Patience may be a virtue, but let’s face it – even adults struggle with patience on a regular basis. It certainly isn’t an innate quality we’re all born with – but it happens to be one of the essential qualities to have. This makes it all the more vital that you instil the trait of patience in your child from an early age.
However, the hard truth is that it’s getting harder and harder to teach our children to be patient and to appreciate delayed gratification. After all, they are growing up in a world where instant gratification reigns – thanks to a multitude of technological advances and social media. Today, any information is readily available at a click of the mouse at the search bar of Google. Want a particular song? No problem, just search for it on a music platform and stream it instantly. When you see children living in times like this where everything is right now, children have fewer opportunities to learn how to wait and be patient. With this in mind, here are a couple of ways you can teach patience to your children.
1. Let them experience waiting
In the beginning, your child might find it very difficult to be patient, especially if they are so used to having their needs met instantly. So as part of the introduction, parents also need to practice what they preach by being patient when their children act out of retaliation. Start with small steps, like describing to your child what waiting and being patient looks like. Use instances where they had to wait their turn or not get what they want right away as examples.
Explain that being patient requires them to practice self-control over their emotions and actions. So even when they are eager for something, tired or not, they should not be throwing tantrums to get their request granted. Another way to teach them patience is by intentionally delaying some of their requests. When your child wants something from you, let them see that you are “working on it” so that they understand that things take time. There is no need to drop everything and rush to get it for them right at that moment unless it is truly urgent. Of course, try your best not to forget despite the chaos of working from home. Not only will your child learn to respect your time, but they will also learn to wait once they see that their request will be granted, even if it’s not as quickly as they hoped.
As always, thank them for waiting and acknowledge their patience as good behaviour. Unknowingly, your child will slowly pick up self-control and patience without even realising it!
2. Practice Patience Through Play or Crafts
Today’s technological advances allow for various entertainment options to be widely available and accessible at the touch of a button. There’s no need to set up, clean up and put anything away – which frankly is very convenient. Unfortunately, parents are finding it easier just to hand tablets or mobile phones to their children to keep them entertained when work calls. While using electronic devices can easily keep your children occupied, consider the amount of screen time they already get from online classes and learning at home. It is better to throw in some mini-games, suggest reading a book, or engage your children in slower-paced activities like arts and crafts to keep them occupied. By doing this, children get to do some off-screen activities while learning to be patient, be more involved in the present and expand their interest without the need to technology.
3. Explaining the concept of time
How long is “a while” for a child? A minute can feel like an eternity to young children because their concept of time is not yet fully developed. So when they ask, “are we there yet?” for the umpteenth time, it is our turn to practice patience. When requesting your child to wait, it would be good to give them a rough idea of what to expect. For example, you can say, “We can go out for ice cream after I finish cleaning.” At least they know what’s coming next or know what to expect as children thrive on routines.
There are many creative and fun ways to teach your child the concept of time. Try something like, “Your birthday party is 10 sleeps away.” This way, waiting can be made easier for your child to understand, which would help minimise any questions. Using visual tools such as a calendar, countdown timer, or visual map can also help make the concept of time less abstract for your children. This can allow them to better track and plan their time when looking forward to an event, or when waiting for a turn or a meal, or even during long car rides.
4. Acknowledge that being patient can be quite frustrating
Sometimes it helps when someone acknowledges that waiting can sometimes be challenging and not fun. The same goes for children too! So the next time they’re upset because they had to wait longer than they wanted to, try not to give them a hard time about it right away. Instead, talk to your children about it, help them validate and name their feelings. For example, if your child has to wait their turn, you could say something like, “I know waiting is hard for you and that it takes a long time. But I’m proud of you for being patient.” This reminds them that it’s okay and normal to feel frustrated even when they are trying their best to be patient. Acknowledging and relating to their frustration can help your child feel much better about themselves and encourage them to practice patience more next time.
5. Model, model, model
One of the best ways to teach a child to be patient is to lead by example and practice it daily. After all, children learn by watching you. So if you’re constantly snapping at others or flying off the handle when life gets tough, you can bet your children are going to pick up on that behaviour very quickly. Show them through your daily actions what patience looks like and how you can be flexible to do something you may not want to do.
Sure Google may have all the answer, but sometimes doing things manually is great too. For example you can teach your children how to look up a definition in a dictionary or research for answers using other methods. This can encourage your children’s thought process and curiosity about finding out more while stimulating critical thinking.
It is important to remember that patience is a learned skill that is refined with time and maturity. You may find that some children find it easier to learn patience than others and that’s okay. Try to remain as calm and positive as possible, even when children ask the same questions over and over again. Bear in mind that it is because they don’t have the same concept of time or comprehension as adults. Continue to model being patient and this will help them develop better self-control while learning how to self-entertain during waits. Start instilling patience at a young age and you will be setting them up for success.