As a mother of young children, have you ever wondered if it’s possible to teach your toddler patience?First time moms, this will help you immensely in the years to come. Mother-of-a-few who really needs to teach this lesson, don’t worry, you’re covered too. Remember, building patience takes time and discipline not just for them, but for you too.
Children are born wanting what they want when they want it. Don’t we know it. As an impatient adult I knew it was important to instil as much patience as possible in my children so they did not end up as frequently frustrated as myself. Learning to deal with frustration is a basic life skill and there is no time to start than when they are…one day old. Okay, that may be too early. Day three is better, at least you’re home from the hospital then.
The best way to go about this is to let your children learn to wait from an early age. Not waiting for the sake of “teaching them a lesson” but just letting them learn to understand that they can’t have everything instantly. If they learn to wait as patiently as they can at their age they are much more equipped to deal with it as an adult. And let’s face it. Life will be easier for you at home.
There are many ways to do this. Having it on your mind early that “patience is a virtue”
will help determine a loose strategy for creating a child you enjoy being around. Children who are patient are more pleasant company because they don’t resort to whining at the frequency of other children. Whining, my friends, is the enemy.
Practical tips to foster patience in your child:
1. Make them wait in the high chair/booster seat/chair for a set time during meals.
Just because they finished their spaghetti in a record 57 seconds does not mean they can be excused. While you might not make them sit the entire 45 minutes you do while sipping your wine, having a standard time of around 30 minutes is acceptable. If the child knows they cannot leave the table just because they inhale their food, they will eat slower and be more likely to engage with you as they grow older. If they have done this since Day 1 (of being at the table with you) it will not be something you have to “punish” them with, it will simply be a way of life in your family.
2) Make them wait for mealtime and avoid too much snacking.
Parents, particularly North American ones, love snacks. They love to buy them, give them to their kids everywhere from church, to the grocery store, to the car just to keep them pacified. This habit can easily backfire. The more you do the “keep them happy” dance, you prevent them from dealing with normal things like waiting. Give your kids a full breakfast, full lunch, and full dinner.
If they want a snack or two in between have a set time and a set amount of food they can have. If they have eaten a full meal you can feel confident they will make it until the next one. An added benefit: if your child is hungry enough at a meal they’ll eat whatever you cook. I know the whole “eat 6 tiny meals” thing is big right now and if you are willing to feed your child 6 times a day then have at it. Good luck with that.
Either way, don’t make a habit of stuffing them with sugar or salt just to distract them.
3. Don’t constantly entertain them.
Everything is fascinating and new to children. Grasshoppers, the clouds seen from the backseat, or a diet coke can (empty, okay?) can be entertaining for far longer than you’d imagine. Constantly hovering over your baby will create easily bored children. As a wise woman once said (my grandmother) “boring people get bored.” Now, since you don’t want your child to grow up boring, work on this.
Let them sit in the backseat and look out the window. Bring books or toys if you are going for a walk in the stroller or shopping but don’t bring them out unless the child really needs to be pacified. Let them look around. Let them find things that interest them on their own. Engage them in what you are doing if it is convenient. If your child is able to entertain themselves you will be able to speak with others and have them wait patiently for you.
They will be better behaved because they’re used to waiting.
4. Teach them a silent signal to gain your attention in public.
If they signal you and you return it, they know they must then wait until you respond. You are speaking with a grown up and your son comes up and pulls your pinkie (for example). You respond in kind, finish your train of thought and then give your child undivided attention.
Teaching them to wait a few mississippis will instil manners and patience. It is annoying for you to have a child hanging off your leg and it’s uncomfortable for the other person as well. They don’t know if they should keep talking, wait, or if you are actually not really interested since you aren’t paying attention. Been there. Haven’t you?
These are but a few practical examples on how to teach your children patience. Throughout your day think of ways you can add some extra time here or there to their activities and try to naturally increase their tolerance to wait. They won’t like it, but it’ll serve them well later on.