Thursday, June 7, 2012

Just a Minute

They say it is important to teach your children patience. Is it possible we teach them impatience by making them wait unrealistically, by not listening, by tuning out?
My daughter’s new favorite game is hide and seek. Although, she loves hiding in the same spot and giggling loudly until you act surprised to find her. She will do it over and over and over and over. A few days ago she started varying the hide and seek game with hiding under the covers in bed. She and my son played for a full hour in my bed as I blogged. They took turns covering each other up with pillows and than finding each other or asking me to look away from the computer screen long enough to find them both. 
So last night when I tucked her in, I tried it. I got under the covers with her and asked her to tell a story and I sang. We decided daddy should come and find us. So we called downstairs where he was doing dishes and he innocently yelled he would be up in “just a minute”. We laid there and giggled and squirmed and waited. We waited. We called down to Daddy again. We waited some more. Ten minutes went by. I was getting so warm  and impatient under the blankets I had to come up for air several times. But my daughter just smiled in contentment. Eventually Daddy came up stairs and she squealed in delight when we were finally discovered. 
How many times have I said just a minute and it turned into 10 or 30 or longer? It never occurred to me that she was really waiting for me and doing nothing else.They say it is important to teach your children patience. Is it possible we teach them impatience by making them wait unrealistically, by not listening, by tuning out?  This is not an exercise in beating myself up about being a more attentive parent. My kids are happy. But the observation made me want to learn more about my own impatience in the context of my expectations.
I found an interesting study called the marshmallow test. In the late 1960‘s, Stanford University Psychology Professor Walter Mischel set out to learn about delayed gratification/self control by putting little kids in a room alone with a marshmallow. If they waited until the adult came back, they could have two marshmallows or they could eat the one in front of them any time they wanted. The videotaped tests show hilarity as the kids wrestled with their choice. In the end, 31% delayed gratification and patiently waited to receive two fluffy white treats. Many years later that same 31% grew up to be more successful adults in both work and in personal relationships. 
That makes sense. Patience pays. It is a virtue that teaches resilience, problem solving, self control and the ability to deal better with stressful situations.
I found tons of tips on how to raise patient children. For those of us impatient adults who need a refresher class, I am adding my own spin.
*Develop strategies for waiting. My daughter sang, re-arranged pillows and explored other parts of the bed while waiting to be found hiding under the covers. What can I do other than waiting for the line to thin out, the light to change? Check my emails on my Iphone. Listen to a different song. 
*Be a role model/Find a role model Be aware of our own patience level because your kids are watching. In my case, marvel at my child’s patience with me and try to be more like her.
*Set realistic expectations. My 3- year old probably can’t sit through an hour long dinner at a restaurant without a coloring book and a snack. I can’t expect myself to be my goal weight after one week back at the gym.
*Reflective listening. Acknowledge their feelings. Repeat back what you are hearing them say. Before you express your point. This seems like sound relationship advice for parents or anyone. Im going to practice it on my husband and see if in turn he treats me with more patience.
*Keep your promises. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. If I want to keep my perfectly precious child patient, than I need to follow through. If I say “just a minute”, I better mean it. If she is promised two marshmallows if she waits, and than I say we ran out of marshmallows, what is that teaching her? I think maybe the way this can be applied to the older kids reading this by following through with yourself. Clearly you can not always rely on your co-workers, friends, spouse, etc to keep their promises. But you should be able to count on yourself to do what you say your going to or at least try.
I leave you with this question for today. Can you think of one instance in your adult life where patience paid and impatience cost you?

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