How to Be More Patient with Your Kids EVEN When You’re Stressed

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They say that kids are a blessing.

And they truly are.

Having four of my own over a five year period (no twins, ps)… I can attest to this. They are ages 5, 7, 9 and 11… and they are my world. 

I love watching their personalities develop. I love hearing them laugh. I love homemade presents. I love how they still call me “pretty” and want to cuddle at night… sometimes they even let me kiss them in public.

But….

C’mon, you knew it was coming.

I don’t love when they fight. Or when they throw tantrums. I don’t love when they say “I’m the worst”… or when I have to call them for dinner at least five times because they are engrossed in technology.

I don’t love picking up clothes from their bedroom floors constantly, making four beds or carrying down multiple loads of laundry each day.  You know, the things they are capable of doing themselves.

I especially don’t love these things when I’ve had a bad day, or am feeling stressed.

And If I’m being honest, I am stressed a lot dealing with four young kids who are best friends one minute… and enemies the next. 

But stress is not good. For anyone.

In fact, I often reiterate to my kids that our behavior has a domino effect.

For instance, if I wake up grumpy… I project negativity out there. My husband likely follows suit. We bicker. Then we snap at the kid who spills their orange juice. She cries. Then her brother defends her and yells at us.

Within minutes, everyone’s mood is shot.

Being stressed not only takes its toll on one’s body and mind, but it’s not healthy for those around you.

If you’re stressed… you're not your best self. Plain and simple.

So, like many of my fellow parents, I needed to figure out how to be more patient with kids… even when I’m stressed.

If you think you’d benefit from this too, keep reading.

In this article, I will offer 9 actionable steps you can take to get your head right and master the art of being more patient.

Step #1: Breathe, Whisper Positive Mantras

Much of life’s day-to-day stress can be solved with some deep breathing and happy thoughts.

As a bonus, deep breathing increases lung capacity and releases more oxygen to the brain… which helps you think more clearly and function at a higher level.

When you’re functioning at a higher level, you tend to be more rational. More calm.

If you are feeling stressed around your kids, walk away and find a place to close your eyes for a few moments and take deep breaths. Count your inhale and slowly exhale for the same number of seconds.

Afterwards, you can whisper or silently repeat positive mantras to help bring things into perspective. Things like:

  • I’m only human
  • I’m doing the best I can
  • I am a firm, but loving parent
  • This too shall pass
  • It’s not about me
  • They need me to guide them
  • I set the tone
  • I am the example
  • I am a positive influence in their life
  • I make my kids feel safe

Depending on how old your children are, you may not be able to escape to the bathtub or bedroom to do this. Instead, you may try and practice this while throwing in a load of laundry… or making their lunches for school.

Your kids won’t be any the wiser as they watch what appears to be you going about your typical day.

There’s no need to make a production… just make time to breathe.

Step #2: Investigate Your Child’s Behavior

Many people believe that everything happens for a reason.

Similarly, a child’s behavior and actions often happen for a reason. And many times that reason isn’t what you think.

A child lashing out at you, for example, may actually have nothing to do with you. Perhaps they are having trouble with another child at school? Or got a bad grade on a test?

Maybe they are starting to experience hormonal shifts that they don’t recognize, causing a change in their moods?

Whatever it is, before losing your cool next time, try taking a step back and observing your child’s behavior.  Don’t react right away, but instead try to gather information.

Remember… this isn’t about you.  It is not your stress to take on.

Ask them about their day.

Or if anything interesting happened to them or someone else?

If they don’t feel much like chatting, try diffusing the situation by turning their attention to something else.

Suggest you go for a walk together… or have a bowl of ice cream. Or maybe they want to play with a friend in the park for a while?

Eventually, they will talk.

And when they do, you will both be in a much better place to make it a productive conversation… without the raw emotions getting in the way.

Step #3: Empathize

Empathy is a wonderful lesson to teach your child.

But in order to do that, you need to practice what you preach.

Being empathetic can go a long way when trying to tame your stress, while putting out the fires surrounding your kids.

Instead of wanting to pull your hair out because your toddler is screaming about not wanting to take a nap… try sympathizing and putting yourself in their shoes.

