I have pretty high expectations of my homeschool and I know it. (High is my goal, not unrealistic).
You and I can analyze where those expectations originated or whether my expectations are always realistic, but I’ve settled into them comfortably until some compelling reason not to have high expectations.
I’ve learned to maintain high expectations, but hold them lowly.
What does that mean?
To expect that:
- when I ask for something to get put away, it should get put away now
- when I suggest we begin studies, I want us to actually head to the Great Room for readalosd
- when I’ve told kids not to eat the salami (for pizza night only, thank you!) that it actually doesn’t get eaten
But the salami was eaten.
So I expect that it won’t but I know that it might so I don’t lose my mind when it does. Still, I expect it won’t.
I’m going to the grocery store tomorrow.
I have had plenty of comments over the years suggesting I am patient. Honestly, that comment confounds me. (And I am not exaggerating.)
My children know that when I expect them to follow through with something, I expect it the first time I ask and not long after I’ve asked. Still, my goal is to hold those high expectations, but hold them lowly, so that I am not losing my mind.
Homeschooling enables a lot of patience practice.
In all sorts of ways.
I’ve had lots of practice…
- not to be scoldy (still learning)
- not to yell (still learning that too, though a lot less of the time)
- not to get frustrated when a child doesn’t want to do something fun I planned
When non-homeschoolers comment “I couldn’t possibly homeschool,” I sometimes say, “Yeah, me neither.”
(And I’m not joking, because some days I’m fantasizing about a big yellow school bus.)
Patience is the ability to slowly respond, with intention, when under the presence of challenging behaviours.
Here’s what I’ve learned about practicing patience:
1. You need to identify your triggers.
I am typically quick to be annoyed when one child treats another with unkindness. (Which tells you that I have had many opportunities to practice.)
Disrespect of all sorts triggers me.
To understand why we think as we do, we need to analyze the internal conversations going on in our heads.
2. I need to understand myself.
Personality profile systems like the Meyers Briggs and the Enneagram have helped me understand a lot about my kids’ strengths and challenges, how they’re internally motivated, and how to encourage them toward stronger relationship skills.
It has helped me learn how to enable stronger relationship skills too.
When I understand myself, understand my natural strengths, my natural challenges, I relate increasingly smoothly.
3. I need to understand my kids.
What I’ve learned about my kids:
- I have had to learn that my kids don’t always process or work as quickly as I do when given a list of to-do’s.
- They don’t always learn math concepts as quickly as I explain them.
- Some of them can keep fewer things in their head when given directions.
What I need to learn about my kids:
- I need to learn the dynamics that are at play with them and a sibling when I’m not in the room.
- I need to learn the dynamics when they’re with new people, friends, or other family members.
- I need to learn what they need.
- I need to learn their emotional climates.
- I need to learn who has strong traits in different areas and watch how they help each other or not help each other (which seems more obvious to identify.)
4. I need to observe my family members objectively.
I need to look at my family members through a grid of objectivity.
They are not different from me because they’re trying to make my life difficult; they are just different.
They are not trying to challenge me in the ways I choose to do things; they just do things differently.
5. I need to understand the specific scenario.
I need to get curious about the scenario.
- Ask questions.
- Don’t make assumptions (TOTALLY talking to myself here).
- Patience is choosing the best response to a situation with understanding.
Understanding someone is the goal of relationship.
Understanding forges connection.
Understanding takes a long time.
This is one of the basic building blocks to a healthy relationship with our kids.
But, man, can it be challenging. (You know it too right?)
Since we only see others through the grid of our understanding, learning to see others through their own eyes can be so difficult.
Patience sounds like a demanding word that requires our full physical strength and emotional attention.
When understanding is built, patience arrives.
Impatient feelings arise. What to do?
- Don’t judge your impatience. Be kind to yourself. You’ve learned a ton as a parent. You’re learning today. You’ll always be learning. Let me know when you’ve reached god-sized patience. Until then, remind yourself: we are ALL learning.
