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Parenting Tip

August 14, 2013

Teaching Children to Wait

Patience is a virtue but few preschoolers understand what that means. Young children want it now and resort to all kinds of attention-getting tactics to get it. Badgering is that tenacious way children ask the same question over and over again. And then there’s the whining. It can drive even the most healthy person crazy.

Children need to learn how to wait for things. It’s a reality they’ll face all of their lives. They may as well start now. Children tend to live for the present. One mom of a ten-year-old said, “My daughter found out that she had a large school project due in two weeks. Instead of thinking about starting the job right away, she assumed that meant she had 13 days before she needed to begin.”

One of the ways we help children learn patience is to teach them how to wait. They may not be able to wait long at first but the idea of waiting doesn’t have to be like a foreign language. “Mom, could I have a snack?” “Well, it’s 2:30 now. Let’s have a snack at 3:00.”

Sometimes children will try to interrupt your conversation on the phone, or your interaction with someone else. One mom said, “I’ve told my son that if I’m on the phone and he wants to talk with me, that he can come over and gently put his hand on my arm to communicate that he wants to talk to me. I will either pause from my conversation to talk to him briefly or sometimes I’ll just put my hand on his, communicating that I know he’s waiting.”

Talk to children about the maturity involved in waiting. You might define the character quality in practical ways that your children can understand. Patience is waiting with a happy heart. Or, patience knows that good things come to those who can wait.

Realize that the resistance your children exhibit to your “patience training” exercises is just the confirmation that they need to learn this valuable quality. They don’t need harshness, but firm limits are good for children. Your work in this area will help them be more successful as they grow. Start with small changes. Demanding children are unhappy children and indulging them rarely brings about peace. What they really need to learn is patience.

For more information about developing character qualities like patience in your children read the book, Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.

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