Tell them that you understand why they think it’s unfair. You can even offer up some reasons, such as:

  • You think you’ll miss out on something fun if you nap
  • You won’t feel like going to bed at night
  • You want to keep playing or watching
  • You’re hungry

Next, explain your reasons for wanting them to nap. Things like:

  • Rest keeps you healthy
  • Napping helps you to grow
  • You’ll get to stay up a bit later tonight
  • I need to get some work done while you sleep, so I can spend more time with you when you wake up

The empathy trick doesn’t just work on young kids… it can do wonders for your relationship with older children as well when you’re trying to get a grasp on how to be more patient with kids.

Situations like establishing a curfew for your child, or grounding them for something, can also be handled with less stress on your end if you try playing the empathy card.

Nine times out of ten, once you’ve made the effort to empathize with your child and talk things out, you’ll reach an amicable solution that doesn't involve yelling. 

This approach tells kids that you are actively listening to what they have to say and acknowledging their feelings. It also lets them know how the situation makes you feel, which makes the relationship more honest. 

Step #4: Put Yourself in “Time Out”

If you’ve tried your best to remain calm and just aren’t having any luck… it’s perfectly acceptable to put yourself in “time out”.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase… “time out” is a disciplinary method used by parents, in certain situations, to remove their child from where their misbehavior occurred.  For instance, if they hit their sister while playing blocks in the living room, the child may be sent to a corner in the dining room to think about what they did.

When putting your adult self in “time out”,  you’ll likely announce to your kids that you’re not in a good place to handle things right now and are going to behave badly if you don’t take a break.

For younger kids, you can  try saying something like, “Mommy doesn’t want to yell at you, so I’m going to go sit quietly for a few minutes and think about things”.

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It’s perfectly acceptable to put yourself in “time out” if you've tried your best to remain calm.

You can even ask them where they think you should go. That, or sit in their “time out” space… if your family has one. 

Obviously, this won’t work as well on older kids; but, you can still let them know you “need a minute” and are going to take a walk or sit someplace quiet for a while. 

However you choose to approach it, the object here is to make it clear that they aren’t to disturb you (barring an emergency) until you’re ready to talk.

Step #5: Play Hide and Seek… Don’t Get Found Right Away!

Younger kids will love this step when you’re trying to figure out how to be more patient with kids.

If you find yourself in a situation where you feel your blood pressure rising, diffuse it fast with a classic game of hide and seek.

Get the kids involved and find a really great hiding spot… one they won’t find for at least five or ten minutes.

While you’re hiding, try to channel your inner child and have a little fun! You can also incorporate some breathing exercises or yoga poses to center yourself.

The look on your kids faces when they find you can do wonders for your mood too!

If you have older kids, the grown up version of hide and seek can be as simple as going to your bedroom and locking the door… or sitting in your car, listening to the radio.

You may even want to put a “do not disturb” sign up if you have one.


Wherever you choose to “hide”, they’ll get the message that you’re not looking to be found anytime soon. 

Step #6: Exercise

When fitness experts and doctors rave about the benefits of exercise, they aren’t just talking about the physical side of things. They will often make reference to the positive effect exercise can have on your mood, stress levels and mental health as well.

Exercise increases endorphins, which is proven to decrease anxiety.

Regular exercise will likely give you more self confidence and allow you to start thinking more clearly,  once the blood starts flowing to the brain.

This is why exercise is one of the key ingredients in your commitment to determine how to be more patient with kids.

If you’re stressed and looking for release, or some other outlet to take it out on other than your children, try going for a walk or jog. Doing so costs nothing… other than a good pair of shoes. And saving money is another way to cut down on stress.

Biking and swimming are other fairly inexpensive hobbies, and also low impact. So if you’re worried about hurting yourself, this should alleviate that fear.

Yoga and pilates are also wonderful forms of exercise… and can often be done at home if you don’t want to pay for a studio or gym membership.

Whichever activity you prefer, the important thing is to make time for it.  Your mental and physical health are worth every second… and your kids will benefit from your happier self as well!

Step #7: Tag Your Spouse, Friend, Family Member or Neighbor to Help Out

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try and remember this: YOU ARE NOT A SUPERHERO.

Your kids may think you are. And you may want to believe that you are… but you’re only human. You can only do so much and take so much.

If you’re having a rough day, there is no shame in calling in the troops for some backup.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  This is so very true.

