News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

.      A Lesson in Patience

  It started out as an afternoon of trying to organize a closet. The job became even more difficult with my ten-year old daughter trying to help. Her help consisted of reclaiming every item I discarded. Then I came upon my old knitting needles. With an, “Oh cool,” my daughter quickly snatched them up. “Can you teach me how to knit?” she asked eagerly.

  I smiled. What a great activity this could be for us. For a moment, I was transformed back in time remembering when my mom and grandmother used to sit teaching me how to knit. I remember the quiet conversations we had. How could I say no to my daughter with those thoughts in my head? This could be a great opportunity for us to share some quiet moments together, knitting and talking. I could see the pride in her eyes as she finishes her first scarf. “We want to make it extra long,” I tell her, “so you can wrap it twice around your neck to stay extra warm.” I could even envision it wrapped around her face with only her smiling eyes showing through. I hear her, all grown up, sharing with her daughter that her mom taught her how to knit.

   What was I doing? We hadn’t even started yet and already I was a grandmother! Of course I agreed to teach her to knit. I even got caught up in the excitement of trying to look for my stash of yarn and picking out the colors we wanted to start with. This was going to be so much fun, I thought. Then we began.

      “Now this will be practice. Let me show you how to get started and then you can try it.” I told her.

     “That looks easy. Let me try,” she quickly responded.

  As she took the knitting needles in her hands, I could feel myself stiffen. I watched her slowly tangle the yarn into a knotty mess. I could feel her body stiffen. I wanted to say, “Not like that,” and “It’s too tight.” I wanted to correct her because I was getting impatient. She wasn’t doing it right! This was not turning into the quiet, together time I had envisioned. Instead, we were both feeling the atmosphere change as I tried to show her again and again. Her plea for me to stop criticizing made me want to shove that yarn right in the trash. I didn’t. Instead, I bit my lip, remained quiet and watched. She became more frustrated as I silently debated what to do. Then I told her I would be right back and I walked away.

   That was the best thing I could have done because it was then that I realized that this was not a lesson for her in knitting but a lesson for me in patience. It made me realize how many times during any given day or week we are rushing our children to learn something or to get through something. We expect them to be able to grasp concepts and skills that we as adults see as logical and easy, only to find everyone melting in a pool of frustration, tears and anger because our children just couldn’t do it our way and fast enough.

   For most parents it is really hard to know what to do when we get caught up in those moments when we feel our patience slipping away. Why does it seem that some parents have an overwhelming supply of patience while others can barely get by a few moments before their patience quota runs out? A lot can do with a person’s temperament. Some people really are naturally more tolerant and easy-going, while others well, let’s just say others can use all the help they can get.

   According to Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, in her book Kids, Parents and Power Struggles, the most effective strategy to use is to simply pause. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or do whatever works for you. Sounds too simple but what a world of difference it can make in helping to stop a potentially unhealthy interaction from taking place! This can be just the right amount of time to move from responding with a gut, possibly hurtful, reaction to a more thought out, healthier, one.

   Kurcinka also suggests that when emotions start running higher you may need to walk away from the situation, not stomp away angrily but calmly declare that you need a minute and you’ll be back. A child hears a very different message when a parent responds this way. You can then come back and use this episode as a valuable teaching moment to talk about appropriate ways to respond when we get impatient and frustrated.

   As we struggled with our knitting needles that day, I became aware of something else: that patience is not about losing your temper and becoming resentful when a child doesn’t do things the “right” way the first, or even the twenty-first, time. Unfortunately, that is often the trap parents fall into, only to then find themselves feeling guilty and angry with themselves for not being a more patient person.

   Patience is about being calm, gentle and unwavering. It is being tolerant when the going gets rough. It is about remaining steadfast and composed as you strive to make progress toward your ultimate goal of building a relationship with your child that has strong and healthy bonds. It is about evaluating your behaviors and modifying them when you see them taking a turn for the worse. It is about being forgiving of others when they become less patient, and most importantly, it is about being forgiving of yourself when your patience wanes. Parenting really is a lesson in patience.


By: Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator

The Parenting Center at Abington
is a non-profit, non-sectarian community service organization.

Editor of News and Views: Deanna Bosley,
Certified Parenting Educator

A publication from The Parenting Center at Abington
P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.

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