Have we arrived yet? And now? And now? I want to get there now! Surely these words sound familiar to all of us, right? Patience is part of children’s learning and emotional management, and it is necessary to avoid running into frustration (now and in the future). How can we help them in this learning?
Young children do not understand the concept of time , they cannot know if 5 minutes is too much or too little, they cannot get used to the idea of whether they are going to have to wait a little while or an eternity. Children live in the here and now and little by little they gain abilities that allow them to project more in the medium-long term.
So to begin with, taking this into account, the first thing is to adjust our expectations. Pretending that they are quiet, that they don’t ask questions, that they don’t get bored or that they don’t mess up on certain occasions is a lot of pretending. Calm.
Despite this, it is true that we can do some little things so that they learn to limit time and develop their patience.
How can I help my son learn to be patient?
Lead by example
As we already know, children learn, among other things, from what they see us doing, we are their role model, so if we want our child to be patient, what we cannot do is lose our tempers in a traffic jam or start shouting in a tail because it doesn’t advance… It’s obvious, right?
Do not ask them for things “for now”
In line with the previous point, when addressing them we are going to try not to “hurry them up all the time”. Yes, sometimes they entertain themselves looking at the shrews and we have all the hurry in the world because we are late for school, but there are ways and means to let them know.
If we tell them brusquely that they have to do something “right now” we are transmitting the message that it is lawful to demand that another human being do something “right now” . Try to make them see the need not to be entertained, but do not ask them for things “now” or they will ask you in the same terms.
If he is having a tantrum because he wants something “now” and what we do is yell at him, we are not helping him understand that it is from calm that things are requested (and expected). We are the adults and we know, because we know, that they entertain themselves, so instead of demanding and getting nervous, perhaps what we can do is wake them up 5 minutes earlier to have more time, for example.
Reinforce patience… and explain
“Great, darling, it’s great that you waited for daddy to finish taking the dishes out of the dishwasher so he could give you your cup” . But in addition to reinforcing, we are interested in explaining why we are doing it, so that they can understand the situation and establish a cause-effect relationship that helps them generate patterns.
Do not reinforce impatience
And at the opposite pole, do not reinforce impatience. How? Well, not giving him what he “demands” if he doesn’t ask for it properly, for example, or that he has access to things when he can, without anyone having to go out of his way because he has it “here and now”.
With “having things as soon as I ask for them” we only encourage him not to learn to wait and that precisely that wait, which is something that is going to be found in life, leads him to tremendous frustration . It is not about annoying the poor little boy or denying him what he asks for by system, but to make him understand that the system does not work with the “I ask-I have” formula.
Games and activities that encourage patience
Group board games, those where you have to wait your turn, for example, are great for cultivating patience, and they’re fun too! There is a huge offer on the market, even for the little ones. Also puzzles or cooking (which requires waiting for something to heat up, or for the oven to finish) are great activities to work on these little things.
Be consistent and keep promises
Precisely to help them establish temporal concepts and cause-effect relationships , it is important that we fulfill what we promise. If we have told him that after lunch we are going to go to the park… then we have to go to the park, or else the next time we tell him, he will not calm down, on the contrary, and he will feel just as or more frustrated and that will lead to asking for things over and over again.
Set very short and specific time limits
Since they do not have the capacity to know how many 5 minutes are, instead we establish the time limits with concrete actions and events: “We will go to the grandparents’ house after picking up dad from work” .
Facing the events that will take place within days or weeks , to prevent the poor from going around all those days saying (thinking and feeling) Is it today? One thing that works quite well is to make a calendar that they cross off themselves. In this very visual way we help them to establish “times”.
Patience is something that is taught, that is learned, that is developed and that suits us all (and suits us), children and adults, but… but we cannot lose sight of a key idea that I pointed out at the beginning: children are children, and we cannot ask them to be more patient even than we are. Because… raise your hand who manages to be patient on all occasions. Well that.
So as children that they are there will be times when they get bored and when they lose patience, and it will be normal. That’s what daddies and toys are for, the talk… to make the wait less tedious, right?
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