Teaching patience to kids is about more than making road trips go more smoothly; it’s also one of the most important skills your kid can learn while he or she is young. Patience is one of the first steps to learning delayed gratification, which contributes not only to career success, but also health, relationships, and more.
Teaching kids to be patient can seem enigmatic, but there are often multiple times a day where you can reinforce patience with your kids!
Tips for teaching patience
- Take it as a positive experience
When your kid is young, it’s hard for them to conceptualise the need for or benefits of patience. Not only is their concept of time not quite developed, but neither is their sense of delayed gratification.
When you set a timeframe for something, they are going to ask if it’s time yet again and again. Stay patient, kind, and positive when they ask, even if it’s for the twentieth time. Remember, they are not trying to be selfish or mean spirited in their questions; they simply don’t have the capability to conceptualise time yet.
Snapping at your kid or otherwise punishing them for asking too many times will reinforce the idea that waiting is a negative experience. However, staying calm and positive while they wait reinforces that waiting can be a positive experience.
- Let kids experience the wait
It can be a negative habit to use a screen or other mindless distraction to bridge the gap between now and a future event. When your kid is playing a game on a screen or watching a show, he or she isn’t experiencing time the same way that he or she would be if they needed to be more present.
Instead, find different ways to help the time pass in a more productive, engaging way. Allow your kid to feel time passing while still having a positive experience through it.
- Keep your promises
Many times as parents we promise kids something in the near or distant future only to hope if we wait long enough that they will get distracted and forget about it.
This habit, however, not only prevents your kid from properly developing an accurate sense of time but also makes the wait seem longer than it would normally be. This, unfortunately, creates a mindset in your kid that if he or she has to wait five minutes or ten minutes that it will actually take “ages,” because that’s what they have experienced in the past. Be accurate and keep your promises when your kid asks how long.
- Give kids information
Instead of answering your kid’s repetitive “are we there yet?” questions with a barking ”Soon!” or “We will get there when we get there!” answer with information. If you know how long it will take, provide the number of hours or minutes to your kid. If he or she doesn’t quite understand the concept of time, use something relatable to help them distinguish. For example, “Christmas is 12 sleeps away.” or “The theme park is about one movie long away.” Find creative ways to adjust your measurements to help bring numbers and time increments into relatable terms for your kid.
- Have a countdown or visual representation
If you find you tend to lose your patience when you are asking your kid to be patient (ironic, we know), then use visual tools to help minimise the questions. For instance, have a countdown timer visible. During long road trips use a visual map on the ceiling with a car that you move every hour or so closer to the “destination.”
Patience is important for everybody to learn. And you know what? It’s easier to be patient as an adult if you learn how to be patient as a kid. Young kids whose parents strive to teach patience when they are young, grow up to have more self-control and more long-term critical thinking skills. In fact, many kid development experts argue that teaching a kid patience is an important step in kid development.
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting.” – Joyce Meyer