A friend of mine wanted me to help him with a project. We met and talked about what might work, but we didn’t agree on what to do. I told him, “Why don’t you give more thought to what you’d like to do, and we can meet again to nail down the details.” It was a good ending to our meeting.
But that was over a month ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. Not a word.
I realized that I was feeling annoyed by his silence. I had invested time with him to share ideas and offer support, and he didn’t have the consideration to stay in touch.
And then I realized something important: I had no idea what he was thinking or what was going on in his life. He may very well have good reasons for delaying contacting me. I had no way of understanding his situation.
All I could do is be tolerant and patient. And this worked. I was no longer irritated. No more stress-producing anger. Unable to know what he would do or why, I could ask him about it, or I could simply stop being concerned about it. Take the attitude of what will be, will be.
I also had the insight that tolerance and patience could be even more helpful to parents than they are to me. The two behavior patterns are similar but not exactly the same:
- Tolerance: accepting and enduring something unexpected, inconvenient, or bothersome, such as the behavior of another person.
- Patience: accepting delay without complaining or becoming angry.
When your child isn’t doing what you hoped they would do, or even what you asked them to do, you could easily react the same way I did: with annoyance, irritation, and anger. But they may have their own good reasons for not meeting your expectations. You can’t know the mind of your child, which works very differently from the mind of an adult. They can take longer to think something through. They may come to different conclusions as to what works best for them. It isn’t easy to always do the good, right thing.
The best a parent can do is to give them the benefit of the doubt. Ask about it, then listen to understand.
Parent: “You said you were going to do your own laundry, but you aren’t doing it.”
Child: “I know. I forgot I was supposed to do it.”
Parent: “I understand. You intend to do it, but it’s not a habit yet. It’s not something you’re used to doing.”
Tolerance and patience always trumps annoyance, irritation, and anger.
If you’d like to know more about connecting with your child in a more intimate, lasting way, try reading my book, Connect with Your Kid: Mastering the Top 10 Parent-Child Communication Skills.