Patience is a virtue… that many children don’t have! So how can we support children to be patient?
Children are notoriously impatient. They want what they want, and they want it NOW! So how can we help to develop a sense of patience in our children?
Why is patience important for children?
Let’s start with the obvious here: a patient child will make your job as a parent much easier!
However, there are many other benefits for your child when you encourage them to develop patience:
- Patient children are more tolerant and able to share with their friends, as they are capable of waiting their turn.
- Patient children are capable of being more determined with their education and learning, as they can wait for the benefits of their hard work to pay off.
- Patience helps children to understand others better, as they take the time to understand their opinions and points of view.
- Being patient means that children are more likely to develop strong interests and hobbies, as they develop perseverance to meet their end goal.
How do I encourage patience in my child?
Here are my top tips to support your child to develop into a patient young person:
Give them opportunities to practice having to wait. Let’s face it, children are never going to perfect a skill that they don’t have time to practice. I am not recommending suddenly making your child wait if they haven’t had to before, but rather gradually introduce the concept of waiting (or increase waiting times). I always find a great way of encouraging children to wait is by doing something quick first, before you then do what they want. For example, if your child asks you to help them with something, you could say ‘I’m just doing X, then I will be there’. Make sure the job is super quick to start off with, so they are able to cope with not having their needs met instantly. You don’t even need to actually do the job – what is important is that your child experiences just a moment of waiting. Side note: try to make sure your child knows their need will be met eventually, otherwise it can lead to disappointment and resentment.
Help them to understand the concept of time. To develop an understanding of patience, children need to have an awareness of what time really means. This doesn’t have to be telling the time, but rather knowing how to tell the time in simple ways. For example, knowing that breakfast comes before lunch, knowing that it takes about 10 minutes to walk to school, or knowing that a year is each time they have a birthday. Understanding timings helps children to have something to compare their patience to, such as knowing Christmas is a really long wait, but the ice cream after dinner isn’t. For younger children, visual timetables (these ones are beautiful) or time sequencing cards can be helpful for understanding this.
Model patience. Children are experts at noticing what you do rather than listening to what you say. If you want to raise a patient child, you are probably going to have to practice developing your own patience – after all, we are not robots and everybody gets wound up sometimes! I am a firm believer that children learn from our negative habits as well as our positives, however if you find yourself losing your patience more often than you’d like, it may be worth working on. (For more information on keeping your cool when your child is displaying difficult behaviour, click here).
Encourage your child to be independent. Children who are capable of being self sufficient will develop an ability to carry out tasks independently – and the knock on effect of this is that they will spend less time waiting for their needs to be met by others. Of course, even the most independent child will still need support in various ways, but being independent can really support your child’s developing confidence and patience. (For more information on developing your child’s independence, see this article).
Provide explanations for why it’s good to wait. No child is going to choose to be patient if they can’t understand why and how it will benefit them – they need explaining (and more than likely, frequent reminding!) why they should wait. The reward could be something like ‘if you wait until lunchtime for mummy to finish work, then after lunch we can bake a cake’ – a clear benefit of waiting patiently will be making a cake after. This also works really well with money – ‘if you save up X amount of pocket money each week then after X weeks you can afford that thing you wanted’. Start with very small goals for young children, and gradually build up.
Encourage empathy. By giving children an awareness of other people’s opinions and needs, you give them motivation to want to be patient with them. When a child understands how their friend or relative might be feeling, they are better equipped to deal with the situation patiently and tactfully. For example, talking about sharing and how it affects people in different ways means that children can express patience and understanding in this situation (which will also mean numerous other benefit in different areas).
Reward times that your child has shown patience. Children need to know when they have done things well: it motivates them, it builds their self confidence, and it means they will want to repeat the desired behaviour. I recommend making your feedback really specific, so your child knows exactly what they have done well and why – such as ‘wow, you waited so well while I was doing X. You didn’t complain once and you were really quiet. Good job!’. For younger children, a reward chart can be really helpful (I love this magnetic one), so they can visually see how they are progressing.
Important points to remember about patience
Patience takes time to develop, and it is not something that will happen over night. Young children are impulsive and struggle with waiting – this is how they develop and it is completely normal. However, I do not believe this should stop you from laying the foundations to raising a patient child, and even if you have an older child, patience can be taught at any age with the tips above (and a lot of patience from you too!).
Reflection on patience
If you would like to start to develop patience in your child, I recommend starting like this:
- Reflect on your own patience levels, and consider if there are any areas you can improve on – this helps to make sure you are setting a great example to your child. For example, you could consider your patience with your significant other, with your child during ‘trigger’ moments, whilst you are driving etc.
- Think about where your child is currently – are they showing any signs of patience already that you could really praise? Are they very impatient? Knowing their strengths and areas for development helps you to plan where you eventually want them to be and what you want them to achieve.
- Consider areas where your child is particularly impatient – what will be your first step to tackling this? Trying too many ideas too quickly will set you up to fail, however taking things one step at a time will gradually improve your situation.
What stage are you with developing your child’s patience? Do you have an impatient child? What does your child find particularly difficult about being patient? Let me know how you get on with these tips in the reply section below – I love to hear from you!
Love, Heather x