Above and beyond, the most common thing people say when I tell them I work with small children is, “You must have so much patience!”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I can be a terribly impatient person. There are times when I do have plenty of patience, but in general I’m not a patient person.
I’ve always had a hard time with this line of thought, and I could never put a finger on why. Through a wonderful conversation with Susan, I think I understand now.
I don’t think that patience is all that important when working with young children. I think what is important is an abundance of empathy and understanding, sprinkled with patience.
Patience is really just a reaction to something you don’t necessarily enjoy. It means you have the ability to keep cool until the thing requiring patience subsides or goes away.
Where’s the enjoyment in that?
I love working with young children because the interactions I have with them are incredibly fulfilling and enriching. I hardly ever feel like I am simply “putting up” with a child. I know that every day, if I take the time, a small child can teach me an incredible life lesson.
Are young children ornery, stubborn, whiny, messy, and foul tempered? Yes, of course; sometimes all of us are all of these things. But dealing with those moments doesn’t just require patience, it requires understanding and empathy.
If you truly feel for a child who is inconsolably crying for her mother, you’ll do whatever you can to ease the pain of separation. Somewhere inside you can empathize with her, knowing you felt that way once as well, or still do. Seeing tears pulls on my heartstrings, and nothing in that reaction comes from an abundance of patience.
There are definitely times it’s necessary to simply bear with a child and allow them to get through whatever it is they’re going through, and this requires a lot of patience. I’ve found it’s much easier to enjoy a child’s personality and quirks by working to understand who he or she is individually.
Improving our empathy and understanding skills could serve us far better than focusing on patience. Wouldn’t everyone be easier to get along with if we were better empathizers?
Thank you to all the wonderful Sunflower families for accepting me so whole-heartedly into your community. I’ve learned so much from you and your children this year. I can’t wait to hit the ground running again in August!
To end the year I’d like to share words with you from a great wise soul I know. A young fellow whose light could fill the moon.
“Wherever you are. Wherever you go. You’ll know the way.” – A, 2011
© Jonathan Iris-Wilbanks and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2011