I need a solution to being an impatient parent! And I need it NOW.
Driving on the highway and stuck in traffic — my 3-year-old decides that he wants to be home already (that makes two of us!) he goes into tantrum mode and refuses a toy, his music, a snack … and so as if being stuck in traffic isn’t bad enough, but now I have a hysterical toddler in the backseat.
Waiting in the security line at the airport – my 3-year-old decides that he has to pull the elastic chord of the temporary lane as far as it can stretch while we are getting shoes off, belt, loading our carry-on onto a conveyor … and I just want to get through the checkpoint.
My son asks why the sign of the local diner isn’t working. We discuss all of the possible reasons that could have caused it. Then, he asks why the diner sign isn’t working at least twenty times every day for the next two weeks (there must be some parenting term for this).
Having a brief conversation on the phone sometimes is impossible. For instance, I can’t speak to my family without my son wanting to talk to them, pressing the buttons on the phone, or doing something rash in our apartment to derail the conversation because he’s not the center of attention.
After a long and exciting day of spending quality time with my son at the playground, preparing meals, pretending to play in his kitchen, having tea parties, and racing trains along the tracks we built … all I want to do is collapse on the couch and have a little “me time” once he goes to sleep. Last night, my son decides to run rampant around the house trying to avoid the bath.
The list is endless. It comes down to a desperate dad who has never been the most patient person in life. I may have even improved my level of patience since becoming a parent, but I still get tested by my little guy on a daily basis which drives my patience “tank” to EMPTY. I take deep breaths, walk away and try counting to alleviate some of that anger that my lack of patience drives me to. Wondering if there were a magic solution to mastering patience as a parent?
Sometimes I feel like an incompetent parent because I compare myself to my wife who is amazing when it comes to being patient – she remains calm, she doesn’t fly off the handle, and she goes with the flow almost too easily. Sure, I acknowledge that it’s a step in the right direction to reflect upon my parenting practice and realize that I need help here. Going to the gym, on a bike ride, for a walk, popping the headphones on are positive short-term solutions for this impatient parent, but it’s not enough.
Is it just me or are all parents driven to the breaking point because their children drain their patience? Why is my wife so talented with her command over patience? Wondering if some of you would share some best practices that work for you.
Impatient parent photo: ©Krakenimages.com / Adobe Stock.
Headphones. I always have headphones. But you knew that.
It’s a lot easier to have patience when you’re at work all day with adults with whom you can communicate. Your job is infinitely harder on the most important level—-emotional.
Edward Yau says
Your sanity is important, don’t underestimate it or be embarrassed about that. You and your wife are a team and it’s great that she complements you. Her strengths compensate for your weaknesses and vice-versa. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I think it’s healthy!
As for my practices, I ignore, a lot. It takes a thick skin and a tolerance to shrieking, but I quite literally ignore. If he throws a tantrum on the sidewalk, I will stand there until he stops crying without saying a single word, I don’t care if people stare. If he keeps going, i’ll only say: “I can’t hear you when you’re whining.” I almost approach it like I’m training a dog.. as soon as he uses a tantrum to get something, even if it’s minor, the answer is an automatic no, even if it was something I normally would have agreed to. I won’t reward bad behavior. I try to have no reaction, positive or negative. There’s no silver bullet and he still throws tantrums.. but I feel like they are becoming less severe over time and he knows he can’t push me around.
But it’s a two-way street, I try my best to give respect, keep my promises, encourage him to be independent and to think for himself. I encourage him to negotiate and try to convince me that I should give him what he wants – calmly and logically. Sometimes I even tell him what he should be saying!
If it’s something like refusing to brush his teeth or bathe, i’ll ask him nicely a few times before I start escalating in tone. I save a 5 point countdown for last and I try not to use it too much, because when we get there he knows I’m serious. If the countdown goes to zero, he loses some routine that he likes – like ice cream for dessert, watching a short video, losing a book at story time etc.
If he does something completely unacceptable, like hitting me, it’s a swift, cold “time-out” in his room. But I try not to give too many, because I want them to hold their value.
And finally, if it’s something minor, or something that he legitimately has a right to be upset about, I pull out the bribes! Like if he doesnt want me to leave the home, i’ll give him a lollipop 🙂 It’s a give and take.. some fights aren’t worth fighting. Trust your judgement!
Hang in there! The fact you are reaching out like this means you are a good father. I do believe it’s not the books that make a good parent, it’s the desire to read them that does.
Lance Somerfeld @ NYC Dads Group says
Thanks for listening! I completely agree about your point about being a team with my wife – we certainly both have our strengths. Also, enjoyed your point about ignoring the bad behavior – I try my best with this…but, at times, my poker face is awful, and my son can read the anger on the “wall.”
