Don’t be surprised…be patient.

“Are you kidding me! How many times do we have to have this conversation? I thought I made it very clear when I said… I can’t believe we are still having this problem!” Does this sound like a conversation you have on a semi-regular basis with your kids? The utter frustration of having to revisit a problem you thought you successfully solved the last time.

To a rational adult, kids behaviour can seem irrational, intolerable and down-right perplexing; but why are we surprised by these moments? Maybe it’s because we forget that they are still children. We’ve briefly begun to see them as more mature, and therefore have higher expectations of them. However, part of their behaviour is a reflection of the age and stage they are at; they’re still learning, and like all of the human race, still make mistakes and experience set-backs on a daily basis. 

Or maybe it’s because we believe, that as the parent, it is wholly up to us to influence and change them. So when no change is apparent, we are really frustrated with ourselves and therefore feel powerless. While it would be blissfully convenient for parents to no longer be needed to guide, remind, reprimand and encourage, the truth is, these tasks are an important part of parenting. To do it well, means a daily dose of patience is needed.

At the moment I’m teaching my nine year old to clean up after himself in the kitchen. Everyday when he comes home from school he makes himself a glass of Milo. What do I see when I enter the room? Cupboards left open, milk and milo grains on the counter and an empty used glass left randomly in the place last sipped! The only thing in order is the fridge is shut, and that’s because it beeps at you until you close it. This daily occurrence is enough to drive me mad. And yes, I have got mad! Yet, getting mad never solves the issue. 

While he knows that everyday I will ask him to come back and clean it up (he’s not allowed screen time until it’s cleaned away), it still remains a thing I have to prompt him on. I look forward to the day when he finally gets it…in the meantime I persevere patiently. 

Repeated problematic behaviours may be one area you are trying to influence and change in your child, but what about the attitudes of their heart and mind? Attitudes that reveal a weakness; anxieties that govern choices; ways of thinking that are erroneous; these are equally deserving of our patient attention. Yet, can be a source of discouragement and frustration for parents, when after careful discussion and coaching they still persist. 

I have one such challenge: My 14 year daughter has struggled with friendship and bullies throughout the 9 years of being at school. The continual anxiety of wanting to fit in and be liked, has seen her swing from great heights to even greater lows depending on her perceived acceptance by peers. The time spent deep in conversation assuring her that her worth isn’t in the opinions of others, rather that her worth comes from a great God who made her and loves her and has saved her, has been significant, and at times emotionally draining. Nevertheless, we still are having these conversations. She still makes unwise friend choices at times, she still worries about free-dress days and what to wear, she still puts enormous stock into the opinions of her peers. 

There are times when, in exasperation, I want to say, “Just get over it! Forget about what other people think. I’ve told you before…” However, her anxieties are real and it’s important that my response seeks to support and encourage, rather than make her feel stupid or immature. My frustration is a reflection of my own erroneous belief that it is wholly in my power to change her…so why can’t I?  

I do believe that children learn by example. Everything you say and do is absorbed; they are watching and listening. I read recently that by the teenage years, your children will know how you feel about most things; they’ve been listening and observing for 13 years. So what you say and do does matter; they are indeed listening! Being patient and persistent is worth it; so don’t give up.

However, don’t be surprised when they do the opposite to what you say; claim they didn’t hear, or just forgot; when they get the same thing wrong a million times. Remember, they are still kids. Showing our kids respect, patience and grace encourages their learning and growth. I often say to my kids, “You are fortunate you have a mother who cares.” It’s because I care, that I continue my coaching, regardless of the emotional cost. 

I am also encouraged that it’s not entirely up to me as to how my children ‘turn out’. Ultimately, my children are God’s children. It is wholly in his power to be at work in their lives. He loves them, even more than I do. Gigi Graham Tchividjian says in her book Mother’s Together,You will never be the perfect mother. God is the perfect parent; and he still has trouble with his kids.” God is my loving heavenly father: patient, forgiving and merciful. He asks me to look to him for guidance and strength. On those days when I am totally surprised by my children’s behaviour and lack of maturity, I can remember how patient and loving God is towards me, and so be encouraged to keep on being patient and loving towards them. 

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4 vs 16-18

Photo by: Alex Motrenko