Most parents know exactly how to parent in order to support their child to grow and develop and have a happy childhood. Having patience however to give this to your child every day, all day is the real challenge for parents.
Many parents are up early, often after sleepless nights or broken sleep. Many parents never sit all day and have many demands on their time, parenting being only one of them.
When parents have more than one child it increases the level of patience required and, therefore, the question exists: how can parents, who are human, have patience everyday to deal with the demands of parenting?
Children fight for the attention of parents all the time. They may be shouting at each other to ‘stop talking’, in order to have a chance to get a word in. Younger children may feel it can be hard for them to be heard over the older child with more vocabulary. Parents may have questions coming from two children at the same time, while driving or eating, making it almost impossible to focus on anything. Losing one's patience in this type of situation, I imagine, is very common, with parents telling everyone to be quiet and refusing to engage with anyone until quietness is restored.
These are just some tips to support parents to maintain a level of calmness in order to ensure they have the patience required for parenting.
  • Self-care is the first key area to be explored. If, as a parent, you feel you are constantly in demand and never have a minute’s peace, then the question is how you can get some space for you. What can you do each day to make space for your own thoughts?
  • Going for a walk with young children can actually be really beneficial. Children are often very happy with the distraction of outdoors that they might need less attention from you, especially if they are in buggies. It is possible to feel very relaxed after a long stroll with young children.
  • Getting enough sleep! Many parents will laugh at the concept of this. What is enough sleep? For many parents of young children - and this could be young primary-aged children, not just babies and toddlers - getting enough sleep is a great challenge. Six hours of unbroken sleep would be ideal for many, but eight hours sleep is possibly the ideal. In order to get this, you may need to designate some nights when you go to bed at the same time as your children. If you can, you may need to take a nap when your child is at school. If you use public transport, you may look forward to sleeping while on the bus or train. Knowing there is a plan to get more sleep can often be enough to get you going in the morning. If you are not in a position to do any of the above, it would be really important to see if anyone can take your child for a couple of hours to allow you to rest. When we are really consistently tired, it can almost be impossible to function, let alone parent positively.
  • Mindfulness is currently very popular, and we are hearing more about it daily. There are many sessions online which may support you if you cannot attend a class. Also, one thing that seems to have come from mindfulness is adults' relaxation colouring books. Simple markers and colouring in - it is amazing how calm you and your children can become from just sitting and colouring for 30 minutes or more. Try it!
  • Take time to think about your daily routine - what your children need from you, and what parts of the day are more challenging than others. Try to make new plans to deal with these times. If your children are over three years, you can sit and talk with them about these times of the day. Talk about what each person needs, and try to make a plan to meet everyone’s needs. Often, when children are part of the plan and understand the issue, they can be really supportive in making changes. They want calmness as much as you do.
  • When things get too much in the house, just get out! Going outside, even for 10 minutes in the garden, can help calm everyone down and give you time to think again about what is going on.
  • When you feel you are going to shout or you have started to shout, try to catch yourself. Think about it in advance. What can you do when you lose control of your own behaviour? Having a plan and also giving your children permission to tell you that they do not like you shouting will help. Tell your children that, at times you, do lose your patience; you may be tired, hungry or just feel that everyone wants you at the same time. Tell them what you plan to do at times like this. If children know what to expect from you, they will often allow you the space to carry this out. If you don’t tell them in advance when things are going well, they will worry and then follow you about the house, possibly making things worse.
  • The most important thing in all of this is accepting that you are human. You do aim to be the best parent you can be, you need to know you are a good enough parent - not perfect, but offering the best you can to your children. There will always be times you will lose self control, but it is how often it happens that counts. If you feel that you may be losing self-control more often than you would like, then it may be useful to access helpline support such as Ask One Family, and avail of parent mentoring, a parenting group or counselling. Talk with someone, and try not to pretend it is all great. Parenting is great when things are going well, but it is not always that way. It is ok to say that parenting is hard. If all parents can be honest with each other, we wouldn’t look about so much thinking that everyone is coping better and doing better. My experience in this area, which extends to over 20 years, confirms for me that parenting is the hardest job you will ever do.
Parent Mentor