For parents, exercising patience is not easy. Your children will not always follow your instructions, appreciate your efforts, or prioritize your deadlines. They will generously provide you with frustrating circumstances.
In order to remain patient, it helps to consider what the situation might look like from other viewpoints. Much like the first footprint questions from a previous post, what follows are some questions to help you explore perspectives. Unlike the first footprint questions, however, these “What’s in My Mirror” questions don’t inform how the child might behave; they inform what kind of person you are.
A mirror reflects back your own identity—these questions offer different perspectives to help you get a clear picture.
What’s in my mirror?
Companies sometimes install large mirrors behind their customer service desks.[i] They do this so that when their staff are visited by irate customers, the customers have a direct view of their own behavior. Angry customers, they have found, are less likely to shout, become aggressive, and exhibit ugly behavior when they can see themselves doing it. Now try to imagine a mirror positioned opposite you as you are about to lose your composure. How would you look? Now go one step further, and imagine it to be a one-way mirror with a camera behind it, recording every moment. If the footage were to be broadcast for all to see—your friends and family, your neighbors and coworkers—how would you look to them? Would you be proud of your management of the situation?
If I saw another parent doing this, what would I think?
Imagine a specific parent you know, one you respect, doing what you are tempted to do. Does the behavior suit your image of that parent? Would it change your image of that parent? Now try it again imagining a parent you don’t respect. Does the behavior suit your image of that parent?
If my child could broadcast a message to his friends (and mine) today, what would it say?
What would he say about his own perceptions, motivations, and fears? Will he misrepresent your motives because he does not understand them? How would you feel reading that tweet (or any other form of mass communication), and knowing that people you respect are also reading it?
If my child is able to remember this day, how will he reflect on it as an adult?
What impact will it have on his behaviors, his abilities, his confidence, his relationships? Will he have any memories of the infraction, or only of your outburst? If he were to write an article about the day’s events, what would it say? How would you feel reading that article?
How would I handle this if it were someone else instead of my child?
Imagine the grown-up version of this situation, and someone else (your spouse, a colleague, a friend) is the offender. Maybe they left a chore undone, forgot to file a report, or didn’t return a text. Would you treat them in a similar way to how you are tempted to treat your child right now? What would it say about you if you did?
How would I like someone to handle a similar situation with me?
Imagine, again, the grown-up version of this situation, but this time you are the offender—the one who left a chore undone, forgot to file a report, or didn’t return a text. How would you like it if your boss or your spouse treated you the way you are about to treat your child? How would you feel about that person afterwards?
Use these perspective questions any time you feel an urge to blow up in anger, to yell, to insult, to coerce, to dismiss, or to disapprove. Pick one that resonates with you, or create your own “What’s in My Mirror” question. Use it to consider how your contemplated behavior would reflect upon you.
How have perspective questions helped you to see more clearly?
[i] Navarette, Sergio. “Setting up your leasing office for success.” EzineArticles. Accessed July 28, 2015. http://ezinearticles.com/?Setting-Up-Your-Leasing-Office-For-Successandid=3011216.
How to Properly Cite this Article: Brian Vondruska, “Questions to Build Patience”, The Kind of Parent You Are, accessed [date], https://www.thekindofparentyouare.com/articles/patience.