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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teaching Our Children Patience

This post is part of an ongoing series on the Seven Virtues. Practicing the seven  virtues is considered to protect one against temptation from the seven deadly sins,
The seven virtues are Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.

What is Patience?
Patience is a virtue.  I am sure you have heard this expression before. What does being patient mean? Being Patient means being willing to wait. To delay getting something small in order to get something bigger in the end.  So what does that have to do with virtues? As a virtue patience is the counterpoint to the sin of wrath.  Being patient means you resolve conflicts peacefully, without resorting to violence. It means showing mercy and forgiveness to sinners.  Patience means not killing or being violent in any way to any thinking creature; to practice moderation of meat consumption. A patient person creates a  sense of peaceful stability and community, rather than engendering suffering, hostility and antagonism.
We all know the joys of teaching a child how to wait for ice cream, or a birthday, or Christmas. But how do you teach them to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner? Or to show forgiveness and mercy to sinners? How do we as adults create a sense of peaceful stability in our homes?
As a mother and someone who works with kids I go through these lessons every day. Kids get into squabbles every day.
We begin teaching our children as always, through how we act. When you are on the phone with someone, let’s say the electric company, do you talk to them like human beings and empathize with their situation or do lose your patience and dehumanize the person on the other end of the phone? After all, is it their fault the storm took out your power? No they are probably being swamped with calls right now. 
The Aspects of Patience
Resolve conflicts peacefully, without resorting to violence
When you teach your children to resolve conflicts peacefully you are teaching them to work through a problem in a way that does not hurt anyone involved. This means you teach children to resolve disagreements without hurting the other person. You are teaching your child compassion. To care for others, their feelings, to come to solution to a problem without hurting the other person. Think of the toddler that wants a toy and if he does not get it. What does he do? He hits the other kid, or worse yet bites them. How do we deal with a toddler that hits or bites? We teach them how to be gentle. Gentleness is part of patience.
Showing mercy and forgiveness to sinners
How do we teach our children to show mercy and forgiveness?
Remember that game when a kid when bend back another kid’s hand until that kid cried mercy? We are not talking about that sort of mercy here. I am talking about teaching our children to show mercy to others. But first of all what do we mean by mercy? When we are merciful to those who have sinned we forgive offenses willingly. What exactly does that mean? Well let me demonstrate. Let’s say Pumpkin went into PI’s (a teenage girl) room and took out her paints and sketch pads, and then used them. How do you think she should react when Pumpkin says sorry for making the mess and taking her stuff while she was at dance? First lets look at how she is likely to react
  1. yelling and screaming that is my stuff, he has no right to it. He went in my room.
  2. Telling him it was wrong for him to go into her room and take her expensive art supplies, even if it was to make a surprise painting for her.
  3. Forgive him for not realizing that her room is private and that he should ask to use her special paints when we have plenty of paints in our craft closet
To tell the truth if Pi has had a good day I will get response number 2. Most likely Pumpkin had no malicious reason for going into Pi’s room to use her paint. Most likely her paints and paper where more accessible than getting them out of the paint closet, after all he did not want to bother mom to get them and he wanted to do something independently.
How often do we teach our children to say “sorry”? Do we teach them to say “I forgive you?” I have to admit I only do this about 50 % of the time.  Usually the hurt party is not ready to let go of the hurt or transgression.  Lucky for us, as Catholics, we have confession.
It takes time for our kids to learn to forgive trespasses and offenses willingly.  I know that sometimes it is hard for me to forgive people for what they do to me, but I have to remember what Christ said “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Often people will hurt other people without even knowing what they do. Ask yourself when you mother in law hurts you with words, do you forgive her in your heart, knowing that she will probably hurt you again?

Patience is Non-violent
Whoa, this is a big one. Patience is non-violent and does no harm to any living sentient creature. What does that really mean? In a nutshell it means we do not perpetuate violence on man, woman, child, or animal. Think about it. If there was more patience in the world we would not being seeing those commercials for abused animals that make us all cry. I swear every time we see one of those commercials my 7 year old tears up. 
As parents, we have daily opportunities to teach our children that patience is non-violent. I mean how many times a day do your kids ask you the same question? Do you discipline them with a smack? Most likely if you are here, you do not. We are teaching our children the non-violent aspect of patience eve time we interact with our children.
Practice moderation of meat consumption
I find it interesting that patience includes the practice of moderate meat consumption. It seems that patience is the answer to our problem with gluttony also.  How do we teach our children to practice moderate meat consumption? As parents we are the ones who serve our children their food. As Americans, most of us over eat, and we overeat poor quality meat. Meat that is processed and full of hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives. Now I know not everyone can afford to eat grass fed beef, but have you considered how much meat you actually do eat? How much do you spend on meat a week? If you were to take that same amount of money and purchase meat that is humanely grown and processed you could then supplement your protein with other sources such as beans, bone broth, or cheese. 
Creates a  sense of peaceful stability and community
I just love that whole statement above, a sense of peaceful stability and community. Isn’t that what want in your house? I strive to have a peaceful house.  When we create a peaceful environment for our children, one that allows them to grow, they come to expect that as normal, they want to maintain that environment. They learn that it is normal to have a peaceful house. One where people do not yell at each other.  Speaking of yelling, are you a frequent yeller? If you are, what are you teaching your children? It is not peace and patience. Remember our children learn the most by watching how we behave. Children are perfect little mimics, they do and say what we do, not what we say.
 I will admit that this virtue is the one that I have the most trouble with. At times I am a very patient person. I forgive and understand a person’s background. I do not hold it against them when they harm me, but harm one of my children, then the mother bear in me comes out.  I wouldn't even say mother bear is an apt description, because the claws come out.  At times I lose my patience with myself, my children and the person at the store, the customer service rep on the phone. So how do I keep myself patient? I miss admit that for me it helps to eat good food, get plenty of rest and take care of myself. If I don’t find time to nourish myself, mind, body and soul I tend to be a cranky mama. Cranky mama’s don’t have a lot of patience. We are too tired and hungry to patient with anyone. If I make sure I have a good night’s sleep, get some time outside in nature and eat a good breakfast I am am able to weather what the day might bring.  Taking care of yourself and being patient with yourself if the best way to teach your child how to be patient.

this post is linked up with Women Living Well Wednesday

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