5 Tips for Teaching Patience

by Katie Hurley
Originally Published: 
A girl holding an hourglass clock which signifies she's running out of patience

The best way to teach patience is to practice patience. Easier said than done, right?

The truth is that some people are naturally more patient than others. While some people seem to breeze through stressful events and long waits, others have difficulty in the same situations. For some people, learning to be patient requires more practice and, well, patience! Children are no different. All children have different temperaments, and some children are naturally more patient than others.

Most children, however, do not enjoy long waits in line at the grocery store, slow dinners at fancy restaurants, or sitting in traffic.

The most effective way to determine how best to teach your child the art of patience is to observe him and try to pinpoint his triggers.

Do puzzles cause frustration?

Is turn-taking difficult? Does your child always seem to seek perfection? Is practicing a new skill difficult?

Pinpointing the specific triggers will help you know where to begin. For example, if puzzles frustrate your child because he can’t get started, you can help him learn to group the corner pieces, outside pieces, match colors, etc.

Three things that will contribute to impatience include: Nagging, rushing, and sarcasm. Please avoid these.

Below are 5 tips to help you teach your child to be more patient:

1. Model patience: Being patient doesn’t mean just being able to wait; it means being able to wait calmly (eye rolling, sighs, and whining do not count). It can be difficult to remain patient when you’re trying to get the kids to school and no one has shoes on, or when you’re late for an important appointment. This is exactly when you need to remain calm. Use humor and games to keep kids moving along, laugh when something doesn’t go according to plan, and problem-solve out loud when something becomes stressful. When I start verbalizing my potential problem solving strategies, the kids start chiming in with me. Just the other day I walked in on Liam talking his way through a puzzle. It works.

2.Use reflective listening: It’s hard to wait in line all morning, especially when you would rather be playing. Acknowledge the struggle and help your child verbalize her feelings. Be sure to use a calm voice, make eye contact, and keep your body posture stress-free. Sometimes kids just need to feel heard, and a little help verbalizing those frustrations in a calm manner.

3.Timers: How many times have you caught yourself responding to a request with “in a minute”? Minutes are meaningless to young children, made more meaningless by the fact that we say “in a minute,” but don’t actually follow through. Children need to learn about delayed gratification. The next time your child asks for something when you are busy doing something else, try saying “I’m setting the timer for 2 minutes. I just have to do a few dishes but I will be right over when the timer goes off”. Often, they will have solved the problem independently before you get there. If not, they will learn that they are capable of waiting for two minutes. **Timers are also great for teaching sharing. I prefer the old fashion sand timers, as it allows them to visualize time ticking away.

4.Teach coping skills: Sometimes you just have to wait. Just this morning, we had a very long wait at Panera. We passed the time playing our favorite game, “what’s your favorite____?” Making a game of waiting can pass the time quickly. I Spy, rhyming, silly stories, counting shapes, and two truths and one story are all fun verbal games to play while waiting. If you know you will have a wait at a doctor’s office or somewhere else, bring a busy binder that includes coloring pages, crayons and markers, stickers, etc. And lap pads for long car rides are a must.

5.Activities that require patience: One of the downsides of battery-operated lifestyles and a heavy focus on technology is that kids are over-exposed to instant gratification. Choose projects and activities that require time and patience, such as planting, mosaics (with paper), and pottery, and slower-moving games like Yahtzee Jr., Chutes & Ladders, and checkers. Planting projects are great because they learn to care for their seeds every day. They have to show great patience and diligence to help those seeds grow!

How do you teach patience?

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