How does one teach patience to a young child? Let me tell you, it’s not easy. Even as adults, some of us (myself included) have very limited patience, especially as we get older. But patience, defined as the ability to accept or tolerate delay or problems without becoming annoyed or anxious, is a very important quality to have and can serve all of us very well in life.
Now let’s be real, patience can be rare to see in a child. We moms know all too well how often we deal with our children asking for the same thing over and over without the ability to wait even five minutes for it. But the sooner we try to instill the act of patience in our children, the better we serve them.
Take my 4-year-old daughter, for instance. Her patience is extremely limited. When she wants something, she wants it right then and there. But I’ve recently discovered some fun and educational ways to demonstrate and practice patience with her:
Playing Board Games Together
This is a great way to teach kids about patience. When you play a board game, besides needing to follow rules and play well with others, we’re also teaching our children about waiting for an outcome. Whether you win or lose, you play with a goal in mind. Board games teach children to focus their energy on the task in front of them for the duration of the game.
My daughter is a carb monster (what toddler isn’t??!) and is constantly asking for cookies and cakes. Besides the fact that I no longer give in to her every food-related demand, I now tell her if she wants something sweet, we can bake it. We have fun taking out ingredients, measuring them, and using them to bake. Most importantly, she sees that we have to wait to get what she wants. I don’t just hand her a pack of cookies, but instead I get her involved in the process of eating and show her that there’s work behind the food we eat. By having her help me and then wait for the food to cook or bake, it’s teaching her patience when it comes to mealtime.
Reading Books Together
I make a point to read to my daughter every night, even on nights when, quite frankly, I’m too tired to read myself. Reading obviously has tons of benefits, including learning to be patient as the story unfolds. When I’m reading a book to my daughter, she will ask me multiple questions related to what I’m reading. These questions are usually related to what is or will be happening in the story. So I answer her questions, but I try to explain that to further get to know the characters and understand the direction the story is going, we have to read the complete story. Sometimes it takes a while to get to the end, but I’m hoping it’s fostering a love of reading—and an ability to be patient.
Running Errands Together
Anyone who’s gone grocery shopping with a kid knows very well how exhausting it can be. But once again, there’s a positive outcome to be gained from shopping trips: They learn about the time it takes to search for the items we need, whether it’s food to nourish us or clothes to keep us warm.
Having a Routine
In general, it’s very beneficial for a child to have a routine to avoid constantly giving in to their “demands.” By having a set schedule when it comes to eating, reading, playtime outside, etc., children come to accept when they’ll be able to do something. Of course, breaking routines is fine every now and then, but having a schedule helps them know what to expect.
Showing Patience Myself
For me, the most important way I’m teaching my daughter about patience is by showing patience myself. For example, getting my daughter to leave the park has been rough lately; she’s constantly asking to play for another five minutes. I let her have those minutes. Yes, she usually asks for another five minutes multiple times, but she eventually tires herself out. I explain that I want her to have fun, so I’m happy to wait. I’m showing her that because it’s important to me for her to play and be happy, I’m happy to be patient.
Remembering Patience is a Lifelong Practice
Patience is certainly not something we learn overnight. If I’m being honest, patience is an ongoing and lifelong practice. With time and age, we better understand how to be patient (even though it’s a constant work in progress). I just hope that everything I’m doing now is setting my daughter up to practice patience in the future.