- Practice presence. Mindfulness is my new mantra because it helps us identify what’s happening in our interior world so we can respond on purpose in our exterior world. Spend daily moments listening to yourself. When we practice presence, sit, focus on our breath, we find a profound therapy. Definitely the cheapest therapy. Possibly the hokiest. If you haven’t tried your vegetables, though, how do you know whether you like them or not? So try your mindfulness vegetables.
- Acknowledge your feelings and identify why your feelings are present. For reasons that still confound me, the mere act of acknowledging feelings often dissipates their intensity. Once we come to accept that we feel things, comfortable and uncomfortable feelings, triggered by things that we may or may not want to be triggered by, we can allow them to rise to the surface, accept them in all their struggle, their beauty, their honesty.
- Observe yourself. Why do you feel what you feel? Why does it get under your skin that your kiddo won’t grasp that math concept? Sometimes it is purely because we need to learn about learning, how kids process concepts, but sometimes our expectations might be unrealistic, or perhaps we assume the worst and futurize: “She won’t sit down and apply herself; she’ll never learn.” Or you want to make sure that when grandma asks about math, your child sounds like she’s at the same level as her same-aged peers. Oh so many possibilities why something affects us.
- Observe your reaction. Identify what you might say. How do you want to respond to that? If you have ever had a moment you have said, or at least have thought, “I’ve told you a thousand times,” then it’s 998 times past the point that you could have visualized that scenario, recreated that scenario and planned another way of responding to it.
- Recognize feelings as transient. Your feelings and thoughts pass through like weather systems. They come, they go, sometimes they’re predictable, sometimes they’re not, but an emotional climate always exists. The emotional climate of our souls is never ‘non-existent’.
- Proactive prevention. Anticipate the impatient moments. You’re trying to work on a project, like finishing the kids’ scrapbook, or embroidering a pillowcase, or writing a book. You need your full mental attention for your activity. Interruptions blow your creative energy. Plus, you’ve been with your kiddo all morning. But you homeschool. You have children. Because you’re right there, they’ll interrupt. Unless you have taught them not to. Teach boundaries. (and expect to do it regularly).
- Diffuse tension. Expect that there are many moments that you hadn’t been proactively planning. Life is like that. Much to learn. No end to learning. Regularly diffuse your tension with short bursts of robust activity, like a walk around the block, ten minutes on the elliptical or dance breaks at lunchtime, jumping on the treadmill, running the dog up and down the driveway a few times. Find something you like to do and get moving. Those endorphins are your patience facilitators.
- Breathe, breathe and breathe again. I know you don’t need to be told to breathe. If you’re alive, you’re doing it, without intention. Slow, deep breaths that slow your respiratory and cardiac systems, which slow your fight or flight reactions, which release endorphins, even relieving aches and pains.
- Teach your kids mindfulness. During morning circle time, practice patience building exercises. Lovingkindness meditations, quiet prolonged prayers of goodness towards others, deep breathing exercises. No overnight miraculous transition from sibling rivalry to Buddhist yogic retreat found in a daily mindfulness practice though. Just life-long patience boosting practices that will facilitate greater internal skill for them for a lifetime.
- Interrupt your internal narrative. When you feel impatient, stop, take a deep breath, ask yourself what is getting to you right now? Reframe the internal narrative. What is the story that you’re telling yourself that has you riled up? Is the story true? Are you 100% certain that it’s true? Could there be a different perspective? If it isn’t true, if there could be another explanation for their behaviour, perhaps you could approach it from a different perspective and get a different reaction or response.
- Brainstorm five possible outcomes. What possible ways COULD you respond? One of them might rise as the best choice. Your opinion of that choice might change over time. But right now, what is the best choice?
- Use your ‘best self’ patience practices. Practicing patience on my best days, conjuring my best self, I stop mid-sentence, walk to my room, lay on my yoga mat and practice deep breathing exercises, walk up and down the driveway, or sit with a soothing guided meditation and then come back to the challenging scenario with intention, instead of reaction.
- Act from your best self. Do the thing you know is the best thing to do. (Not necessarily the thing you feel like doing.) Do that thing from your best person, from the best you.