Your significant other, closest family and friends, neighbors… these people are in your life to support you. They are committed to helping you in times of need, listening when you need to talk and giving you time away when you need to decompress.

The best part is… they expect nothing in return because they know you’d do the same for them.

If you feel your blood pressure rising, take a step back and ask for help.

You can ask someone to watch the kids for a while while you get out for an hour or two. Or arrange to drop your child off for a play date at a friend’s house.

Nobody will think any less of you for acknowledging that you need some time to yourself to regroup… especially when you come back a “new” person, ready to tackle the day ahead!

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Step #8: Forgive Yourself

Let’s be realistic… there will be days when you will lose it and yell at your kids.

It is inevitable.

Days when emotions will creep up on you… the ones you never saw coming because they’ve been building up for so long.

If you don’t manage your stress properly on a daily basis, it will eventually catch up to you in a not so flattering display of behavior.  This I promise.

Been there, done that.

So, when this does happen… you’ll need to forgive yourself.

Tell yourself that you’re a good person and a good parent… and you simply didn’t take care of your emotions.

Take a moment to reflect on the good days and special moments with your family. Let yourself acknowledge that this was merely a blip on the radar.

Use your meltdown as a wake up call to take better care of yourself moving forward. Commit to doing whatever it takes to improve your mental well being.

If you feel the need to apologize to your kids, there is no shame in that either. In fact, you can use it as a teaching moment and share with them the importance of self care.

Step #9: Acknowledge What Pushes Your Buttons

I often say to my husband that he knows how to “push my buttons”.

He knows when not to joke because it will set me off… yet, he’ll sometimes do it anyway to get a rise out of me. 

He knows how to leave his folded laundry on a chair in the bedroom for days before putting it into his drawers.

He knows how to join his friends for happy hour after work when I’ve had the worst day with the kids in a long time.

And he loves to use the phrase, “it must be that time of the month”.

Seriously?

Similarly, our kids know how to push my buttons as well.

Leaving dirty dishes on the counter, laundry on the floor, the toilet seat up.  Or choosing to fight just when I’m trying to carve out an hour to write in peace.  

These proverbial buttons are things that set you off and put you in a bad mood.

They are your “triggers”… and they are real.  Very real.

We all have them.

PS, I know how to push my husband’s buttons as well.

The good news is… there is a way to beat them.  To diffuse the bomb, if you will.

You can do this by sitting down and making a list of what sets you off… makes your blood boil.

Once you acknowledge your triggers, you can work on making peace with them by taking the necessary steps to change the way you react to those things.

Some tricks you can try may include:

  • Walking away
  • Changing or diverting the conversation
  • Ignore it
  • Start humming or put on your favorite music
  • Go along with it

I’ve actually called out, “laundry party” and thrown my dirty clothes in a pile on the floor… telling the kids to dump their baskets out too! Then we pick everything up and bring it to the laundry room to do together.

This was my way of making a game of the chaos and circumventing my agitation… and in the end, we actually had a good laugh about it, which decreased my stress. 

Find what works for you and harness it!

Final Thoughts on How to Be More Patient with Your Kids EVEN When You’re Stressed

Look… nobody is perfect.

Nobody.

If someone thinks otherwise, they are seriously misguided.

Confident, but misguided.

We are often reminded of just how flawed people we are throughout most of our lives. It’s not a bad thing… it just means that we’re human.

And human beings have free will and tendencies that sometimes result in making bad choices or losing sight of what really matters.

The important thing to remember is that you can always make better decisions and change your course.

As a parent, you’ve chosen to devote yourself to raising these little humans. These blank canvases that need to be painted with your wisdom and life experiences.

That is a big job and one that nobody wants to mess up. So it is crucial that you figure out how to be more patient with kids sooner than later, as they are incredibly impressionable at a young age.

By following any or all of the steps here, you will be well on your way to a calmer and happier you… which means that your child’s canvas will be filled with vibrant colors.

If you’re worried that you’ve stumbled onto this article too late because your kids are already older… fear not.

You can seize the opportunity to discuss your feelings with them and speak on their level. Let them see your vulnerable side and assure them that their happiness is your main goal in life… and that it has to start with you being your best self. 

Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.

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How to Be More Patient with Your Kids EVEN When You\'re Stressed