Please Give Me Patience

Mother writes to daughter about the importance of patience and understanding what your child is really saying.

Dear Kristen,

Having patience is seldom easy in this hurry-up and yet do-it-right-the-first-time world. When I expect too much, too fast, or too right - I give you the message that you're wrong. You aren't fast enough, smart enough, responsible enough, or good enough. Unfortunately, I give you this message in one way or another almost every day. In spite of my good intentions, all too often I find myself scolding, lecturing, yelling, and berating you.

I want you to do what I think you should do, how I want it to be done, and when I believe you should do it. You generally try to oblige, but sometimes you want to do what you think you should do, how you feel it should be done, and when you want to do it. When our expectations clash, you think I'm unfair, unreasonable, and unrealistic while I see you as stubborn, difficult, lazy, a brat!

Recently you brought home a contract outlining what the teacher, student, and parent agree to do in order for each child to succeed at school. We went over it together, discussing what the teacher was agreeing to do, what I agreed to do, and what was expected of you. The first two sections went smoothly. You said you understood what was expected of the teacher and of the parents. I agreed to adhere to the list of actions required of myself as a parent and signed the form. We then began reviewing the list of actions required of you. You agreed to follow the rules, be kind to your fellow students, and to be respectful of your teacher. But you refused to agree to do your best always. "Kristen," I explained, "If you don't agree to do your best, then you can't sign the form because you're not agreeing to follow the terms of the contract."

"Well, I guess I can't sign the contract mom," you concluded. I proceeded to lecture about why it was important for you to do your best. "But I'm not gonna promise to always do my best!" you insisted. We continued to discuss the issue. I reasoned, I coaxed, I lectured, and I scolded. I became frustrated, then irritated. I was very close to being really angry. You wouldn't budge.

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Then the phone rang. I took a few minutes to think, while you chatted with your friend. "Why is she so stubborn, so difficult, so hard?" I wondered (complained) to myself. Then, I asked myself another question, "Do I always do my best?" The answer was an immediate "No." I do my best most of the time, but sometimes I'm in too much of a hurry, not feeling well, too tired, or it's just not that important to me. All of the sudden, I'm able to understand, I think, what you're trying to tell me. I stop seeing you as defiant and rebellious. Maybe you're holding fast and firm because you feel you're right - in spite of my best efforts to make you wrong. This isn't a contest of wills and I don't have to win by making you lose.

When you hang up the phone, I'm ready to listen to you. You share with me that you're willing to do your best most of the time, but that sometimes you won't feel like it. You assure me that you'll always try to do a good job, but that you can't promise that for the rest of the year, every single thing you do will be your very best. I'm not irritated anymore. I finally realize that you're being smarter than I am again. What I was labeling as stubborn, was in fact, honesty. You signed the form only after deciding to inform your teacher that you would agree to everything except for always doing your best. You would promise to do your best most, but not all of the time.

Had the phone not rang, I strongly suspect that I would have lost patience. I would have continued to judge you unfairly, brow beat and criticize you. While I wouldn't have specifically said it, my message to you would have been, "Why do you have to be so stubborn!! You're supposed to do your best always, what's wrong with you? When I was a kid, I would have signed the damned paper!!!" I probably would have shamed you into acquiescing. You would have eventually signed your name, given in, and given up your integrity.

When I was a kid, I would have signed the contract with no questions asked. Would I have always done my best? No way. I'd learned early on though that it's better to be dishonest and keep out of trouble, then to tell the truth and face the wrath of those in authority.

It's so difficult sometimes to be calm and collected, please trust honey that I'm doing my best to be patient most of the time.

Love Mom

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 13). Please Give Me Patience, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 21 from

Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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