Sidewalk chalk! So bright and colorful, it’s definitely a Spring thing, right? Who would have guessed it would present an opportunity to put our W.O.W. word, patience, into action?
Armed with a bucket of chalk, the boys and friends were eager to showcase their creations on the sidewalk. My oldest wanted to add his own version to the row of beaming happy faces. He drew a circle, then quickly x’d it out. Not round enough he said. Another circle quickly x’d out. Looks like an egg. Then, another circle with a mad face. Also, x’d out. Not the right eyebrows. Finally, the next circle was just round enough and just mad enough to earn his “stamp of approval.”
Some might call this perfectionism, and I’m sure that plays a part, but if we look closely I believe there is more going on here – this is a lack of patience with one’s self! He was annoyed that he had to wait (and re-draw) his faces to get it “right.” There was no one else to put the blame on, so he became frustrated and impatient with himself. As parents, teachers, or grandparents, we are in such a unique position to encourage and show kids how to have patience with themselves! We have found these five steps to be transformative in our mindset as we seek to cultivate patience in the children we love.
1. RECOGNIZE Behavior as a Lack of Patience with Self
Is your child interested in trying new things or do they shy away from this? Do they initially try something but then become uneasy and ask to quit when they are not the best or realize they have a lot of room to grow in this skill/sport/subject in school? Recognizing a lack of patience with self and not just seeing your child as a perfectionist, someone who gives up, or is easily angered is the starting point to growing this character trait!
2. Call Out Inner Voices
The Road Back To You talks a lot about the voices in our head, specifically the “inner critic” as they call it. As a Type One, this critical voice can become so loud that it’s the only thing we hear. But in a healthy state we can be, “principled but patient with the processes that slowly but surely make the world a better place.” (page 90) This is exactly what I want my boys to learn – how to be patient with themselves as they grow!
After I recognize a lack of patience in my kids I call this out! I’ll ask whether they are listening to that impatient voice in their heads that says, “You spilled your drink again? You’ll never be able to drink out of a regular cup, why even try?” Or that other voice saying, “It’s normal to make mistakes! I can be patient with myself as I grow. I am loved no matter what!”
It recently occurred to me that if I want Banks to not overreact with yelling and tears when he spills his milk, then I need to not overreact! The patient voice we use to encourage our child now will turn into the voice they hear one day when they make mistakes with friends and we are not around! Will this also be the voice and words they use to encourage others when they make mistakes? I truly believe our use of patience has a significant impact on the patience our children will extend to themselves and others in the future!
3. The Power of YET
If you’ve been in education over the past few years, you are familiar with the term growth mindset. In our house, we do not say the word can’t without the word “YET” close behind! (When referring to something we want to learn or do) I can’t do this YET, but I will keep trying and be patient with myself in the process.
4. Practice Makes Progress
Never again will I say “practice makes perfect.” Dave Thomas, co-author of Wild Things, says practice makes progress, which is a much better motto for learning! Perfection is not attainable but with perseverance (October’s W.O.W. word, FYI) and patience, we can grow. There is only one person ever to walk the earth that is perfect! Thanks to Jesus, for giving us grace and teaching us that no matter how hard we try we will never be perfect in anything, but through His power we can make progress and grow in becoming more like Him. Our job is to encourage and come alongside our children to teach them to be patient with themselves over a lifetime of growth!
5. Highlight the Good You See NOW
So what can we say and focus on right NOW? As we talk about being patient with ourselves, this can seem a little abstract, so I love to ask the boys to find something that they are grateful for or something they CAN do right now! For example, the first couple of baseball practices were a little discouraging because batting was difficult. But I encouraged my oldest to focus on the good! His throwing had improved significantly since he first started playing, and he was with his friends on a beautiful spring day! Reflecting on ways we have been patient with ourselves and seen growth is powerful and a sweet reminder of God’s presence in our lives.