My daughter turned three this summer and anyone who has experienced the joys of spending 24/7 with a three year old is probably cringing… then smiling… because as much terror as they can cause, with the right outlook and enough patience, they can be a lot of fun.
However, patience doesn’t come easily. Everyday is a test. Here are ten things that have made it possible for me to grasp the concept of patient parenting.
1. Make time for Yourself
This is important! It helps keep you sane… believe me. I spend an hour a day on myself not thinking about my daughter, or housework, or other errands that need doing. I do things like yoga classes that allow drop ins, and a gym membership at the community center (our center only charges $32 monthly). Do what you enjoy. It doesn’t need to be a commitment because kids make those types of things stressful. Just an hour a day that is yours will do the trick. Those moments alone are special and do a lot towards building patience.
2. Surround yourself with Friends
Motherhood can be isolating at times and I know when I lock myself in a house with a three year old for too long it is damaging to my sanity. Having another mother who parents in a complimentary way is helpful and stress relieving. A good friend and I spend a lot of time together and we co-parent as a result. It’s refreshing having someone to talk to, especially someone who can relate to the hardships and joys of motherhood.
3. Get Outside
When my daughter was first born I would take walks with her in her carrier daily. It helped calm me after a frustrating diaper change or a painful breastfeeding session. I still look forward to those walks now that she is three. On walks I am free from all the household distractions and I can have conversations with her and make her feel important. Whether its around the neighborhood or at a state-park, a walk with your child is a healthy way to stay patient and relaxed.
4. Acknowledge mistakes
It’s okay to be wrong. Your kids will respect you more for admitting it than they will for you ignoring it. Like when you misplaced something and blamed your little one for it (despite their protests of innocence), and then found it ten minutes later. You owe it to yourself and your child to acknowledge this mistake. Lead by example.
5. Look for the upside
Some days I wake up to a screaming child who, in the course of an hour, hits me, throws yogurt in my face and pees her pants. Those days it is hard to think positively let alone look for the upside. The only way I keep myself from turning on Netflix, throwing a bag of Kit Kats in the bedroom and running away (that may or may not have happened) is by laughing. Chasing the baby and turning her power play into a fun game of tag saves both our days. Try not to be so serious all the time.
6. Despite their small size kids feelings are just as big as yours
NOOOOOO MMMOOOOMMMMYYYY!!!!! That whine is enough to make me see red and erase the rational thought process from my mind. I revert back to a three year old’s problem solving capacity. Spank. Yell. Cry. Not exactly shinning moments in the quest to teach my daughter how to communicate without whining. I remember her feelings are just as big as mine and just as important, regardless of her ability to communicate them effectively. A child that feels understood is more patient, more confident and has more trust.
7. Its not all about teaching, its about learning too
We have a Wonderwall. It’s an idea I found on Pinterest. The concept is simple – a large piece of butcher paper, stack of sticky notes and a pen. My daughter will ask a question like “what are stars made of?” and though I want to tell her they are made of kitten dust and mommy kisses, I stop myself. Instead I write it down on a sticky note and put it on the Wonderwall. Every night we answer a question together. Life is one big learning experience for both of us. Everyday brings something new, and everyday she changes. The only way I can keep up with her is by letting her teach me who she is through the things that interests her and piques her curiosity. I have learned so much being a mother.
8. Your way isn’t the only way
Listening to your child will go a long way towards making your day run smoothly. You want to take Johnny to the park and he wants to go, but so does his superhero collection. Two choices, find a bag or box and safely seat belt them in next to Johnny, OR say “no we are leaving now,” drag a screaming Johnny to the car, and admonish him for not being more appreciative of park time. Fun turns into not so fun. Sometimes kids know what is best for them and remembering to listen can make life a little easier.
9. The only thing you should compare is prices not children
My daughter is a beautiful, smart and sweet natured girl and I hear a lot from friends and family how “perfect she is.” However, that did not stop me from comparing her to other kids at first. I passed judgment on those that fell short of her achievements and felt insecure when she fell behind others. Kids are unique. You do yourself and your child a disservice when you compare them. Love them instead, for who they are, and praise them for the many wonderful things they can do.
10. Put away the camera and enjoy the moment
I know it is hard to resist capturing every second of your husband and daughter playing at the park, but all that posing for Facebook is tiring for your tot and your husband. Have some fun and play pirates instead and give yourself and your family the gift of a flash free trip to the park.