Daddy's in Charge? says
Here is the problem… you can’t let everything get to you! If the kid is having a meltdown in the backseat of the car, turn the radio up. If you realize nothing is working then the best thing to do is NOTHING. Sometimes you just need to ride it out. If you are at security at the airport just realize there are a bunch of new things there and realize he is going to want to play with it… It’s not that big of a deal. You need to pick your battles and it’s not always the wisest thing to battle with a three year old, they will win 95% of the time. Accept the fact that he is going to do things that annoy you and maybe it won’t bother you so much.
And maybe, just maybe you let mom take over a little more.
Lance Somerfeld @ NYC Dads Group says
agreed, I have been slowly but surely letting mom shatter some of my “gatekeeping” walls to be the parent she wants to be
You are describing my twins, me and my wife exactly! It gets to be around dinner time and I am drained of patience. By bath time I am wiped out. Thankfully, my patient wife is usually home by then, or I just skip the bath. One thing that helps me keep calm at meals it to read to them. So, even if they are screaming or not paying attention, I keep reading the stories they pick. As for the “terrible twos,” for me they weren’t terrible –they were a joke in comparison to the threes!
Lance Somerfeld @ NYC Dads Group says
first, you get a hat tip at parenting with twins – I can not fathom how you tackle some of the challenges with that type of multiplier. and yes, well said, no one prepared me for the obstacles of our son being three either – pales in comparison to the so-called terrible two’s…
Keagan Pearson says
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that patience is a limited resource for me. I have actually written about it myself, so it is a subject close to my heart.
I believe that the best advice that I can give you is to be a student of your limits, first and foremost, and then begin to study the boundaries for your son. This will involve you knowing what circumstances and surroundings send you and your son over the edge…and then equip yourself with tools that help you get through those moments (games, snacks, music, and the promise of discipline). You also need to determine what kind of discipline works best for your son. Test putting him in “time-out” or taking things away, or maybe a good old-fashioned spanking will work (but only when you are calm and collected).
Just remember that you are the parent. As I read through some of these responses, there is almost a tone of rationalization or dismissal in them. As you can probably attest to, rationalizing with, or simply dismissing your three-year-old is not going to be a successful endeavor…most of the time. Sometimes you need to have limits to your patience…meaning that not everything he does is acceptable or corrected by being ignored.
You need to determine what behavior you are willing to tolerate and what you are not. Then, stick to your guns and hold him to that standard. Some of the best parenting advice that I have ever received was that when your kids are little, you are not their “friend”, you are their dad. You are there to love them and teach them. This doesn’t mean you have to be an autocratic stiff, but know that kids learn most of their behavior when they are young. Over the the years your relationship will change and become more “friend-like” but right now it’s time for you to be the parent. Really, the issue at hand is not that our kids are unwilling to behave, but more so that we parents are unwilling to be consistent in how we parent our kids. I have personally seen this in my own parenting.
It is a lot of work, and you will fail at times…right along side the rest of us. But, know that when you build guidelines for your son, you will be allowing yourself a way to cope and develop patience as well. So, sit down with your wife and develop a parenting plan. Know what the appropriate discipline will be when he acts a certain way. Know beforehand, what you are willing to tolerate and what you are not. Understanding that he is three, be ready with tools that will help calm him. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to remain patience as things erupt. Plus, your son will actually begin to appreciate the consistency.
I hope this helps!
Lance Somerfeld @ NYC Dads Group says
Some very sound advice – thanks.
I try my best at consistency and realize that I am more of a planner and forward thinker as a parent than I ever was as a bachelor…probably because I am always trying to be a few steps ahead of my son and this is helpful. Sometimes I am so used to being the teacher of a 6th grade class of students that I can level with, reason with, and have the skills to be rational, I forget that my skill set does not apply so well to a barbaric 3-year old. Also, as a parent, I take things my son does wrong or testing the boundaries too personal at times and as a poor reflection of my parenting – this is an obstacle I need to move beyond.
Christopher Michel says
I’m in the same boat, and I’m just getting in — my daughter is 18 months old, and just starting the tantrum phase. I know it’s going to get worse. A lot worse. And she pushes me to my exhaustion/breaking point about once or twice a week. My wife seems to have infinite patience as well, though as one of the other commenters pointed out, she spends a lot less time with our daughter, and for me the effect is cumulative. If I have even a few hours away — depending on what I’m doing, of course — it can completely reset my tolerance levels.
so that’s my advice: time off. Time off, and as much exercise as you can work into your schedule. That’s also helped immensely. And keep writing about it! It’s super-helpful just to read that someone else is going through the same frustrations.