What’s the difference between defiance and a sincere question?
I won’t pull you under the bus with me, but in my house the difference is usually my level of patience…
My kids are blessed with an insane sense of comic timing and razor-sharp wit to fill the timing. At 9 and 7 they can keep my wife and I cracking up all night long. Recently we went out to a local restaurant for dinner and found the normally packed room empty. It was already a good night, but the fact that we had the place to ourselves made it better.
Right away we were laughing and joking, having a great time. My son looked up and noticed the bathroom door was about 15 feet from us and said with a wry smile, “Hey, I’m going to the bathroom. Maybe you should come with me because I don’t know if I can find my way back.”
Cute, but not hilarious. We smiled at each other he took off. When he came out, he looked around for a second and went to sit at another table… maybe it was the moment, but we all laughed out loud.
I share that with you to tell on myself a little. As I sit here in the comfort of my office, smiling from ear-to-ear as I think of his mischievous little grin while he sat at an empty table, I wonder if it would have been as funny with a restaurant full of people. Would I have laughed free and easy or given him a look of impatience?
The answer might be somewhere in between, but the fact that I could have been different bothers me. What about the circumstances would change my interaction with one of the most precious people on earth to me?
If you’re like me and would like to increase your level of patience, or at least the consistency of how your patience is displayed, here are 5 questions to answer that can make us all more solid.
- What do I actually feel impatient with? I feel myself getting agitated…why? Identify what exactly is the problem. Is your child actually doing something bad or is it just inconvenient for you? Are you actually feeling embarrassed by the potential thoughts of others or how your child might “make you look?” Make sure the energy is guided in the right direction and not just at your child automatically.
- What are my priorities? If it isn’t the child’s behavior, your discomfort must be with something else. As the parent, you can stop the behavior to accommodate your needs, but at what risk? Which is more important long-term?
- How can I better prepare? Patience runs the shortest when we are running behind. In a pinch, we can obviously outpace our kids in getting ready and out the door or whatever the job happens to be. But is it fair to always make them the focus of the lateness? Would the situation be better if I were more on time? How can I set them up for success and relieve everyone’s stress?
- If it doesn’t go exactly as I want it to, is it a big deal? This relates back to priorities, but deserves consideration. Do we lose patience with our loved ones (and everyone else) when our plans aren’t playing out? Even if they are the direct cause, is it really that big of a deal or is a moment to roll with the punches and make something great out of a potentially bad situation?
- Am I juggling too much? Modern parents have a tendency to think they have unlimited bandwidth. We don’t! That’s why the priorities question is so important. If we give our time away to all of the urgent things, the important pieces get crowded out. When important pieces (our kids) want their rightful place, we feel guilty and show it as impatience. If you have too many balls in the air… drop some according to their importance in your life.
The last thought is a seeming paradox. Focus and relax. Focus on the ones that are the most important to you and relax about keeping up with the world’s expectations. With our priorities in order, we can set our own expectations and let the world conform to our lives.
Our children are the most important and influential responsibility in our lives. They cannot be separated from our professions, health, social relationships, or any other area because those areas influence how we care for and treat them. However, those areas do not deserve a higher place of importance. The next time you find yourself getting impatient, ask the right questions and see if the order has gotten out of whack.
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PJ McClure helps aspiring entrepreneurs to multi-million dollar business owners destroy roadblocks and seize opportunities to achieve their ideal vision of success. He is an award-winning speaker and the best-selling author of Flip the SWITCH: How to Turn On and Turn Up Your Mindset and the upcoming Unlock Your Life: How to go beyond Time-Management to the Life of Your Dreams. You can download a copy of Flip the SWITCH for Free by clicking here.