Want to Be More Patient with Your Kids? Take a Mommy Timeout (Here’s How)

An invaluable tool to help you be more patient with your kids (or anyone) is a mommy timeout. This will help you manage your negative emotions so that you can respond with love and grace.

How to Be More Patient with Your Kids

When I lose my patience with one or more of my five kids, it’s usually over something stupid.

You know how it goes—the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back is someone forgetting to pick up their Legos, or spilling grape juice all over the carpet, or simply whining “Moommmmmeeeeee!” one time too many.

Even when the offense is something more serious, I can react in a way that isn’t helpful and that I am ashamed of later.

In my worst moments, I yell at the offender. In my not-as-bad-but-still-regrettable moments, I start barking commands or lecturing THE DEEP TRUTHS OF THE UNIVERSE until said truths are permanently seared into their minds.

As I write this, my oldest is almost 13 and my youngest is almost 1. Being patient and calm with my kids all day every day is probably my most challenging demand. But if I’m going to raise them to be emotionally healthy, it’s something I need to keep working on.

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How to Be More Patient with Kids: Use a Mommy Timeout

When you’re about to explode at your kids and want to be more patient, take a quick mommy timeout. Take deep breaths or find humor to diffuse the tension. Release the stress in your body by doing something physical. Finally, pray through your frustration and practice self-compassion.

Why Do You Lose Patience with Your Kids?

God gave us amazing physical bodies. They include our brains, which are connected to everything we do, conscious or unconscious.

When you perceive a threat, a part of your brain kicks into a reaction that is designed to protect you from harm. Some call it the “downstairs” part of the brain—and it’s responsible for reactions like fight, flight, and freeze. These reactions are your stress response, which is excellent when you are in mortal danger but not always great when you are trying to parent.

The “upstairs” part of the brain keeps your downstairs part in check when you’re not actually in mortal danger. It houses sound judgment, patience, and adulting skills. It’s the part that knows better than to lash out at your offspring when there’s not a lion on the loose.

You lose patience when your downstairs brain stays in the driver’s seat and your upstairs brain can’t quite get a grip. It’s complicated, but here are a few reasons why it can happen:

  • You’re tired.
  • You’re emotionally spent.
  • You’re hungry and/or have low blood sugar.
  • Your body doesn’t regulate your hormones well.
  • You’re actually upset about something else that’s triggering your stress response.
  • You’ve triggered a stressful memory.
  • You’ve developed harmful reactive habits.
  • You need to release all those intense stress hormones in your bloodstream.

And so your brain doesn’t exhibit sound judgment or patience, and you react poorly to your kids, who are probably just being kids.

(By the way, this post doesn’t cover all the reasons you might be irritable and how to address them, but it will hopefully help regardless of the cause.)

If you’re looking at this from a biblical perspective, lashing out from the downstairs brain is sometimes related to the “acts of the flesh” detailed in Galatians 5:19 and elsewhere. Likewise, patience is a fruit of the Spirit that can be cultivated when you grow and mature with God.

If you want to be more patient with your kids, a mommy time-out is a tool that can help you counteract all that’s going on, so that you can respond with more love and grace.

Related post: 11 Bible Verses for the Exhausted Mama

What Is a Mommy Timeout?

A mommy timeout is just what it sounds like: a break. Not a punishment, but a chance to reset.

Stepping away from a situation gives you the opportunity to put your upstairs brain back in control so you don’t do something you regret. But it’s much more than just a pause. You can structure in a way so that it actually helps you to be more patient when you return to the situation.

While I personally wish I could take like, I dunno, a 72-hour timeout minimum, this obviously isn’t practical most of the time. But even just taking a few moments can be a game-changer when it comes to being more patient and responding in a loving way to your children.

What’s more, this is a great skill to model for your kids! They do not need a perfect parent; they need to see that you are a human who wrestles with emotions. When you show them how it’s done, it will help them learn to self-regulate too, creating more peace and harmony for your entire family.

Related post: 3 Ways Overwhelmed Moms Can Truly Rest

3 Mommy Timeout Tools That Help You Be More Patient

It can be really hard to step away from a situation that is making your blood boil, but make every effort to do it anyway (as long as it’s safe, obviously). Here’s what you can practice so that you can respond with more patience.

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1. Deal with Your Stress

When your brain is pumping stress hormones through your blood, you are primed to react. Those hormones have to go somewhere; they don’t just disappear.

Deep breathing is the quickest and easiest way to signal to your brain to immediately tone down the stress response. It slows the heart rate and helps you feel calmer. This is my number one “cool-down” tool. The other day I wanted to explode after a long day when someone spilled sauce all over the dinner table right as we were sitting down to eat. I had the refrigerator door open, and I just took a few seconds to rhythmically inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth while staring at the milk jug. This was enough to help me get a grip for a minute.

