand the potential consequences of their choices. And, they can be emotionally driven, impulsive, and just plain…well, you get the idea. It’s not that they are bad. They just want to “spread their wings” and test them out, assert their autonomy, and move toward that promised land of independent adulthood…even though they don’t fully understand the struggles involved in keeping that “promised land” flowing with milk and honey.  
I have to tell you, sometimes I find it very frustrating. My wife and I, their parents, have more experience and more wisdom to share. If they would only listen to that wisdom, life would be so much easier! They could avoid so much pain. But, then again, maybe this journey through adolescence is more about my struggle than their struggle. Perhaps this trek through the wilderness is a time for God to teach me about relying more on Him and adding depth to a lifestyle of true love. Consider just these few examples:
      ·         I share “great words of wisdom based on years of experience” and get a “less than enthusiastic response,” to say the least. I help other families deal with adolescent angst. I know the developmental issues, the striving for autonomy and the search for identity. Certainly I should know what my own daughters need to grow up healthy and strong. From the back of my head, a still small voice reminds me that “love is not puffed up.” Love is humble. Those who love do not think too highly of themselves or their wisdom. Love accepts influence from others, listens to understand, and trusts in the ability and wisdom of others to learn and grow. So, I wander through the wilderness of adolescence, humbly trusting that God will protect, that our earlier teachings will guide, and that our loving presence will stimulate continued growth.

·         Most adolescents, my daughters included, don’t seem to understand the great opportunity to learn from a parent’s mistakes and avoid the pain related to those mistakes. Instead, they want to make independent choices, suffer the same consequences, and experience the same pain. I can feel the anger boiling up inside me when they won’t accept a word of advice or turn my mistake into their learning… and then that still small voice whispers in my ear, “Love is not easily provoked.” In the wilderness of adolescence I’m learning that love practices self-control. Love remains in full possession of feelings, gives a blessing for an insult and practices kindness in the face of rudeness.

·         I grow impatient waiting for my daughters to learn from the first and mostly insignificant consequences of some decision, to pull out of the downward spiral before they crash and burn. I even encourage them to pull out by pointing out the dangers. But, they keep trying to fix it. They want to make it right in their own way, with their own effort, by their own power. I find myself impatiently pacing the floor and worrying when I hear that “still small voice” speaks up again, saying, “Love is patient.” Love suffers long and is kind. How do I practice patience in dealing with an adolescent who grumbles about rules and limitation put in place for their own good? It is so difficult to practice patience as our adolescent walks a tightrope between potential disaster and fun? But “love is patient”…and “love hopes all things.” So, I practice patiently waiting in trust and confidence, believing that the seeds of wisdom that my wife and I planted will soon begin to sprout and trusting that their common sense will mature and take shape through the pruning that the simple consequences provide.

·         That voice continues to speak in my ear, “Love believes all things.” It believes the best about our children. Love believes that they act with the best of intentions, not with the intent of hurting us or pushing us away indefinitely. “Love endures all things.” It remains present, through the good times and the bad. Love abides and tarries with kindness, even amidst frustration. Love perseveres even under trials.
Yes, I am learning many things as we wander through the wilderness of adolescence, the greatest of which is love. I make mistakes; we all do. But love covers a multitude of mistakes…and sins. So, I invite those of you with adolescents to join me in learning how to love more deeply as we trek through the wilderness of adolescents. Bathed in prayer and listening to that “still small voice,” we can move toward that promise land of adulthood together. If you have any ideas to share, please do. Share your wisdom in the comment section below.

Four Steps to Make Your Family Miserable

Usually I write about ways to create a happy family filled with times of celebration and intimacy. However, some readers may prefer a more miserable home environment, a family that “prepares children for the real world,” a harsh world. Although I believe the best way to prepare a child for the “harsh realities of the world” is to provide a home filled with loving relationships, joyful celebrations, and gracious interactions, I don’t want to be accused of prejudice or being “too soft.” So, let me just offer some advice (perhaps, tongue in cheek) on how to make your family a truly miserable place–the kind of place children can’t wait to leave when they turn 18…the kind of place that causes spouses to fantasize of creative ways to escape.
First, to create a truly miserable home environment, make yourself number one. You know, watch out for “numero uno,” the “Big Kahuna.” Focus on your personal needs and desires while disregarding everyone else. Think about the things you want to do and ignore everyone else’s interests. Refuse to watch anything but the things you want to watch on TV. Roll your eyes when someone asks you to do something for them. Protect your seat, your time, your “whatever”…at any cost. As you practice this self-centered focus, you will discover that the second ingredient for making your family miserable occurs rather naturally. So…
Don’t waste any time; add the second ingredient for a miserable family, impatience. That’s right, practice impatience. Become impatient when family members don’t do just what you want. Start to yell impatiently when another family member sits on “your chair” or eats “your cookie.” A strong impatient attitude will serve as a springboard for harsh language and criticism. Don’t worry, let the harsh language flow from your impatience. Let it escalate all the way to name-calling and character assassination. You can use simple names like “stupid,” “lazy,” or “no good.” You can combine name-calling with criticism by saying things like “You’re just like your father” or “Why can’t you be more like ‘so and so.'” As you practice this you will find it comes more and more natural. You will even begin to lose sight of any good qualities that exist in your family members. When that happens, you will have moved your family to a new level of misery.  
Third, rather than show respect to other family members, criticize every little thing they do. This can grow out of impatience; but can also occur in response to unrealistically high expectations. With unrealistically high expectations, you can always criticize your family for “not doing it good enough” or “not doing it right.” If they make the bed, you can criticize them for the wrinkles in the sheets or the haphazardly placed pillow. When they help clean the kitchen, you can criticize them for leaving the wet dishtowel on the table. Whatever they do, always assume they didn’t do a “good enough job” and probably didn’t even try to do it right. Inevitably, they will do part of the job right. Ignore that part; disregard it. Whatever you do, do not recognize what they did right. Focus on what they did improperly, left undone, or forgot to do. Never offer thanks. Never show gratitude. If, in a moment of weakness, you thank them for doing part of the job right, you will set yourself back two steps in your movement toward misery.

Finally, do everything you can to make family members feel as though you could leave at any moment. Never let anyone grow secure in their relationship with you. This will include making veiled and open threats about leaving. “If you keep this up, I’m going to leave” or “I’m out of here” represent two direct threats of abandonment. A more veiled threat might be “I wish I wasn’t here” or “I should have never married you.” Of course, you could combine the threat of abandonment with criticism by making comments like “You’ve ruined my life. I may as well just disappear.” Whatever you do, never let them think you are happy with your current life with them. Instead, let them know how miserable you are “in this house.” (Of course, a miserable home was the goal and you may find yourself rather happy to achieve that goal…but, don’t let on.)
There you go…four steps for creating a truly miserable family environment. If you like misery, have fun with these steps. (Oh wait, if you have fun you would not be miserable. Well, you know what I mean.) If you’d rather enjoy a secure family environment filled with joyful celebration and intimate relationships, do the opposite of the four steps described above…practice self-denial, encourage one another, respect one another, express gratitude, and share your love.
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