One of those days. Nothing seems to be going right. One mishap on top of another. Emotionally and physically exhausted.
The fuse grows shorter. Desperate for relief. Begging for no more chaos or uncertainty.
Not happening today.
As the stress builds, muscles tighten. The heart races. With the last bit self-control depleted, something has to give.
Personal explosion at 5:17 p.m. Yelling, cursing, gesturing, slamming any object at hand – targeting anyone within range. Animated beyond personal recognition.
I’m not talking about one of my kids.
I’m talking about me early in my adoption journey – near the end of another rough day.
Something had to change.
In raising six children with early trauma and FASD – and their accompanying anxiety, I grew tired of my patient-impatient cycle multiple times each week.
For my mental health, I accepted my shortcomings. For my connection with my children, I needed a radical change. For my own sanity, I finally realized the obvious.
I was the one who had to change – not my kids with various challenges and devastating effects of FASD and early trauma. And that meant developing greater patience.
Some call it self-care. I call it survival.
Upon meeting other parents with challenging children, I realized an important fact. I wasn’t alone in my quest.
You see, patience is a virtue – as philosophers wrote long ago. Thus, the ability to be patient without frustration or irritability is an admirable quality. Yet it goes against human instincts. For centuries people have struggled – and not so patiently.
We parents definitely are not alone!
Now the good news. Patience is a skill that can be learned.
Although my journey to self-discovery had obvious steps, I desired additional points of view. So I surfed the web one afternoon and patiently read. My CALM model is the result.
Claim. Adjust. Listen. Methodize.
C – CLAIM
I really want to be more patient.
No doubt, improving patience starts with the individual claiming the problem. No commitment means no change in personal behavior – like we parents often state to our children.
Impatience, on the other hand, often grows into a bad habit – like we parents routinely witness in our children.
Almost addictive. Not wanting to wait for anything. Muttering under our breath. Jumping to the negative. Feeling tension throughout our body. Throwing in the towel again and again.
Moreover, we aren’t the only ones noticing our lack of patience.
Our kids were watching too.
Do we want them mimicking our impatient behavior? Then us asking why.
No responsible individual (parent, teacher, caregiver) wants that.
Claim the problem instead.
Begin by admitting your triggers – first to yourself. And be specific in identifying them. Here are several of mine from years ago.
With the school bus arriving in 10 minutes, I increasingly raise my voice when my slow-to-eat child asks the same question three times in less than a minute.
I use words I don’t mean if I’m tired and can’t actively listen.
A messy house instantly puts me on edge.
After claiming your desire to be more patient, you can dig deeper into solving the problem.
A – ADJUST
I want thicker skin.
This step is the tough one for many people.
Improving patience means adjusting our perception. Without exception, situations that trigger personal discomfort aren’t going to disappear. They will continue to test our patience – each and every day.
Think about a particular situation – like your kids leaving dirty dishes on the table. Some parents don’t flinch while others immediately react. Slamming doors perhaps.
In other words, the source of discomfort is not the situation. It’s the way the situation makes us feel – perhaps triggering past memories or insecurities.
To work through my personal perceptions about patience, I needed role models. That translated into consciously observing very patient people in their environment. A handful of teachers at my children’s school, several co-workers, a special neighbor.
Amazing experience. I learned from real people – who are always calm and in control. Nothing throws them off. Can I say amazing again?
They carefully chose their words – like a therapeutic reminder of their self-control. In addition, they don’t force their message. They put a positive spin on everything. And they never ever react in the moment.
I then told myself over and over that I could respond the same way. I can. I will.
Attitude adjustment accomplished. I was ready to be more patient. You can too.
L – LISTEN
I want to feel calm.
This step proved the easiest for me. I simply listened to my body.
An increased heartbeat. A twitch in my leg. Butterflies in the stomach. Sweating palms. Racing thoughts. Any of these things meant I wasn’t in a calm state.
Therefore, being patient wouldn’t happen naturally – most likely the opposite. That meant making an extra diligent effort to remain patient – and not reverting to bad habits of the past.
By being truly mindful, I was the one in the control. Eventually, I learned to admit my weak moments to my kids – if I had no patience left to give.
Give me a moment. I want to be patient with you.
That approach worked much better than losing it in front of them.
What’s happening inside you?
Can you recognize the anxious feeling when it starts?
Don’t ignore it. Use that feeling to your advantage.
M – Methodize
I commit to growing my patience.
Practice patience. Yes, practice.
When a vulnerable situation presents itself, don’t instantly react and fuel it. Instead, feel the lack of patience in your body and then hold your patience as long as you can.
Use positive self-talk. I am patient. I am in control.
No jumping to conclusions. No thinking the worst.
Leave the room if necessary. Listen to a readily available special song that soothes the soul. Look at readily available picture or media clip that makes you laugh every time.
Soon the unpleasant feeling will pass. Always.
Most importantly, you don’t want to lose self-control and put your impatience on display for everyone to see.
Then evaluate your patience. It’s probably better than you expected.
In each subsequent situation, you will see your patience grow. Don’t worry if you mess up. Learn from the mistake and try again next time.
Eventually you will double your patience – and double it again, until you have more patience than you ever imagined possible.
After 20 years of mindfulness, very few things rattle my cage – because I refuse to go there. I listen to my body. I leave myself an out. And I practice patience from morning to night – because that’s what it takes.
A final word of advice.
Impatience triggers impatience.
How about finding CALM today and making a commitment to develop more patience? And remember, doing nothing gets you more of the same.
The journey must start with you. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page NoLimitsAndrew – Andrew Peterson
To watch Andrew’s amazing ESPN 14-minute documentary, click here. Andrew Peterson ESPN Documentary