I didn’t say a word, but I was stewing internally when my daughter’s little hand reached over the counter and dropped her cup in the sink.
How many times do I have to tell these kids to rinse their breakfast dishes and put them in the dishwasher?
It’s times like these when I’m tempted to let my temper erupt. I almost feel like I deserve the release what would come with letting my kids have it. (After all, I’ve told them at least a hundred times.)
But I’ve been doing this parenting thing long enough to know that losing my temper won’t make me feel better in the long run. Not only is it woefully ineffective at improving my kids’ behavior, but it can also be extremely damaging to my relationship with them. Plus, the Holy Spirit will no doubt be dealing with me later, convicting me and bringing me (once again) to the point of repentance from the sins of irritability and ungodly anger.
So if I can look ahead and make a change that will save all of us some trouble beforehand, that sounds like a very good idea to me.
The Key to Being More Patient
I’m learning that there’s a simple key to becoming more patient with my children…it boils down to changing the way I talk to myself about them.
I know that doesn’t seem like rocket science. But think about this for a moment: What kinds of things were you telling yourself the last time you blew up at your kids?
If you’re like me, it was probably something like:
How could she possibly think that was a good idea?
Why in the world does he keep acting this way?
If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times…
How dare he speak that way to me?
Is she ever going to learn?
(Or fill in the blank with your go-to complaint about your children.)
Don’t get me wrong — initial frustration is often understandable. Believe me, I get it.
But let’s just be honest: when I mentally park in a negative place and hang out there for a while, I’m pretty much setting myself up for failure. And it all starts with my internal dialogue— the conversations I have in the privacy of my mind that actually have major implications for the way I behave.
Here are five chats I have with myself often, a custom which has helped a great deal in my pursuit of patience.
5 Internal Dialogues to Improve Your Patience
1. “I’ve had my share of mess-ups lately.”
Forget needing to put others in their place; what I usually need instead is to talk a little smack to myself.
I can’t help but be more patient with others when I make a habit of remembering my own weaknesses, failures, and sins— the times I’ve been selfish, had a bad attitude, or made a foolish choice. As often I require grace and forgiveness from others (not to mention from God), how can I not grant patience freely in return?
2. “She is still a child.”
Many times, impatience comes from having expectations that are too high.
Remember the irritation over my child who dropped her cup in the sink? Later that day, the same child came to wash her hands and I was stunned (and a little shamed) to realize that she can’t quite reach the knobs to turn on the water on in the kitchen sink. My expectation that she rinse her dishes was (quite literally) impossibly high for her.
Whether it’s the messes they make, the high volumes they relish, or the things they perpetually forget, it helps to remind myself often that my children are just that— children who are still in the process of learning and growing.
3. “Look how far he’s come!”
The longer I’m a parent, the more I realize how important it is to look on the bright side. My kids still have a long way to go, but they are usually making some amount of progress in what my husband and I are training them to do.
My daughter may not have put her cup in the dishwasher that day, but she did clear her dishes from the table and bring them to the sink.
Giving more mental attention to the growth helps me to be patient with the areas that still need improvement. Plus, most kids respond well to praise and will be inspired to keep working on those skills, which is a much better alternative to the discouragement they must feel when they’re on the receiving end of my temper.
4. “How have I been neglecting my well-being?”
Sometimes impatience is quite simply the result of being tired, hungry, dehydrated, or stressed. When I take care of myself by getting proper rest, nutrition, hydration, and exercise, I set myself up to respond patiently to small aggravations.
5. “Lord, please give me patience.”
Ultimately, patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) — evidence of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in the life of a believer. So when it comes to growing in patience, there’s nothing more powerful than praying for it.
The more I press into Jesus, accessing more of God’s grace each day, the more I’m equipped for the tasks He has called me to do.
The more I set my mind on eternal things, the more I can overlook day-to-day annoyances.
And the more I spend time with my Master, the more my heart and mind are conformed to His, the ultimate patient Parent.