Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Dan Blakey of Simplicity Tree.
Last night at our house there must have been something in the water because the kids had my wife and I both climbing the walls and on the verge of complete insanity! We try hard not to raise our voice but sometimes we crack – it happens to all of us, right? Well, I like to at least fantasize that it does so just humor me.
The problem is that we feel like we have been cracking too much lately. Whenever this happens we always feel bad about it later in the day and we do not like the feeling of losing patience. We never knew prior to having kids just how much patience your standard run of the mill parent actually needs! Frankly, I appreciate my own parents even more every day, which is a good thing.
Patience (or the lack of it) is something that we have been “working” on for a few years now but with each lost toy or unequal break of a cereal bar to be shared, the kids continue to stretch our patience. My wife and I finally decided to join forces and help each other out. We wanted to try and tackle this beast once and for all. We made a plan and shook on it.
Here’s how we committed to help each other out. Right or wrong, it is the best plan we could muster:
Do your best to not raise your voice
This is often our first outwardly visible step of an impending loss of patience for each of us. It is important to recognize this so that we can understand when our spouse needs help or, if we are alone, when we need to excuse ourselves or take a moment or a few deep breaths.
Always show R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
It’s not just important to Aretha Franklin, respect is important for our family as well. Simple respect for our fellow family members and human beings. This is big in our family and we work hard to make sure we model this for the kids. We aren’t perfect though and sometimes situations can be challenging. You just need to step back when that happens and remind yourself what is truly important in this world. Raising your voice over a silly disagreement about a lost toy is not a good reason to disrespect anyone.
Be loving and compassionate
Always remember that folks, kids included, have their own internal issues and conflicts that we bring to the game so be thoughtful of that. In some camps this is called being “out of the box” and someone who is out of the box can bring a lot of baggage and negativity to a situation. On the flip side, do you find yourself justifying something that you know you should do but are not? If you are, then you are out of the box. It is this justification that strays you from what you know in your heart should be done.
People generally want to do things to help others and make them feel good. It is this innate desire to help that is key to fostering compassion. Unfortunately, society at every turn works to break down these natural messages and teaches us to build barriers. There is simply nothing more important to me than creating a loving and nurturing environment at home both for my kids and my marriage. Yet, even with this strong desire, I sometimes get sidetracked by other things in life and I’m working hard to be am ore loving and compassionate parent.
Last ditch – safety words
Use whatever words work for you. We have a few words between the wife and I that carry a little too much baggage so we landed on “is there something I can help you with sweetie?” Trying to keep it all positive and non-judgmental. The idea is to use these words to remind us of the compassion, respect and tone that we use with our kids. If you are a single parent or alone then you need to remove yourself from the situation and just let the kids know in a warm, even tone that “daddy needs to take a little break” and then remove yourself.
Once the safety words are uttered then the parent on the verge of losing it just leaves the room – and cannot challenge or be critical of the other – just leave and relax! This piece is critically important because for us it is what will allow us to help each other and minimize our regrets with how we handle situations with the kids.
The goal here for us is to have a happy household where we treat each other with respect and to model this as parents. We have not always been the best parental models of patience. Obviously loss of patience is an ongoing issue for us and we will continue to tweak our approach. For now, we will see how this works and would love to hear ideas that you all have used to stay sane while raising kids! God knows we need the help sometimes!
Dan writes at Simplicity Tree where he shares his thoughts on the things that are important to him – family, community and living in a simple, thoughtful and sustainable way.