Teach Your Child the Art of Waiting
I learned my lesson when I took a 6-year-old boy to his neurology appointment. I had no control. He was all over the place—climbing the walls (literally) and touching everything. The neurologist walked in to see my exasperation. Then he performed a miracle. He produced a small wind-up toy from his pocket, wound it up, set it on the bed, and walked out of the room. The toy took three small steps, banged small cymbals, and did a flip…over and over again. The 6-year-old stopped running around and watched the toy. When it stopped performing, he wound it up and started over. Throughout the process, he stayed calm. He began to learn the art of waiting. And I began to learn my role in helping children learn to wait. Since then, I have learned several lessons to help children wait. Here are five tips to help your child learn the art of waiting…and keep you from pulling your hair out at the same time.
· Learn the art of engagement and distraction. Engage your child in some activity that will distract him from the waiting. You can play “I Spy,” a game of cards, or tic-tac-toe. Your child might enjoy telling stories or singing songs. You can ask questions about his day, a book he is reading, life at school, or his plans for the week. In the process, you learn about your child and distract him from waiting.
· Plan ahead. Pack a small bag with toys, books, games, and even a small snack to engage your child while waiting. Let him bring his favorite book or project to an appointment where he may have to wait. Enjoy a small snack while waiting. Play a game of cards, build with Lego’s, or play with a handheld game. You can even plan something special immediately following the appointment that demands waiting, such as a trip to the ice cream store or a special meal at home.
· Don’t rush ’em, let ’em finish. During your daily life, allow your child to focus on his activities without the stress of having to quit early. In doing so, you recognize how much your child values that activity. He feels understood and appreciated. And, with that understanding firmly in place, he will become more willing to wait when necessary. Sometimes you will not have the time to allow your child to finish his project before you have to move on to the “next thing.” When that is the case, give a warning. Let him know he only has 20 more minutes to finish what he can and clean up. Help him determine a good spot to stop for the day. Warn him again at 10 minutes and then at 5 minutes let him know it is time to clean up.
· Show your child that you are reliable. When you say you will do something, do it. When you make a promise, keep it. A recent study showed that children who experience reliable interactions with an adult are better able to wait. The 3-to 5-year-olds in this study delayed gratification four times longer after experiencing a reliable adult who kept their promise. So, keep your promises. Show your child that you are reliable. When your child knows you as reliable, your word and your promise will help them practice the art of waiting.
· Model the art of waiting for your children. Children learn from watching. They mimic their parents. They repeat the patterns of behavior they see in their parents. So, if you want your children to practice the art of waiting, let them see you waiting patiently as well.
Waiting is an art that we have to learn and practice. Begin teaching your children today…and begin by modeling the art of waiting yourself.