How to Curb Parenting Frustration and Find More Patience

How to Curb Parenting Frustration and Find More Patience

Parenting frustration is real and it’s here to stay. We can only work on how we cope with it. How many times have you gotten crazy frustrated with your kids lately? Have they asked the same question incessantly? Have they pushed your buttons one too many times? Are they poking and prodding endlessly about the same topic? Do you wonder how they forgot your instructions from 30 seconds before?

It’s a common story and a huge point of frustration in parenting, especially of small children. You are not alone! We love our kids, even at their most annoying. We are incredibly busy with work and home lives and just trying to get through the day unscathed can seem like a monumental task.

Putting all that aside for a moment, take a little journey with me. I’d say “close your eyes” but that would be problematic. Imagine for a few minutes, that you’re on vacation in a totally unfamiliar country where you don’t speak the language. You somehow got separated from the people you’re traveling with and find yourself in a part of the city you’ve never been before. It is amazing and beautiful and you are completely enamored. Walking onward, you try to keep your eyes open for something familiar as you explore, hoping to spot a restaurant or store where you could ask for a phone. Everything from the customs, the food, the clothing, the buildings are completely unfamiliar and you don’t even know where to begin. Hunger begins to make itself known as you walk onward, night is falling. Do you have that anxious feeling creeping into your belly? A stranger approaches and starts speaking rapidly to you, seemingly alarmed and anxious, gesticulating in an incomprehensible fashion. Looking around for assistance, you see only disapproving and unfriendly stares. You attempt to speak calmly and mime that you are lost and need help. But your every effort is met with more disapproval and confusion. You attempt all familiar ways to communicate but are rebuffed at every turn. Clearly, your efforts to be appeasing are only adding to the stranger’s negative view of you. That anxious feeling is quickly mounting into panic as the stranger begins to get angry and moves toward you. How do you feel now? Are you thinking clearly?

“If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience.”Tweet This!

Ok, I get that this is an extreme example but is it so different from how young children see the world? They are bombarded from all sides with new information, rules, experiences, and sensations that they are attempting to process. Even when they begin to find understanding, inevitably, the circumstances change or a new element forces them back to the beginning. As they grow and learn, we are imposing new layers of rules and expectations upon them. We are by nature, contrary and inconsistent. It stands to reason that we don’t always correct, encourage or guide our children in the exact same way every time. There are also hugely varied circumstances that can affect our interactions with our children, yet we often expect them to read between the lines or understand us to an exacting degree. The cues and expressions we rely upon as adults to assess a situation are completely foreign to our children. They haven’t yet built up their knowledge bank of clues that they can draw upon.

Can you think of a time when you were in unfamiliar territory and suddenly grasped something that made sense? What was your first instinct? Most likely, it was to repeat that action over and over and over again until something new clicked. Then we repeat the next action ad nauseum until we find something else that works. This should some incredibly familiar if you think about it in relation to your children’s actions.

There is no miracle method or proven strategy for moving this process along and creating better listeners who don’t annoy us so often. What we are witnessing is a miracle of self discovery and self worth. We are instrumental in shaping their view of this world and while completely overwhelming, that’s an awesome responsibility. I mean awesome in its true sense, not the overused off-hand way we usually apply it. These kids are getting up every day with a huge sense of optimism, hope, love and energy that they are just aching to send into the world. They fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times. Their capacity for learning is incredible and they are using every second of their existence to make an impression on their surrounding and the people around them.

“Children fail thousands of times, every day. With barely a blink, they get back up ready to try another thousand times.” Tweet This!

So while parents are frustrated and exhausted by the world in all its mundanity, I challenge you to try to walk a minute in your child’s shoes. Take even a few seconds to look at the world in wonder and awe. Remember that they’re still developing their bearings on EVERYTHING and while they are certainly learning to manipulate us, it doesn’t often come from a place of deliberate disobedience. More often than not, they’re simply looking for love, reassurance and structure. They want to know the rules to this game we’re all playing and they want to excel at it! I realize this is an idealistic expectation, but even if we can put this in action once in a day that’s a huge accomplishment! More often than not, we’ll still find ourselves in that place of frustration but it is worth the effort to invest in ourselves and in our children.

If I could wish for one thing for my children, it’s patience. Modern life has this way of pushing us along at a furious pace and our gut reaction is to race along without question. But what are we rushing toward? I see people all around me from various walks of life, varying ages and backgrounds. Is any one group happier than the next? Does any one person have all the answers? The more I learn and understand, the more I am certain that what matters most is today. THIS moment in time. THIS experience. I have friends of all income brackets with the exact same insecurities everyone else has. I see baby boomers FINALLY getting to retire and then wondering, what now? Their health isn’t the best or they’re so stuck in “work” mode that they can’t or won’t relearn how to just live and enjoy being present.

