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How to be more patient with your children

Published: Saturday, March 15, 1997

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I am the mother of four very strong-willed children and have learned a few things from my own failings in this area. I have, however, learned the most about patience from my Father in Heaven.

- Love our children. Jesus commanded us to love one another. Sometimes we are caught up in the events of the day, allowing things to interfere with our love for our children.- Respect their moral agency. We have a tendency to become dictators in our own homes. Heavenly Father gave us moral agency. We must learn to direct our children without taking away their agency.

- Have personal scripture study. Scripture study tempers us and fills us with the Spirit, allowing us more patience.

- Pray for help. When patience is wearing thin, stop and pray. Don't ever forget to pray.

- Listen to the Spirit. Pause after those prayers and wait until the Spirit prompts us what to do.

- Have a forgiving heart. It is important to be able to forgive our children and ourselves. Never be afraid to say, "I'm sorry." - Tammy L. Preston, Council Bluffs, Iowa

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What we did:

Self-control in own life

My wife and I are continually confronted with issues that require us to moderate, counsel, correct or discipline as the situations require. I often have overreacted in these cases and have had to frequently go back and apologize for my harsh words and actions.

Over the years, I have come to understand that these outbursts were not at all due to a lack of patience with my children. The real issue was a broader one of self-control in my own life. I was wrestling with personal issues, as we all do. When I was making correct choices and striving to improve, I had confidence in myself and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that allowed me to deal patiently and effectively with my boys. When I was at odds with the Spirit in my own life, I found it extremely difficult to counsel and guide my sons.

I was expecting my children to be obedient to me, but was unwilling to make the same commitment to the Lord. - Greg Lenz, Lenexa, Kan.

Read Book of Mormon

For the past six months, I have found myself losing my patience more frequently. I have two children, and I know I want more, but I feared that I would never be able to handle it. Every day, I prayed for more patience and love. My answer was always the same: read the Book of Mormon with your children. I didn't want to because my kids are 5 and 2 and would lose interest so fast. Then I remembered that we have the illustrated stories from the Book of Mormon. Each day, we read just one chapter. Even though it takes just 10 minutes, at the most, I have noticed a greater spirit in our home. When I start feeling stressed and impatient and wanting to scream, I say, "Book of Mormon time!" My anger quickly leaves and there is peace in my home once again. Now my son asks me, "When are we going to have Book of Mormon time again, Mom?" - Shelly Rose, Bothell, Wash.

Have retreat plan

If tempted to strike a child, have a retreat plan, even if it is to lock yourself in the bathroom and pray. Don't put off getting help for yourself if there's any chance you might be impatient due to health problems and psychological difficulties.

Choose adoration and love over shame and belittlement; sincere appreciation over perfectionistic expectations; a good relationship with faith, hope and charity, over "un-Christlikeness," unforgiveness and unkindness. - Beverly Needham, Simi, Calif.

Focus on children

When I am impatient with my children, I usually find that I am centered on myself - my needs, my plans, my desires. To become more patient, I have to focus on each child in ways such as the following: Listen to their ideas and stories. Spend time with them doing things they enjoy. Express appreciation for a child's efforts. Pray for the Spirit to help me see and meet their needs, especially the more easily overlooked emotional and spiritual needs.

Impatience is usually a sign that you're trying to do too much. Do less and use the time to enjoy your children. Instead of losing patience, try to redirect a child's attention to a mutually acceptable alternative or use impromptu games, songs and stories as a distraction.

Patience is a Christlike attribute that we must diligently and earnestly pray for. (See Moro. 7:45, 58.) - Donna Hiatt, Ephrata, Wash.

Each is a child of God

Being patient with your children starts at the heart of the gospel. If you know that each of your children is a child of God - a literal son or daughter of our Heavenly Father - and realize the greatness which that entails and then work to remember that fact, being patient will come much easier.

Things that help me are to have morning prayer and scripture study before I start my day. By doing so, I invite the Spirit to be with me during my day. Another thing that helps is to have pictures of the Savior around my home. This helps remind me of Him and, therefore, helps me act more like Him.

In addition, I suggest that if you feel upset with your child, take a second and ask yourself, "What would Jesus Christ do if He were here? What would He say?" - Denita Truscott, Sandy, Utah

`Judge not'

I try to recall, " . . . Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged." (3 Ne. 14:1-2.)

I try to put myself in his/her place. What are his/her motives for the annoying behavior? How does he/she feel? How has my behavior (or others') contributed? Am I expecting too much for his/her age?

Remember, children are all different, like us. They find different things harder or easier. - Clare Baker, Devon, England

Goals of misbehavior

I re-learned something I studied in a parenting class 10 years ago. There are generally specific goals of misbehavior (such as attention, power or curiosity) and by identifying the goal of my son's behavior, I can best know how to react. If it is simply a matter of curiosity, and the behavior is harmless, I let him test it out. By my not calling attention to the behavior, he usually gives it up on his own. If the behavior is dangerous or undesirable, I try distraction. If the goal of his behavior is attention, I ask myself whether or not I should be giving him more of my time.

When I am able to see things from his perspective and evaluate the goals of his behavior, it is much easier for me to be patient with him. - Laura Newman, Casper, Wyo.

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How to checklist:

1. Pray for patience; remember they are children of God.

2. Study scriptures, especially Book of Mormon.

3. Be willing to apologize if you overreact; be humble.

4. Have retreat plan for self; get professional help, if needed.

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WRITE TO US:

March 29 "How to place people above tasks."

April 5 "How to help children benefit from general conference."

April 19 "How to break the habit of being late."

April 26 "How to organize your finances and the paying of bills."

May 3 "How to feed a family on a limited budget."

May 10 "How to cope with a compulsive disorder."

- Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to help young people show respect for authority in school," "How to unleash the personal impact of scripture study in your life," "How to overcome obstacles to serving a mission as a retired couple."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2121 or use internet E-mail: forum@desnews.com. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.