Do you see patience as the right response for parenting and partnering? If you do, then you might be mistaken, even if patience is a virtue, it needs to be handled in the right way or it could result on a point of no return.
In this week’s essay Liliane Grace, teach us how to put limits and rules to our children instead of bearing their misbehaviour.
Read Liliane’s article and then check out her website (www.lilianegrace.com).
Blessings, Ken Pierce “Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” ~~ George Jackson
“Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.” ~~ George Jackson
Impatient Parenting, Impatient Partnering –The Gift of Impatience
When I was a very young mother, I remember being stopped by an older woman in the shopping centre who told me she admired my patience; I smiled and thanked her, but beneath the pleasant sensation generated by approval, I was troubled by a little note of doubt. Patient with unco-operative behaviour, patient with stubbornness, rudeness, temper tantrums…
Was patience the right response?
Of course! my conditioning yelled. Patience is a virtue. You should be a patient parent. You shouldn’t react. You should demonstrate calmness, strength of character, unmovability. You should show those nippers that whatever they do, you are unaffected.
And I parented under that misapprehension for years. Better verb: I toiled. Because it was a tough slog.
Same story in my relationship. I was patient. I endured all kinds of negative or nasty comments. I persuaded myself to be more understanding, see it from his point of view, don’t react…
I patiently dug myself a hole.
I had read lots of books about boundaries. I was well aware of the importance of boundaries.
I’d read those books and tried to implement their message. But patience kept bringing me unstuck. My belief in the goodness of patience, the virtue of it, the unshakable rightness of it. (And maybe I was still being a nice girl. Nice people aren’t impatient – or demanding or pushy or…)
Meanwhile, my family rocketed down an entropic slope towards certain breakdown, fuelled, I later saw, by my stubborn belief in patience. As we hit the steeper parts of the route, we began to sustain injuries: a daughter who would daily open her mouth and scream for no reason at all; a son with eyes sparking with anger who pushed us all around; a tough, bossy seven year old, modelling on her big brother’s lordliness.
Less noticeable, amidst the noise and fire, a partner whose soul was dying. Slowly, quietly dying.
Life steps in when things are out of hand. Thank God for God; for the love and wisdom inherent in the very fabric of our lives that every now and then gives the stuff a good hard yank, and adjusts a seam that’s going haywire. Life/Universe/God/Spirit gave us such an adjustment when a casual discussion about marriage with a friend resulted in her recommending a fantastic counsellor.
The next day – funny, that–- the shit hit the fan on the home front. I drove away from the park without my seven year old daughter. I drove angrily and abruptly, fuming at her stubbornness over silly little things, my other two children sitting anxiously in the back seat. Why has Mummy left our sister alone at the park? Meanwhile Mummy has broken out in a sweat. She is speeding. Now she heaves the car around in a wild u-turn, just in time to notice the police car sitting on the side of the road with radar. Damn.
My daughter was sitting on the swing when we returned, her face a study of stubborn anger and fear. I don’t remember the next few minutes – just the tears pouring down my face when, back at home, I sat in front of the phone in my office punching out that counsellor’s phone number.
Nothing is working, I told him when we met a day or two later. Educated as I am, student of personal development that I am, advocate of conscious parenting that I am, NOTHING IS WORKING.
We are stuck, drowning, killing each other. Our children are hurt and angry. My partner and I have no relationship to speak of.
Slowly, bit by bit, we found doorways out of the mess. My partner attended the sessions too, reluctantly at first, but then with greater interest and satisfaction, as our counsellor, with consummate skill, clear-headedness and a highly developed intuition, guided us along the manifold tricky paths, and I began to see, it dawned on me very slowly, that it was my patience that was the problem.
Our counsellor suggested that I read Women Who Love Too Much and Women Who Run With The Wolves. The former shocked me with patterns I recognised. The latter lit my fighting spirit, my passion, my pride and dignity. I had to face my dependence, my tendency to be ‘happy if he is happy, down if he is down’. I struggled out of this pattern while my partner began to look at his issues. We didn’t focus on the children, believing (hoping) that their behaviour would settle when we were on track. And once we were, it was.
