Patience is a skill we all fail to master sometimes, even as grown adults. As parents, our patience is tested all the time by our darling offspring, and at times it can be difficult to remember why we should value teaching patience and to know how to effectively practice what we preach in setting a good example to our kids. Amongst other qualities, the ability to wait for delayed gratification is a life- skill that every child will benefit from. Being good at waiting will help your child succeed at work and with relationships at home too later on in their life, but above all, it will help them grow into a happier individual which, at the end of the day is what all parents ultimately want for their children. For the best results in teaching your children this valuable asset to their character, it is advisable to begin as early as you can, during your child’s most formative years. You’ll need to practice as often as possible to really engrain this characteristic, and make sure to praise and reward your child generously when they get it right.
Expectation vs Reality
Step one in your journey towards patience is to lower your expectations. You cannot expect a young child to be able to understand the concept of delayed gratification in the same way that your developed, adult mind does after 30 or so years of personal experience of it. Instead of explaining the intricate philosophical reasoning behind being patient, you’ll need to use physical examples to demonstrate its benefits. Children also struggle to comprehend the concept of time itself, so what might seem like a short wait to you can seem like a lifetime to a four year old. As such, be patient yourself first and foremost and start with small tasks.
Practice Makes Perfect
Secondly, the more you practice patience, the better you will get at mastering it. While life throws ample opportunities at us, sometimes you may have to create purposeful delays in order to teach your child. A good example of this is the inevitable moment when your son or daughter will ask you if they can have a pet. This is quite a large ask, so you can match it with a lengthy wait to make it feel worthwhile, even if there isn’t really any reason why you couldn’t rescue that cute little kitten you’ve had your eye on tomorrow!
Keep Your Promises
However, you must remember that although your children might be relatively inexperienced in this game, they are not stupid. Do avoid tricking them into practicing patience if you cannot keep your initial promise about rewards or lengths of time. This not only gives rise to dissatisfaction and a potential resentment of having to be patient, but can warp your child’s levels of accuracy in developing a sense of time itself.
One of the most irritating aspects of teaching patience that you will face as a parent is the constant repetition of questions. While your child learns how to measure time and pass time as they wait for something, they will naturally want reassurance of it and information about it. This is again another instance in which you must exercise your own patience by being generous with the feedback you give them, however many times it is asked for.
If you are struggling to express the measurement of time or progress towards a goal effectively, consider changing tack from a verbal explanation to something more visual. Children thrive on visual aids, so an easy way to take advantage of this is to use a timer that they can see, or a diagram or map with checkpoints that they can mark themselves.
The most important takeaway here is to remember how you felt yourself as a child on those long road trips that seemingly never ended, or when you waited for Santa Claus to arrive for what seemed like a decade. Things that now seem inconsequential when put into the perspective of our adult worlds, are so much more magnified in a child’s eyes. Remember to praise your child when they succeed with being patient, and to be patient yourself when they are finding it difficult. Like your child, you must know that although this may be a long journey, the end destination will be worth it when you get there.