Teaching patience is a necessary life skill for all children. We don’t expect our children to become patient overnight, but we want to start teaching them the foundational concepts of patience at an early age to set them up for success for times when their patience will be tested (with siblings, peers, other family members, at school, and in the community.)
From a child’s perspective, a big shift happens when they start to become a toddler and are no longer an infant. A child goes from getting what they want when they want (I am hungry, I cry, and I get fed. I want attention, I cry, and I get played with. I need a new diaper, I cry, and I get changed.) As a child starts to become older and grow from being an infant, they start to realize that they can no longer get what they want right away (or that sometimes the answer is No).
Children might expect their parents to drop what they are currently doing and get them something to eat, play with them, or help them with a task. If this doesn’t happen, they can become frustrated. We want to help our children through this process by teaching them to wait by delaying gratification. For example, if your child wants something to eat right now and you are in the middle of doing something. Instead of dropping everything you are currently doing, let them know that you need to finish what you are doing first and then you will help them. For example, “I see that you are hungry, I need to finish this phone call and then I will make you something to eat, thank you for being patient” or “I see that you want me to play with you right now, I need to finish helping your brother take a bath and then I will play with you, thank you for waiting.” By phrasing it this way, you are teaching your child that they will get what they are looking for - be it food, attention, help, etc. but they need to wait first as their parents are not just going to drop what they are doing. While it may seem small by delaying what your child wants for a minute or two, you are teaching them the foundation to wait and be patient.
When teaching patience remember that you are your child’s biggest role model. You can teach your child so much by modeling being patient and appropriate responses in scenarios where it is difficult to be patient. Don’t forget that teaching your child patience takes time, so be patient during this process (no pun intended.)
How do you teach your children about patience? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
See you soon!
Michael Jankowski, MS, OTR/L
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