How to teach patience to your toddler

Waiting is hard for anyone ― get tips for raising a child who knows the value of this positive trait.

The hard truth is that it’s getting harder and harder to teach our kids to be patient. After all, they are growing up in a world where instant gratification rules, thanks to modern technology and social media.

Yet, patience is an essential quality that all children should possess. After all, everyone has to play the waiting game in their daily lives ― whether it’s queuing for that theme park ride, waiting for dinner at a restaurant, or holding out till after lunch to enjoy that dessert.

Notes early years educator Ana Sousa Gavin, mother of kids aged 8 and 11, “Patience is essential for living peacefully with others and prevents one from making mistakes or getting into accidents.”

“It’s best to start teaching patience from young, before impatience becomes ingrained as a fixed personality trait and becomes more difficult to change later on in life, “ she advises. “By teaching patience, you’re also teaching respect for others, taking the focus from oneself and learning to understand other people’s points of view (developing empathy).”

By teaching patience, you’re also teaching respect for others, taking the focus from oneself and learning to understand other people’s points of view (developing empathy).”

Benefits of practising patience

Patience is a skill and character trait that will aid your mini-me way beyond their childhood years. Patience is so important because it:

* Helps build social relationships through being better able to tolerate flaws in others, listen and empathise with them.

* Is key to achieving one’s goals Most aspirations take patience and tenacity to achieve, so having this trait enables one to accept setbacks and continue persevering.

* Prevents poor decision-making Impatient people are likelier to make impulsive choices that can end up costing dearly in future.

* Leads to less stress and anxiety. The ability to wait for something without complaining or getting upset contributes to a positive mental and emotional state.

Since having patience is fundamental to a child’s development, we suggest ways to teach patience to your little one.

#1. Limit access to devices like phones and the TV

Phones and TV give instant access to info and entertainment, therefore kids who use these devices frequently will expect that everything must work that way, Gavin points out.

So, tempting as it is to use technology to distract your child, allow them to be bored.  Kids will eventually look for something to investigate and occupy their time. Of course, you’ll need to monitor what your toddler is doing to make sure they don’t get into any trouble.

However, this doesn't mean you have to entertain them all the time. “You can put them in a safe space in your living room, as long as you have eye contact with them,” Gavin suggests. “Give them interesting objects to play with like a wooden spoon, or something else from your kitchen that is not likely to break or injure them (such as a metal bowl).”

 

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#2. Acknowledge that waiting is frustrating

For sure, no one really enjoys waiting for long periods of time. When your child goes through the frustration of having to wait, help them validate and label his feelings.

For example, when queuing in a long line for groceries, you could say something like, “I know waiting is difficult for you and this is taking a long time. But I’m proud of you for being patient.”

This reminds them that it’s okay and normal to feel frustrated, but that they are handling this frustration well.

#3. Explain to your child WHEN they can do something

Another way to teach your child patience is to let them know when they’re allowed to do something, rather than just saying “no” or “not now”.

Gavin says, “For example, imagine you are at the supermarket and your child wants to have an ice cream. If it’s okay for them to eat ice cream but not possible at that exact moment, look in their eyes and tell them, ‘First we pay for all these things, and then I can give you the ice cream, okay?’”

If you and your child are used to communicating with respect, your child will trust you and wait for the moment you can fulfil his wish. Of course, do make good on your promise, so you don’t break that trust.

Reflect on how patient you are with your child. Do you snap easily when they make a mistake?... Remember to exercise patience when dealing with junior, so he knows what that looks like in action.

#4. Help them cope with long waits

Being patient isn’t about having to sit around and do nothing. Encourage your kids to occupy themselves with interesting and purposeful activities whilst waiting.

For example, get them engaging picture books they can read, or fun maths puzzles if they’re a little older. You can also use long waits as an opportunity to bond with your mini-me by playing on-the-go games with them.

Examples include iSpy, completing the story and 20 questions (a game where players take turns guessing a place, object or person by asking 20 “yes” or “no” questions).

#5. Model patience in your own behaviour

Of course, one of the best ways to teach patience is to model the behaviour for your child. Gavin states, “Remember that the best teaching tools are actions ― children learn by imitating adults and others in general,”.

Therefore, reflect on how patient you are with your child. Do you snap easily when they make a mistake? Do you have a tendency to get annoyed whenever they ask you lots of questions? Remember to exercise patience when dealing with junior, so he knows what that looks like in action.

Also, be mindful of how you treat your own spouse and the people around you. Being impatient with others ― then admonishing your kids for their difficult behaviour ― sends mixed signals and is likely to stir up resentment. Therefore, set a good example and think before you speak ― whomever you’re dealing with.  

Photos: iStock

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