"How do you have patience with children?" I'm constantly asked this from mothers of young children whom I teach. Sometimes it's a rhetorical question but just this week, the mother waited for me to answer her.
This got me thinking because I didn't want to say the usual "don't get upset", "don't react" or "remain calm". These are things that people already know. It's what happens when you're in the midst of a situation - how do you remain calm, how do you not react? This mother, I'm sure, was looking for strategies to remain calm and to not react.
O you who believe, seek help through patience and prayer. Verily Allah is with the patient. (Quran 2:153)Before we look at strategies, let's turn to the tafsir to see what patience is. According to the tafsir of Ibn Kathir of the above ayah, there are three types of patience:
1. When doing acts of worship and obedience, even when it is hard.
2. When avoiding prohibitions and sins, even when one desires it.
3. When faced with afflictions and hardships.
Parenting can fall into any of these categories. So when you find yourself in a fiddicult situation with your child where it's hard to control yourself from lashing out and doing something prohibited and it's hard to behave with kindness, this is when patience is needed. Or when there's a hardship involving your child, yes patience is also needed.
Identifying Your Parenting Triggers
To be able to remain calm and mindful, you'd need to recognise the triggers that would disturb this. Think back to the times that you were upset with your child, what was it about it that made you upset?
Below are some triggers that you might be able to identify with.
1. Time Pressures
- leaving the house late because your child wouldn't get ready or takes too long
- your child constantly asking you questions when you're busy cooking, cleaning or doing work
- your child turns up late for pick up
- you're hungry or tired
- your child interrupts you
- something doesn't work eg vacuum cleaner
3. Dishonesty & disappointment in your child
- your child forgets to tidy up after he'd promised
- your child fails to help you with the shopping bags when she said she would
- your child makes up a lie to get out of doing his chore
4. Threats to your self-esteem
- getting insulted or disrespected by your child
- making a mistake in front of your child
- getting rejected by your child
5. Unfair treatment
- your child blames you for letting him down
- your child accuses you of being unfair
- you have to clean up your child's mess
Dealing with Parenting Triggers
Once you know your triggers, you can better prepare for it by using some coping strategies. There are different strategies to use to deal with your triggers.
1. Calming Strategies
These strategies seek to calm the nervous system by bringing the body back to a relaxed state. When the body is relaxed then logical thinking can take place.
- deep breathing - breathing in slowly through the nose and filling up the diaphragm with oxygen then releasing it slowly out the mouth can quickly calm the body.
- tense and relax muscles - tensing and releasing a particular muscle will help the rest of the body release tension as well. It will also remind you what it feels like to relax. You can tense and release any muscles. For example, clench the fists. Hold. Release.
- massage - there’s no question that a massage will ease tension. Give yourself a quick neck or temple massage.
2. Cognitive Strategies
These strategies bring calmness to the mind. When the mind relaxes so will the body. It can be through visualisation or retraining the thoughts.
- imagery - Floating Balloon: Imagine you’re holding a helium balloon. Put your anxious thoughts inside the balloon. Let go of the string and watch as the balloon floats away into the sky and eventually disappears.
- affirmations - Affirmations are positive sentences that, when it is repeated often enough, will make you believe and feel it. This is the purpose of affirmations – to change your thoughts to positive ones and thereby changing how you feel and how you behave.
I am calmer with every second.
I breathe in calm and breathe out anxiety.
Like the others, this too will pass.
I am strong and can get through this.
Allah will help me through this.
- One strategy that I use is positive self-talk. When something goes wrong, I stop the negative thoughts by telling myself that "it's ok, it's done and can't be undone" and "it's a hassle but I can get through this." When negative thoughts escalate that's when you get angrier and angrier and tend to react out of that anger. If you can stop the train of negative thoughts then you can remain calm.
3. Spiritual Strategies
Islam means peace so practicing some of the spiritual aspects of Islam will bring a calmness to the body and soul.
- Recite Quran - And We send down of the Qur’an that
which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the
wrongdoers except in loss. (Quran, 17: 82)
- Do dhikr - Those who have believed and whose
hearts find rest by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, in the
remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (Quran, 13:28)
- Make dua - And your Lord said: Invoke Me, I will
respond to your (invocation). Verily, those who scorn My worship, they will surely
enter Hell in humiliation! (Quran, 40:60)
To help you manage your triggers, here is a table where you can track them and find out which strategy will work for you. Download here.