Sometimes it’s hard to wait.
Thanks to a parent who shared an article with me on kids and patience by Pamela Druckerman, author of “Bringing Up Bebe” , I started thinking what a significant factor learning to wait plays in getting along in life.
Druckerman suggests telling our children to “wait a minute” and give them the chance to practice, not only waiting, but also figuring out how to distract themselves while they wait. She says “ kids become good at waiting once they learn how to distract themselves by inventing a little song or burping at themselves in the mirror, for instance.”
Druckerman continues, “French parents know that they don’t have to teach a child how to distract himself. If they simply say, “Wait” a lot and make a child practice waiting on a daily basis, she’ll figure out how to distract herself.”
She adds if we drop everything the instant a child complains that she’s bored, our child isn’t going to get good at waiting. She’s going to get good at whining.
A parent does not have to make a child wait unreasonable amounts of time Druckerman tells us, just try slowing down our response time. Starting with a few seconds or minutes helps to take the “panicky edge off things. Patience is a muscle and one that can be built up with practice”. Patience comes from the inside out and not from the outside in, however, so turning on the television and providing entertainment for the child while he waits does not create the same type of muscle development.
I remember when I was young. Every afternoon in the summer, my mom would take me and my sisters to the beach. After lunch, we would get into our swimsuits, gather our towels, our sand toys, our tubes and go outside to wait. Meanwhile, my mom finished up whatever she had to do in the house and got ready herself. If memory serves me correctly, it was more than an hour that we waited outside.
We learned to distract ourselves. One of our distractions was a game we made up called cars. We would each choose a color. You won if the first car to go by was the color you chose. You have to remember we lived in a sleepy town without very much traffic so we learned patience even as we played the game.
In this quick -paced, instant gratification world we live in, patience is a dying art. So as parents, we not only need to encourage our children to learn to stop and wait, but we also need to practice ourselves.
Most of us are in the habit of hurrying to go here, there, to get this done, to not be late for that. So the climate in our homes does not always provide the time or the atmosphere for patience to develop. Instead we may find it offers a child a pattern of being pressured to hurry which, in turn, leads to that child pressuring others to hurry.
Even as we run out the door, it’s hard to wait for our 3-year-old to struggle with his jacket zipper so we rush in and zip it for him, plop on his hat – because we need to get going.
“Did you have fun at the birthday party?” we ask a child and then, within seconds, answer for him before moving on to something else. A child takes time to formulate his thoughts – his response. We disrupt this process if we are not patient.
It helps to acknowledge patience in our children when we witness it. Point out times also, when using our patience will be called upon. “Looks like we’ll have to be patient in this long line of shoppers. There are four people ahead of us.”
Anticipation can go hand and hand with patience. Waiting for the cookies to cool before having one; reading a chapter book aloud to a child, one chapter a night; making a paper chain to count down the days to a special event; planting a sunflower seed and watching it begin to grow, watching for the first star to appear, all can help a child experience patience while awaiting something fun.
And as our child practices small doses of waiting, he learns that sometimes when mom or dad says no, it doesn’t mean never. It just means one has to wait.
We’d be patient if it weren’t for the kids, right? However, let’s face it, it’s really the kids who are teaching us how to be patient.
And it’s hard work.