How can I be more patient with my anxious child?

When I heard this question — and I hear versions of it a lot — is what exactly do you mean by that specifically? Are you asking in the moment when you’re getting impatient with your anxious child who’s right there in front of you? Or are we talking big picture? How can I be more patient as we work through our anxiety?

Let’s answer both versions of the question and let’s start with the first one and that’s, you’ve got an anxious child in front of you and you’re feeling impatient. Maybe it’s because you’re trying to get out the door and your child is whining because they’re afraid of whatever’s coming next whether you’re trying to get them to school or to an activity, maybe you’re trying to get them to go to sleep and they don’t want you to leave the room and you’re getting impatient because you really need a break from parenting.

The thing about getting impatient is that there are two things at play here.

One is that we need to remember that when your child is anxious, you’re going to catch their anxiety. You’re going to catch it in part because you’re human and we are meant to catch each other’s anxiety as a way to stay safe.

Anxiety alerts us to danger and so if you’re feeling anxious when your child is anxious, that’s because their body and their energy is alerting you to danger even though there’s no danger there.

And you may feel that as being angry, being irritable, being impatient. So there’s that. You might be catching it from them and that’s normal. That’s part of anxiety.

To that end. I would say that, remember, one of the things we’re trying to teach our children is how to tolerate uncomfortable feelings so we need to tolerate our uncomfortable feelings.

When we’re feeling impatient that’s a really great opportunity to stop and say, oh yeah, this is, this is that uncomfortable feeling I need to learn to tolerate.

Because it’s hard, that’s why we need to practice it.

There are tools that you can do to help bring some more calm (and I’ll mention those at the end of the post because I have an offer for you), but there are tools to create more calm and just as anxiety is catching, so is calm.

As you calm yourself, you’re going to be changing the energy of the interaction between you and your child, which isn’t necessarily going to change how they behave but hopefully we’ll change things for you a little bit.

So there’s that part of impatient when you’re in the moment and you’re feeling impatient.

The other one is more big picture, which is impatience is a really useful parenting tool actually. I know we beat ourselves up a lot for not having the best, most perfect, most greatest calm and patient feelings with our kids.

It’s what we do as parents. But I am a huge believer in your inner wisdom and when you’re feeling big picture impatient with your child, which means, “I’m getting impatient that they never unload the dishwasher. I’m getting impatient because they’re not figuring out how to use the potty. I’m getting impatient because I feel like they’re ready for a developmental milestone!” Part of that is a sign that, yeah, something needs to change.

Your instinct, your impatience tells us that something needs to change. Maybe your child really is ready to grow, and there’s something that’s getting them stuck that needs to be examined, or maybe your expectations are unrealistic and you need to figure out what is realistic to expect of a child at that age.

If you’re not sure whether or not your expectations are developmentally appropriate, it’s pretty easy to find out. You can ask friends who have kids the same age. You can check in with the teacher, the school counselor, a general kid counselor. You can ask the pediatrician and you can look at books. I’ll add that in the child anxiety support membership, we do have a nitty gritty child development course that’s just really quick, easy, almost like information cards that you can just look and say, what’s going on with my kid at this age that could be driving some of this behavior. As kids get older, their, their development gets more and more individualized, which means it’s not like when you know an 18 month old should be doing X, Y, and Z. A nine-year-old is a much more complicated person developmentally than an 18 month old, but there’s still some general things that you can expect of your 9-year old

if you are feeling impatient, that’s one of the first places to look. Instead of saying, what’s wrong with me? Why am I so impatient? What’s wrong with my kid? Why aren’t they behaving first stop and find out, is this a developmentally appropriate expectation? And if it is, then it’s a sign, this impatience that you’re having with your child, that they need your help, they need your help. They’re stuck.

And this is definitely true with anxiety. That’s what we know most about anxiety is that anxiety gets families and gets kids stuck. So naturally you’re going to feel impatient. It’s, it’s sort of how we do an assessment if things are going okay. So don’t beat yourself up about it instead. Say, okay, my impatience is telling me things need to change.

Back to that offer, this is what I want to share with you. I have a quiz at my website. It’s a Parenting Pitfalls quiz. And it’s about that impatience. It’s about that stuckness. The quiz is based on the research that tells us 94 to 99% of families are doing things that get everybody more stuck.

94 to 99% that blows my mind! And that 1 to 6%, frankly, I think we just caught them on a good day. Because if you have an anxious child, chances are you’re going to get stuck periodically. When there’s needs to be new growth, if you’ve got an anxious child, they’re going to get anxious about it.

And they’re going to do things to slow down that growth because it scares them and anxieties about. Unfortunately, as parents we’re trying to help our kids. And instead what we do tends to get them more stuck. We get more impatient, we feel more guilty about it. We feel more stuck because we’re