If it’s sometimes hard to be patient with your children — and it is! — it can be even harder to be patient with yourself as a parent.
In the words of St. Paul, "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want" (Rom 7:19).
Like Paul and every other saint, you’re not perfect — not a perfect son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, dad or mom.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good child, sibling, spouse or parent. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a better one.
Part of being better at any of those roles, those vocations, is accepting that sometimes you mess up. But that’s not a reason to beat yourself up.
To quote another saint, Francis de Sales (1567-1622) advised: "Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew."
Here are some suggestions to help you do that:
1. Erase or at least edit the negative "recordings" about you that tend to play over and over in your head: "You always get mad." "Can’t you do anything right?" "There’s no excuse for that." "You’re so stupid," and on and on.
Sometimes they trace their origin to a parent or other authority figure who said things he or she shouldn’t have. Sometimes a person creates them himself or herself, and, sadly, repeats them often.
2. Don’t be in denial about the bad or the good. Humility makes parents realize that they aren’t perfect, and a good kind of pride helps them to remember that, even though they are not perfect, they are doing a good job.
As parents, you do some things right. In fact, you do some things very well. And you can improve in the areas that need improvement.
Simply put, parenting, like all of your life on earth, is a work in progress.
3. Keep learning! The basics of good parenting remain the same, but how they apply to your child at a particular age can really vary. Read solid articles and books on good parenting. Watch helpful videos. Get advice from a friend whose parenting you admire. (You may be surprised to learn that your friend has a much less lofty opinion of his or her own parenting skills.)
4. Remember: The only way you will learn to be more patient with yourself is to be more patient with yourself when you really don’t want to be! As with so many virtues, patience increases and gets stronger each time you use it.
5. Cultivate patience within your household. Point it out when you see it in your children or spouse.
6. Pray about it. Ask for patience when you feel those "recordings," those negative outlooks, gaining force. Pray for patience in calm times. Take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation to ask forgiveness for the times that you failed to be patient, and then accept God’s grace to help you do better.
7. Be patient with yourself about your wanting to be more patient with yourself.
On the Web
More advice from St. Francis de Sales: You’ll find "Daily With de Sales" at www.oblates.org/spirituality/daily_with_desales.
Bill and Monica Dodds are the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver and editors of My Daily Visitor magazine.