After six months of deeply satisfying, enlightening soul work, we achieved two months of peace: as a couple we were consistently strong. It was a marvel. The children were settled. It was working. And then, without knowing exactly how it happened, we were back in old patterns. This time I recognised them and responded quickly, making adjustments that stopped the boat’s wild rocking. But I was concerned by the pattern that had re-emerged: if he was down, I was down.
Once again, I saw myself, doormat-like, giving in to children who had mastered Ignoring Mother 101. But did I lose it? No – I Was Patient.
In the grimy middle of a week I wandered into a bookstore, drawn to parenting books to give myself a new hit of direction. Browsing, the following lines leapt out at me:
“The problem is that most parents confuse explanation with reasoning… Reasoning with children occurs when we attempt to use adult logic as a persuasive device for motivating children to behave in a particular way.
The problem is that it simply doesn’t work most of the time. When this mother reasons with her nine year old and projects about all the possible disasters that might occur, he simply tunes her out… Children can’t reason like adults until they become adults.”
Well, I could relate to that. I turned the page: “The most common definition of ‘patient’ in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary reads: ‘to bear pains or trials calmly or without complaint’.
But if we bear our children’s misbehaviour without complaint, what are we teaching them? In the long run, how effective is our patience? Most parents are patient to a point, and once they reach that point, they explode in anger. What, ultimately, does our child learn when she continuously misbehaves without repercussions and sees us ‘being patient’, only to explode in the end? …
Many parents believe they’re being patient when in reality they’re letting their children walk all over them. This kind of patience is detrimental to both parent and child. Biting our tongues or bearing our painful feelings and trials when our child is misbehaving generally means that we’re stuffing our own increasingly negative feelings deep down inside of ourselves where they fester and grow until we can’t stand it any more… Clearly this practice serves no-one.
In fact, when your frustration level is so high, you probably wind up acting more disrespectfully towards your child and being harsher and more punitive than you would have been if you hadn’t been ‘patient’ in the first place. In other words, the practice of being patient often undermines its own goal! … When you act rather than ‘being patient’ while your child misbehaves, your action will take place before you reach the point of no return…
Your child will not see you as impatient but will view you as a parent who has thought out the limits and rules, and who is in charge. He or she will ultimately respect you for taking a stand early in the misbehaviour.”
Over the next few weeks I digested these pearls. I observed myself requesting action from children and then being ignored. I witnessed the deep-seated despair of the man with whom I shared my life.
I stood knee-high in frustrated helplessness.
And finally I realised that my patience had served nobody. Nobody.
What the children needed was my IMpatience. “I have asked you to play with the ball outside. You can go outside with the ball or stay inside and put the ball away. You choose.”
What my partner needed was my IMpatience, my intolerance of his decision to bury himself.
Once I began to insist that he join me as a responsible co-creator of marriage and parenting, and I experienced the joy that flowed from that place, I had to wonder, why didn’t I take this stand a long time ago? Why did I wait, patiently, for so long, while we buried each other?
I remembered the process we went through when training our dog. To heel the dog, say “Heel”, give the lead a sharp jerk, and stop walking.
Here it is: the clarity of a demand. “I will not keep walking and have you only half get the message. I am going to stop and be focused on this. I insist on a response”. Whereas with my children I had continued cooking or cleaning or writing, sending my voice after them and impotently leaving the result up to them. Enough of that. I began to make myself stop and focus.
I became impatient for results. No more sloppy (patient) parenting. It was time to demand action.
O this yin/yang world! The magnificence of finding the gift of impatience. That such a negative quality should harbour so much good. O the brilliant principle of paradox! I emerged from this journey ready to honour my impatience, to listen to it and respond to it, to be guided by it and respect it. I finally understood.
As this insight settled within me, a sudden thought sent ripples through my mind: and what of anger, grief, envy, hatred? What God-given gifts might they be? What beautiful possibilities might unfold from those feelings, when held without judgement?