This is nothing new or revolutionary. Many others have explained this more eloquently and more powerfully than I can. Yet, I think it too important to not repeat from my own perspective in hopes that it might strike a chord with someone. Even one person. Our children are embracing this very concept even as they race ahead into the school years, the teen years and soon adulthood. If we can’t enjoy life as much as possible in the now, then what’s the point?

“Find joy in the details.”Tweet This!

Life is made to be lived, in all its mundane and boring detail. Find joy in the details.

The art of negotiation

The art of negotiation

Is it just me or did we enter an alternate universe where my every decision is constantly questioned? Just me? Thought so.

Having a precocious three-year-old is fantastic. You never know what will come out of her mouth and more often than not, we’re in stitches because of the absurdity of it all. Yet, there are days when I don’t know if I can take one more minute of the constant chattering, negotiation, sassiness and downright backtalk. Is it wrong that after the 10th repetition of “One minute, Lena.” I just ignore her?

Granted, there are times when I don’t need that minute, I just want it. But is wanting a second to yourself so wrong? Giving in and settling my attention on her would certainly be easier, but did I mention I’m stubborn too?  If nothing else, I want her to understand that while I might hear her request/concern/prattling she is not necessarily always my first priority. That’s life. While she might find the fiftieth repetition of what her sister did wrong that day to be terribly fascinating, I for one, am over it. I don’t want a tattler either. Serious, life-threatening stuff sure…but pulling the dog’s tail? Not so much.

I used to think myself an incredibly patient person. My husband would hit the wall and tap out hours before I could feel my patience fraying. What gives? She’s only three, I keep repeating…and repeating. Yet, I expect a lot from myself. So it’s natural that I would expect a lot from her too. I also know that she’s exceedingly clever and we are constantly underestimating her.  I’m not saying I ask her to do things beyond her capability, but we’re a family. We stick together, we respect one another and we all pitch in. Even the baby is starting to learn she can’t scream at the top of her lungs all the time, respect the peace! The babe is even learning to do laundry. Granted, she was loading the dirty clothes into the dryer but hey. Progress, is progress.

The latest fascination with negotiation though is equal parts hilarity and bang-your-head-against-the-wall frustrating. I’m all for a clever repartee and a sound argument. However, I’ve discovered that I only have a limited capacity for the absurd. When the negotiation spirals down into the “I want <insert inane request here>!” and foot stomping, nice mommy has left the building. It’s probably a bit much to expect a pre-schooler to comprehend the differences between “I want” and “I need”, but I’m making headway. I’m pretty sure the speech about starving children with no dinners went over swimmingly.

My latest strategies are typically two-fold and varied. Answer as innocuously as possible and distract! Apparently, “Because I said so!” isn’t super effective when every declarative statement I utter is met with, “Why, Mommy?”. Threatening is another winner, because she totally respects consequences and cares deeply about mommy being cross. Positive reinforcement has been making zero headway because it’s awesome when you have to remove the reward before you even finish offering it (due to the reverse of the desired behavior occurring). Telling the truth is also one of her fortes because she has absolutely no insight into what is true and what is a lie. Clearly, she always tells me the truth.

I have learned to be very careful to always resolve a confrontation these days. It’s not easy to see, but our bright little girl has feelings that are very easily bruised. Even at our worst moments, I always tell her I love her and try to explain why I got so frustrated with her. Deep down, she really does want to please us and be a contributing member of the family. Her capacity for affection and thoughtfulness are astounding. I continually work at making her feel valued and appreciated for all the ways she brings light to our lives.

The length and intricacies of the discussions in our house are mind boggling, but it’s pretty darn amazing to see her mental capacity at work. There are days when it’s extremely (read, impossible) to take a step back and see it that way, but hey…we’re only human.


Monsters, babies and giants!  Oh my! Amazing Imaginations.

Monsters, babies and giants! Oh my! Amazing Imaginations.

Lena is on the cusp of turning three and it has been out of this world, literally, watching her imagination take flight. As an avid reader it’s been particularly gratifying to see her have a voracious appetite for books.


The imaginary play lately is outrageously funny. In the pool the other day she was pretending a leaf was a monster. She almost dissolved in tears when it kept floating against her leg and she couldn’t escape! Another day she set up school on the stairs and had her Papa sitting there for almost 20 minutes. Every time we turn around it’s a new game and a new set of rules. Another favorite is role reversal. When I get the esteemed privilege of being Lena and she’s Mommy, I take full advantage and ask an infinite series of “Why?” questions.

As we launch into these in depth discussions eventually I’ll have to give in and start laughing. To which she’ll reply with a grin, “Me just ‘tending mommy!” Priceless.

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