You can have one marshmallow now, but if you wait until the end of this story, you can have two marshmallows. Would you pass the marshmallow test? Many Virginia men are men of action: impulsive, decisive, impatient. The Stanford Marshmallow Test1 might be too hard for some Virginia guys. To become a better father, learn to wait for two marshmallows — learn to be a patient Dad.

Experience Anticipation

A tremendous gift for yourself, and to pass on to your children, is to learn that anticipation increases enjoyment. That is not us spouting off; the Association for Psychological Science (APS) points to research that experiences (not material possessions) are more enjoyable because with experiences, you enjoy building up expectations.

Sure, the APS couches it as “anticipatory consumption,” but we love that feeling of looking forward to an almost magical moment:

“… people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good.”

Imagine watching your children grow and thrive in learning to appreciate and savor the wait, whether it is for a movie, theatre show, television program, special holiday morning, amusement park, or a simple family picnic.

Practice Mindfulness

Inc. magazine reminds us to think about the things that make us impatient. We already know multitasking was a fraud — you cannot do your best work when trying to do many things at once — but what about the thoughts in your head that divert your attention? Take a moment, draw a breath, and stop interrupting yourself. Get one thing done well, and then move on to the next thing.

Stress = Impatience

Why are you impatient with, say, your four-year-old as she learns to tie her shoes? Because you know she needs both shoes on — now — and then her coat and then her backpack and then get in the car and thenandthenandthen

We try to do too much with too little time. The clock ticks and you develop tics.

Your stress makes you impatient. Eliminate some of the stressors, reduce the number of tasks, and you can take more time to be a good Dad. You can sit down with her and review how to tie a shoe. Maybe even give her a hug before her coat goes on.

The concept is simple: stop doing unimportant things so you have more time to patiently do important things. Things like fully being with your four-year-old daughter for that fleeting, bittersweet moment before she is suddenly 18.

Stop Being an Addict

Psychology Today says we busy Virginia men get addicted to anger, irritation, and outrage. We enjoy the chemical rush, the immediate response to a situation that allows us to fight. Put it aside, say experts, and start to relish actually living in these moments. Calm the inner addict and learn to quell the inner rant.

Know Your Triggers

Trigger alerts may be all the fashion on college campuses, much to the bemusement of earlier generations. Yet consciousness of triggers is helpful, whether you are a freshman whelp of 18 or a grizzled grouch from Grundy.

Suppose you know you feel anxious and impatient when the kids’ movie matinee line has more than five people in it. Bring something to distract you and your child during your precious parenting time; buy tickets online in advance; strike up a conversation with another Dad in the line.

Know what makes you impatient, says Psychology Today, and you can avoid the triggers. This increases your reservoirs of patience, because you are not constantly depleting those reserves with triggering events.

Patience is Powerful

Many Virginia dads feel their masculinity sapped in the face of diapers, minivans and ballet recitals. One way to recover your power as a man is to recognize the quiet drama of a patient person. Judith Orloof, M.D., tells us that learning patience helps prevent feelings of inadequacy, of being ineffectual.

Frustration robs you of reasoning skills, of emotional freedom. Letting your children’s behavior frustrate you does not change them. It only hampers you. Look at your next encounter with your children as an exercise. You are exercising your patience “muscle,” gaining peace and calm and shedding frustration.

By showing patience, you gain power. You control the stress hormones that otherwise would flood your system and lead to regrettable responses to questions like, “Why is the sky blue?”

Rayleigh scattering causes short wavelengths of light (blue light) to scatter off the molecules in our atmosphere much more effectively than longer wavelengths, so more of our sun’s light appears blue than any other color. Okay, it isn’t two marshmallows, but it is something to chew on, and it will absolutely dazzle your kids. 

Practice Patience

Despite all medical evidence that nicotine is highly addictive, some people still believe that willpower alone will help them quit smoking. They also seem to think you can just will yourself to be a more patient Dad. Not so, say experts writing at The New York Times. You have to practice increasing your patience, deliberately and directly.

Train yourself to be patient with little things, even silly things, says Dr. Sarah A. Schnitker. Do it daily and you will strengthen your ability to be patient during major issues, like the screaming child on the floor of the grocery store, or the 17-year-old who just wrecked a car.

Give yourself credit. You may not be a patient and understanding Dad, yet, but with patience and practice, you will be.

The Firm For Men employs patient people. Please call us at 757-383-9184 or contact us online to speak with a patient, helpful family law attorney. We can help you with fatherhood, paternity, parental visitation, child support and more.