You might have read of many ways on how to teach a child to be patient. However, there is one way that experts agree is THE BEST, THE SMARTEST and THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY to teach kids to be patient. It’s called ROLE MODELING.
It’s good to remember that kids hear what you say but follow what you do. Simply said, kids like to copy. For kids who have mums and dads, they’ll naturally copy what their mums and dads do. Because of this, I’d like to share with you what I learnt from my late father about patience. Like you, I have read quite a bit about being patient, but I can vouch that till today, the lessons that I learnt from my late father are the most powerful.
Let me tell you a little bit about my father. The interesting thing about him was that he was rarely around. He was by all accounts an absent father. Well, almost. He was never present during my cousins’ weddings, family get-togethers, family dinners, even funerals of loved ones. About the only time he was home was late in the evening. But even then, he would be so exhausted to talk or entertain his family.
Oh, yes. Other than that, there was Hari Raya, the only time he would make a brief appearance for the entire year. Even then, it was only for a few hours to allow him to go to the mosque for the Eid Prayer. Then he would rush home, change into working gear and get back to work. This was expected of my father. You see, my father was a bus-driver. He had what people call a ‘blue-collar job’. He was paid a minimum wage based on the hour. My father earned so little that be could never afford to take breaks from his job.
Let me share with you two personal stories on how my father taught my siblings and I about patience.
YOU NEED TO BE PATIENT TO GET WHAT YOU WANT
When I was in secondary school, the government introduced the book loan scheme. The only requirement was that, you needed to return the books at the end of the year to the school so the younger students may reuse them. If you’re lucky, you get brand new books. If you aren’t, you get second-hand ones.
I can still recall the day I told my father about this program. I handed him the form. He retorted, “You won’t participate in this program for two reasons. First, if you get second-hand books, the pages might be torn or have scribbles on them. Second, even if you get brand new books, you still have to return them. You can’t keep them for revision next year. That’s useless.”
I must tell you that the house my siblings and I grew in – my parents’ home – wasn’t a showcase. It was practically bare of furniture. In fact, when I was growing up, my father couldn’t afford to paint the wooden walls. They were stained all over. When it rained, the raindrops left permanent irregular marks on them. I often thought that the walls of our home looked like a map straight from a page of the World Atlas! And we all knew the reason – my father worked from dawn to dusk saving all the money he could, not just to put enough food on the table, but to make sure there’s sufficient money to pay for our school fees and new books plus new, decent clothes for Hari Raya. Every year.
My father could have easily accepted the book loan program to ease his financial standing. He could have used the extra money to spruce our home – perhaps to give a fresh coat of paint to our rundown house or buy a modest sofa. But that wasn’t my father. My siblings and I observed what my father did every day and learnt through experience that to get something you really want, you must work hard for it and be patient.
YOU NEED TO BE PATIENT IN TIMES OF HARDSHIP AND ILLNESS
My father spent a good portion of his last three months in a hospital in Johor Bahru. I would take the express bus as often as I could from Kuala Lumpur, taking turns with my siblings to keep him company. On his last days, my father could hardly swallow anything as he had a growth in his trachea. The most he could ingest was a few sips of water.
The doctor attached a shunt (a device to allow flow of nutrients into his ailing and frail body through an opening) to his abdomen. The first time I saw the shunt protruding from the left side of his abdomen, it came as a shock. I remember thinking: What’s this alien thing sitting on my father?
What surprised me was that, despite the obvious discomfort he was in, each time I asked “Sakit ke abah?” (“Does it hurt, father?”), all he would utter was “Tak lah.” (“Not at all.”) with a gentle shake of his head.
My father and I spent many a silent night together at the hospital. Me on the sofa by the window and him stretched on his bed with the drip extending from one side. We hardly talked for my father was a man of few words. I often wondered then, and I still do now: How could a man with so much pain be so calm and composed? But deep inside me, I was determined to become as patient as he was if I were to find myself in a similar situation.
I hope you’re convinced that the smartest, the best and most effective way to teach your kids to be patient is to be patient yourself. Show them how to be patient, don’t just tell them. Be patient when you run into financial hardship. Be patient if you get fired from your job. Be patient if you lost a loved one. Be patient when your kids do something wrong. In short, be patient when Allah Most Merciful is testing you with difficult times in your life.
Remember: KIDS DON’T FOLLOW WHAT YOU SAY. THEY COPY WHAT YOU DO.