I have a confession to make. I am not a very patient person. I
want long to be. It would really help my kids out. I get annoyed about ridiculous things. If I ask you to do something and you take a millisecond longer than I think you should, I get annoyed. If I explain something to you in small words and you don’t get it, I get annoyed. If you ask me to remind you of something and I do and you still forget, I get annoyed. If you talk to me before my first cup of coffee, I am likely to get mildly homicidal. If you are late, if you make me late… It could get ugly. At least inside my head. A snappish ogre takes over me. I see red. It’s so… ugh! ridiculous.
I have to work at being patient and I do, all day every day. I have to remind myself that kids are just little, that people are just people, that I am not the Master of the Timetable. Doesn’t matter. I have to literally stop myself from speaking, like reaching out with both fists to grab the speech-producing part of my brain and wrestling it down before I stamp on my tongue with one foot. Most people have No Idea how impatient I am and absolutely No One knows how often I am impatient. In fact, when I am feeling that ogre start to take over, I often talk more sweetly than normal, just counter her evil spell. But not always. Sometimes she wins. People flinch away from her. They run screaming in the streets. The National Guard is called in. It’s pretty bad.
When we are homeschooling, I have to be even more careful. See, my littles are here to learn from me. The reason I decided to do this thing was to provide them a better learning environment. So if I’m snapping at them all morning for not finding their pencils quickly enough, not understanding simple math, or not remembering the vocabulary word we Just Learned Yesterday, well, I am not giving them a good learning environment. Ever literally bit your tongue to keep the words in? I have. Because, for me, that learning time is the golden time, the time we are all focused on each other, when our minds are expanding and the depths are being explored. It is sacred. And it should feel that way to all of us.
How do we practice patience in our homeschool when we have none? I have some suggestions.
Know Your Triggers
I’ve already listed some of mine. I know the others. That’s the first step in practicing patience: recognizing it when it hits. Know that your anger is arising from your own response rather than what others are doing. If you are suffering from impatience as a homeschool teacher, sit down and make a list of the things that set you off. It’s usually when something isn’t meeting your expectations or going your way, but a million things can stem from those two categories. So make a list. This will make it easier to practice the other steps.
Recognize When It Takes You Over
Before wrestling the ogre, I have to realize it’s her I’m dealing with. You might be telling yourself you’re angry for a reason. Stop and think about it. Is it a good reason? If not so much, then you are simply being impatient. And that is not the world’s problem. It’s certainly not your littles’ problem. It’s yours. Just knowing how to recognize the signs in yourself is a big step toward controlling it.
Gauge How Your Reaction Will Affect the Situation
This is where the practice comes in. Your child can’t find his supplies again? Didn’t he just have All Of Them at the end of lessons yesterday? Take a deep breath. Psychology Today suggests that patience is an act of self-compassion. You are empathizing with your feelings and treating them kindly. It’s also (as we all know) a form of outward compassion. Your kiddo didn’t lose his supplies on purpose. Is your response going to make matters worse or better? If you snap or lecture, your child is likely to get his feelings hurt or feel a little rebellious. So that reaction is only going to make matters worse. If you breathe, give yourself and your child a little love, then commence helping him look for the supplies, things are going to get better. If your reaction is going to make things worse, and you feel out of control, walk away for a minute. Give yourself time to think it out. And try to keep the storm off your brow as you leave. When you are back in control, go deal with the situation.
Make a Conscious Effort to Think Before You Speak
Once you’ve recognized that one of your triggers has set you off and given yourself time to think about it, put serious thought into what you are going to say in response. In the above situation, snapping, “How do you manage to do this Every Day? Can’t you learn to take care of your stuff?” is probably not the best thing to say, no matter how much you might want to say it. Instead, try something like, “Well, let’s find your scissors then. Maybe after class we can make you a new caddy to put everything in with a special place for your scissors. Would that help you keep track of them better?” See how much nicer that is? Your little will respond to it better, and having him help find a solution will give him a sense of empowerment. The other way? He’ll feel belittled and small. And you never want to be the cause of that feeling in your child, do you?
Change Your Perspective
One of the best tools I have for stemming impatience is to stop and look at the situation from the point of view of whomever I’m dealing with. In this case, the little knows he should have put his scissors up yesterday before he went to have lunch or play. He is already frustrated with himself for having lost them and he wants to get on with class as much as you do, and to do that cool craft that requires scissors even more. When you see things from his perspective instead of your own, it truly helps you let go of the ogre and respond with kindness. And your day brightens. And his day brightens. And all manner of things will be well.
Remember Who You Love
Listen, there are always going to be times when impatience wins. But here’s the thing. Nothing is more precious than those littles you’re raising. Nothing on this planet, in this universe, means as much to you. They are the bright spark in your life, the joy in your laughter, the reason you breathe and never give up. And sometimes impatience and a snap reaction makes you meaner than anything else can. So remember who you’re dealing with. Remember the learning environment you want for them. And bite your tongue. Literally, if you have to.
Love (and patience?) wins,