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Mac-n-Cheese with Patience PLEASE!!!!

My Friend Debbie      As I sat down at the end of the day and God laid on my heart what to write this month, my stomach got butterflies and my heart began to thump. I knew it was because I needed a reminder. It came about as I was teaching my 2-year-old daughter how to be patient.

     As the kids and I were eating together, my two-year old finished her macaroni and cheese before anyone else. I was feeding our 7-month-old his baby food, which he was gulping down as fast as I could get it on the spoon. The 2-year-old began to whine, "Mommy, I want more macaroni and cheese!"

     Naturally insulted, I responded with the clueless, prideful parent reply, "Well, that isn't how you ask; you need to be patient until I am done feeding your brother."

     Truly, this meant only two minutes, but to a 2-year-old this obviously meant starvation. She began to whine louder, "Mommy, I hungry; I want more macaroni and cheese, please!"

My Friend Debbie      I remembered that my friend Debbie shared with me how to give kids a visual reminder of patience. She simply had her children place one hand on top of the other and look down at their hands while waiting. She told them this is what patience "looks" like. My 5-year-old loved this concept when we learned it, but I didn't know if the 2-year-old would be as fond of the idea. I told her, "Big girls are patient. Can you do this and be patient?"

     She used the hand gesture to humor me and again asked me for more macaroni and cheese. After the second helping, to my surprise, she placed one hand on top of the other and said, "Look, Mommy, I being patient." I interpreted this meant she wanted a third helping and waited a minute before giving it to her.

     When I gave it to her, she had the biggest grin, threw her arms up in the air and said, "Yay! I big girl. I patient!" She was so proud that she waited without whining.

     It was a good lesson for ME. I realized all I needed to do was teach her how to be patient in this situation. Call me clueless but this doesn't come naturally to a 2-year-old. Yet, in my adult mentality, I was insulted by the impatient whining. How judgmental of my own child! All she needed was a little training, and she WANTED to behave patiently. A visual that represented the behavior was the perfect tool. (Thanks Debbie!)

My Friend Debbie      Why did I assume the worst? I am learning that my problem is not the children; it is my own impatience and anger! How ironic. I was impatient with a hungry 2-year-old. Impatience is rooted in pride (Ecc. 7:8). Pride says, "I'm better than you." A child will act as a child. Childish behavior isn't bad; it is just childish and requires training not anger.

Unrealistic expectations

     I find that I often have unrealistic expectations for my children. When these expectations aren't met, I get angry. For example, to expect a hungry 2-year-old not to be impatient can be a goal that I work toward by teaching her in those situations. By keeping my expectations lower than my goals, I am less likely to get angry during the teaching process.

     Children, especially 2- and 3-year-olds, sense their difficulty in controlling themselves. When a parent can provide training to help them, they don't have to be afraid of what might happen. In my daughter's case, this could be totally losing it and screaming uncontrollably until she received more food. Teaching her patience helped her learn "how" to wait

My Friend Debbie      Consider for a moment why the Bible tells us to train our children and discipline them. Could it be because even God expects them to act like children? Yet, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them for of such is the Kingdom of God" (Mark 10:14, NKJV). He also admonished us, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3, NKJV).

     One thing I have observed in my children, even on our worst days, is their response to discipline. They can be corrected all day long and still at the end of the day accept more correction, training, and discipline. This would get mentally and emotionally tiring even for a patient adult! However, little children have something many adults do not: humility and trust. They trust us, their parents.

     I am so convicted as I write this. I know God's mercies are new every morning. Tomorrow is a new day, and my prayer is that God will give me grace to respond to my children with opportunities for training and not anger.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Dorena DellaVecchio, Ph.D.

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