If you can manage it, another way to cool down quickly is to laugh! Do something silly that cuts the tension and helps everyone relax a bit.

But calming down in the moment is not enough—your body is still pumped full of hormones. You have to complete the stress cycle. There has to be a physical release in order for this to happen. For the best results, move your body, scream into a pillow, have a good cry, dance around, or sing angry music.

It can look really silly, but it works. And if you can’t do it right in the moment, you can do it later. I work out in the late afternoon most days, and this does wonders for my mood and helps me to be more patient in the evenings.

Related post: 5 Radically Different Stress Relief Tips Every Mom Needs to Hear

2. Pray

It amazes me how often I forget my belief that I have a powerful force who has my back 24/7, who is there to listen to me and help me through my weaknesses and struggles. You will become a more patient person when you learn to rely on God’s strength and the Holy Spirit.

Praying isn’t just asking God to take away your problems like he’s a genie. It’s a chance to let go of your control. Because that’s a huge part of where humans go wrong, right? Rather than trusting God, we grasp at straws trying to make things go our own way, relying on our own strength.

If you don’t know what to say in the moment when you pray, try being honest. Tell God how angry and frustrated you feel. Shout it out if that helps (and if it’s possible). Bring your weaknesses before him. Let it all go. He can handle it. (It might also help you release some of that stress you’re holding in!)

The Psalms are full of emotions that the writers brought before the Lord and can serve as a template.

Hear my prayer, Lord;
    let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
    when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
    when I call, answer me quickly.

Psalm 102:1–2

Related post: How to Pray About Anxiety and Actually Find Peace

3. Practice Self-Compassion

If you’re anything like me, you probably feel really guilty whenever you lose your patience with your kids. I’m the worst mom. I’m probably traumatizing them for life.

And you probably also realize that these thoughts just make things worse! When you feel guilty and beat yourself up, you’re in an emotional state that makes you more vulnerable to lashing out again! It’s a vicious cycle.

A mommy timeout can break that cycle, especially if you take a moment to practice self-compassion. I know that is just dripping with cheesy self-helpy vibes, but the truth is it works. Because science.

It goes back to what kinds of hormones your brain is telling your body to release. You can think the thoughts that put your body into the angry, reactive stress response, or you can think the thoughts that release the happy juices and help you be more patient, loving, and awesome as a mom.

Look at yourself the way God looks at you, beloved daughter. I know that some people have misconceptions about an angry, finger-pointing God, but the truth is that the God of the Bible created you in his image and loves you just as you are, even in your ugliest moments. He understands why it’s so hard to be patient with your kids. And he loves your kids more than you do! Even when you hurt them, he’s there for you—all of you. You can trust him.

I remind myself prayerfully of who I am, and whose I am, whenever I get into a guilty cycle. The more I practice self-compassion, the more quickly it works.

Related post: 11 Bible Verses to Banish Mommy Guilt

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What If You Don’t Have Time?

Now here’s the million-dollar question: What if you need a mommy timeout to be more patient, but you don’t have time for one?

After all, especially if your kids are little, it’s not like you often have the luxury to step away from them, especially in stressful moments.

And the answer is…do what you can.

If you have a screaming infant, put them down for a moment in a safe place like a crib. They’ll be okay for a couple of minutes.

If you have a maniacal toddler in a shopping cart, move out of the way of other people and cool off just enough to get you through the next few minutes. Your toddler might keep wailing, but you need to take a moment and just breathe or make funny faces at each other.

Do your mommy timeout right in front of your kids if you have to. In fact, this is excellent modeling—do it together to effectively diffuse the tension for everyone.

If all you can do in the moment is cool off enough to prevent an explosion by taking some deep breaths, do that and move on. But try your best to deal with your stress physically, pray, and practice self-compassion as soon as you can so that you can fully deescalate and be more patient the rest of the day.

Note that while a mommy timeout can help you calm down and be more patient when anger strikes, there are more strategies that can prevent you from getting angry in the first place. Be sure to check out the Patient Mama Blueprint if you want to dig deeper!

Have you ever tried a mommy timeout to help you be more patient with your kids? How did it go?

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Gina M Poirier

I’m a wife and mom of five, with kids ages toddler to teenager. I’m created in the image of God, made whole in Jesus. In this online space, I help others overcome the overwhelm all of us face when navigating this messy, beautiful journey we call life. Want to join us?

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  1. Ash

    Great read 😊 thank you for this!


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