Ask yourself this one question and you’ll immediately have more patience with your kids, no matter their age.
. . .
It seemed like overnight that I was suddenly on the receiving end of the ubiquitous tween eye roll. I was caught so off guard that my only response was “Seriously?” To which my son responded with a groan. Please give me more patience with children.
Greetings loving and devoted mothers. Allow me to introduce you to three brand new residents in your home. Their names are eye rolls, groans, and drama. Sound familiar?
It feels like forever since my son was two – but I vividly remember the morning that I stood chatting with him as he ate breakfast. His chubby little hands squashed his breakfast into his mouth. Then he grinned from his highchair and grabbed a messy mixture of oatmeal and scrambled eggs and sent them hurling to the floor.
“Whoa, there buddy!! Let’s not throw food onto the floor!”
He cocked his head to the side, and those big baby blues melted my heart with their puzzled expression. He asked, “Why not?”
After I had picked my jaw off the floor, I realized that he genuinely didn’t have any idea why he shouldn’t throw food on the floor. Why should he know? He was two.
So, here’s my wisdom from that moment:
Always remember where your children are on their path to growing into themselves.Click To Tweet.
It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to have patience with children in a stressful moment. Trust me, I’m not perfect. But asking myself this one question is powerful because it reminds me to check that my expectations are attainable for the boys and gives me more patience with them.
My boys are sweet and they love their parents and want to do the right thing. I believe all kids want that. But at any given moment, I need to understand where they are developmentally, and what I can reasonably expect of them in order for them to both learn and succeed. It also helps me have more patience with them and choose my battles wisely (a completely underrated mothering skill…).
So in the midst of a stressful parenting moment, I try to always ask myself this one profound question:
What is going on in his brain today?
How is it changing? How might that be impacting his behavior right now?
I literally mean – know what’s going on in his brain at any given age or stage. Different portions of our brains form at different times in our lives.
Children’s brains have a massive growth spurt when they’re very young. By the time they’re six, their brains are already about 90-95% of adult size. But the brain still needs a lot of remodelling before it can function as an adult brain.
This brain remodelling happens intensively during adolescence, continuing into your child’s mid-20s. Some brain changes happen before puberty, and some continue long after. Brain change depends on age, experience and hormonal changes in puberty. (cite)
If you know that during adolescence, there is a lot of brain “remodeling” going on, you can choose your battles more wisely.
I, for example, feel like an eye-roll here or there isn’t going to ruin his life or mine; it’s part of his age and stage and a reflection of what’s going on in his brain. I’ve not met any adults who grunt and roll their eyes when they don’t like something that’s being said (ok, maybe a few…). But the point is, this is something they legitimately grow through and out of.
This knowledge gives me more patience with my children.
Knowing that the tween years are “a time of monumental shifts in…physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development” is so helpful when deciding how to guide them in the right direction.
It’s a time of growing independence but it can also be scary for kids. So while it’s completely normal for your child to start turning away from you and relying more on friends, kids this age are still very much in need of parental support and guidance—even when they tell you otherwise. (cite)
Knowing that it’s “normal for kids this age to have these really intense swings of emotions and interpersonal dynamics” makes it so much easier for me to have patience and empathy with my children during frustrating moments. That help me be more of the mother I want to be.
Know where your children are today.
This piece tends to come more naturally to me. There is so much going on with children at any given stage of development, but I still need to factor in where they are emotionally on any given day.
So if my son had a difficult test in school today and stayed after school for ball practice, other things may be more difficult throughout the day and he may just need a chance to have some time alone with a friend and wind down. That might not be the day that I ask for him to set and clear the dinner table. We’ll save that for another evening. And maybe on an evening when he had an easier day, then I’ll ask him to do a little extra.
This has helped me so much to have more patience with my boys. Don’t get me wrong – I’m far from perfect – but knowing “where they are” helps me respond to them with patience and empathy.
So asking myself where they are in the world at the moment – both developmentally and based on their daily circumstances – helps me choose my battles and my concessions wisely. Hopefully, this will reinforce for them how unconditionally they are loved.
Karen is a former attorney turned stay at home midlife mama. She and her partner of 17 years have two young boys who have surprised her and transformed her world from one of practicing law to one big hot mess filled with love, joy, frustration and a boatload of imperfection. You can find Karen writing about midlife parenting, health, mama musings, and inspiration and motivation on-line here:
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