Be the patience you want to see

This is an excerpt from The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child, by Mantu Joshi. Mantu is the father of three children, a minister, stay-at-home dad, and a writer. The Resilient Parent offers short person essays to help us reframe the experience parenting children with special needs so we can be more resilient parents!

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I hate transitions. I hate that I cannot just beam my children from activity to activity like in Star Trek, or get them from the minivan into the house by wiggling my nose like Samantha in those old Bewitched episodes. No, we have to physically get from point A to point B, which means that someone is likely to throw a tantrum.

The other day my daughter fell asleep in the car. When we got home, she woke up and refused to leave the car. I was tired and tight for time, so I felt the inner need to fix the situation. I began to fantasize dragging her out and making her comply. But then I remembered that I was her example of patience. I stepped out of the van and breathed. I told her that I was going to be nearby, but she needed to get out of the van herself.

Have you ever been so angry that you could feel the veins on your neck throbbing? So angry that your teeth grind and your jaw locks like Rocky Balboa before a prize fight?

As I went around the corner of the house, I heard banging and loud crashes. I peeked around the car and saw the shrapnel of her attack on my sanity: a new book, a dog bowl, broken toys, and cashew nuts strewn all over the ground. My blood boiled. Now not only was I late, but I also had a mess to clean up.

Have you ever been so angry that you could feel the veins on your neck throbbing? So angry that your teeth grind and your jaw locks like Rocky Balboa before a prize fight?

In the moment, I had to do two things to bring myself back. First, I had to let go of my expectations of being on time. As a parent of two kids with special needs, I could no longer have perfect timeliness. It is simply not possible all of the time. Being early is too hard on the kids’ patience, and being on time happens only when no one has a major tantrum.

The second thing I had to do was take care of myself physically. My heart was racing and my breath was short. My teeth were clenched. To reverse this, I needed to breathe ten times, just like we might teach our kids. I had to imagine my throat and my tongue softening.

Only after this did I let my daughter see my reaction. I walked over and simply said that she had lost a privilege and I was disappointed. I then just walked away.

Patience in the real parenting world is not easy. Patience is a lot easier to preach about than actually do. The reality is, the more we demonstrate patience, the more our kids will learn it. It might even be helpful for them to hear out loud how we are talking ourselves down from frustration to calm:

“I am going to breathe right now. I am angry, so I am going to slow down before I talk with you. I need to put myself in time-out and find my calm.”

Patience is hard, and yet it seems to be teachable only through demonstration and practice. I have learned that I am a walking lesson on how to deal with frustration. I started to verbalize my process with her. “I am frustrated because …” or “I am going to time-out because …” and slowly my process sinks in.

When the kids are at their most insane-making modality, I must be the patience I want to see.

Do you model patience? What do you need to do for yourself in order to be the patience you want to see? What would you like your inner monologue be when you are frustrated?

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The Resilient Parent is Mantu Joshi’s first book. You can contact him via email: theresilientparent@gmail.com.

 

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One thought on “Be the patience you want to see

  1. Transitions in our house are very tough too. Our son, age 5.5 has SPD and ADHD. Transitions have always been tough. The answer of No also sets him off often. It is SO hard not to lose your cool sometimes but I have been trying to walk out of the room lately too, and it seems to work most of the time. Especially if I take his tablet with me and tell him when he calms down and does as asked, and makes better choices, he can earn it back. I am trying so hard to work on not raising my voice and to set a good example for him with my emotional reactions. Your post is a good reminder of how important this is, even if it is really tough sometimes!

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