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Plautus, a Roman playwright of the old Latin period once said, “Patience is the best remedy for every trouble.”
What the ancient Roman comedian said more than a millennia ago, rings true to this day. Even modern-day thinkers, philosophers, and business gurus are seen preaching online about the importance of patience. Also, how many times have we heard our parents tell us to be patient with a certain exam result, a new skill we are learning, and even something as small as hot food on our plate. Parents know and understand the importance of teaching kids patience and cultivating this virtue as they grow up. Given that parents try their best, kids being cheeky and playfully mischievous can make it a bit challenging.
So, how do you teach kids patience? We have come with a step-by-step guide to help you with this seemingly insurmountable task. Let’s begin.
You may also read: Anger Management for Kids
Teaching Kids Patience
If you just started teaching patience to your kids, you should know that patience is a skill and it can take some time for them to learn. According to many child development experts, it can help them make more rational choices, cultivate self-control, develop long-term critical thinking skills helping them achieve their long-term goals.
Step 1: Start Small
First things first, every kid is different. Parents who’ve seen their kid burst into tears if they received their sippy cup a second late can attest to that. One way to handle this situation is to take tiny baby steps.
Whenever your kid requests a drink or a snack, respond with “Yes, let me help you!” But instead of dashing to help them, move slowly and let them see how you are working on it.
While fixing their drink or snack, talk to them about what you are doing at the exact moment. Let them see that you are honoring their request gradually and not as quickly as they hoped. When you give them the drink, compliment them for waiting so patiently. It is a simple yet effective way to teach young children and preschoolers patience with less effort.
Step 2: Wait For It
If you see that you’ve had some success by ‘moving slowly,’ take the next step of ‘wait for it.’
Simply put, whenever your kid asks you to get them something, tell them that you are going to help them, but you have to take care of something else first. Let them wait for it for a few seconds or minutes (depending on their age) and then honor their requests. At first, the kid might not understand what is going on but with time they will get better at putting patience into practice. Considering that you go through their requests in a given amount of time.
Again, after following through with their request, tell them ‘thanks for waiting!’ or ‘you are so good at waiting patiently!’ Let them feel good about being patient and their hard work is much appreciated.
In all fairness, practicing patience is hard work.
Even as adults, sometimes we lose patience with even small things. That’s why teaching kids patience can be seen as a way to reteach the adults some patience.
Step:3 Admit that Being Patient is Hard
Sometimes you feel like you’ve mastered patience and you are like a rock that can wait for hours, days, or even years without whining. While sometimes you may lose your patience. You get cranky, and might even argue with people.
When you are feeling impatient and irritable, somebody acknowledging that being patient isn’t fun but they commend you for doing your best can help you feel miles better.
And kids are the same. When your kid is throwing a temper tantrum, it can get pretty hard to keep it together. But losing your cool and shouting at your kids is not the answer. To make things worse, it can even make them more upset.
When your kid is upset that their request was not immediately fulfilled, hug them as it can reduce stress levels. And let’s be honest, patience can be pretty stressful to learn.
Tell them that you understand that waiting is hard and you get that and also let them know that you are proud of them for waiting despite it being hard. Relate with them by pointing out a time when you had to wait for something you wanted and how tough it was for you.
Knowing that their feelings are validated, will make them feel a whole lot better and they will try to be more patient.
Step 4: Play Games to Practice Patience
Playing games where the participants have to take turns is a great way to teach kids patience. However, keep in mind that playing games with kids aint no picnic because of the eventual bursting into tears of course!
When you plan a game night, kids going through a meltdown is inevitable. Whether they are losing the game or waiting for their turn, it can get stressful for kids. But, just because it is stressful, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t play games. In fact, it is a great way to learn patience while waiting for your turn.
When playing the game, say things such as:
“It’s not your turn to touch the piece right now, but if you wait, I promise you’ll get your turn”
“See how everyone is waiting for their turn”
If you want to play simple games, then Hide and Go Seek or I Spy are also excellent games for teaching kids patience. With proper guidance, your kids can master the art of patience and can become emotionally mature and patient kids.
Step 5: Be Patience Yourself!
Ever heard of the saying ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do?’ With children, it is certainly true. Kids emulate what they see and it is embedded into their behavior. If they watch you lose it at every minor discomfort, your kids are going to watch you and learn the same behavior. But, if your kids see you be patient with all and everything in your life, they will also wait patiently for what they want without throwing a fit.
Children are like mirrors and there are no two ways about it. If you slip a bad habit into your life, your kids will soon emulate that same behavior.
But, we can take advantage of this and fix up a few bad habits that we’ve picked up ourselves along the way. It’s just not the kids that need to learn patience, we can learn a few things about it every now and then. Then you can have a conversation with your kids about how hard it is to be patient and you two can work on being patient together.
The Marshmallow Experiment
If you want to see how patient your kids are and how good they are at making long-term decisions then the marshmallow experiment is an excellent way to find out.
To do this experiment, put a marshmallow (or a cookie or anything sweet and tasty) in front of the kid and tell them that you are going to leave the room for 15 minutes. When you come back and the marshmallow is still there, they would get two marshmallows instead of one.
You’ll learn a lot about your kid’s patience levels with this experiment. It is highly recommended to record the whole experiment to learn how you need to tweak your approach in teaching kids patience.
Be Patient With Yourself
Last but not least, learn to be patient with yourself. Teaching kids patience can be a little frustrating but you have to understand that everyone builds themselves one day at a time. It is a non-stop workshop of teaching good habits to your kids and you cannot expect them to be built as perfect kids in a day, a week, or even a year. It can take a lot of time so it is important not to give up when you reach your tipping point.
Let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned so far.
- Start Small. Take tiny baby steps to teach them patience
- Wait for it. Don’t let them indulge in instant gratification
- Admit that being patient is hard. Even though you are an adult, you might lose your patience. In such circumstances, admitting that practicing patience is hard is key. The same thing applies to kids.
- Play Games. Playing games is a great way for them to practice patience.
- Be Patience Yourself! If you want your kids to learn patience you have to be patient yourself.
These are a few great strategies to teach your kids patience and there’s also the marshmallow experiment that you can do to check how far your kids have come. However, in the end, you have to know that patience cannot be developed immediately. It takes time and you have to be patient.