Patience. According to the old saying, patience is a virtue. A virtue, that often nonetheless is skipped over by thousands upon thousands of me first,’ ‘I want it now’ minions living in this new world of immediate gratification.
Still, some kids have patience. Perhaps developed through family, or perhaps as a side effect of a short memory span where they move so quickly from one task to the other that they forgot they wanted crunch berries for breakfast as soon as their favorite television show popped on TV. Some kids, seem to be born with more patience than others are, can enjoy a mundane task such as fishing without getting frustrated, or bored. Others, forget the fishing pole a few seconds after getting no action, and certainly bored with waiting for a bobber to pull and sway. So the question becomes, can children be taught patience? Is it a life skill, or is it a personality trait?
Obviously, when it comes to patience, ages plays a large role in how patient kids are. Younger kids seem to be more demanding, evolving from those first years where every need they could possibly have from the innate and otherwise by a parent eager to please them. As the toddler years strike, their small brains begin to learn to reason, and experts believe that all children can learn the value of waiting their turn, and waiting for things. This process is albeit slow. And where most parents go wrong is being so overwhelmed with the ‘demands’ (and the manner in which the demands are made such as whines, tantrums, getting louder etc.) that they just drop everything they are doing and satisfy the child in order to give themselves at least a few precious seconds of peace. After all, when mom or dad is trying to hold a conversation on the phone and a toddler or pre-schooler starts making demands, the quick fix is to do what they want so mom and dad can get back to doing what they want. Healthy? Probably not. Necessary for sanity? Sometimes yes.
Patience is actually one huge aspect of learning self-control. Most adults don’t expect young children to be extremely patient, and afford children some leeway no matter how frustrating things can get. And kids pick up on the ‘Give me five minutes,’ or ‘ we will do that later’ lingo adults use which are normally just meant to put things off until the kid forgets about whatever it is that was so pressing to them in that moment. As the kids learn that 5 minutes may be ten, fifteen and hour or even another day the kids revolt and rebel and become even more incessant in their demands. For this reason, experts believe that adults dealing with children should be honest. If you are going to be more than 30 minutes, then be honest and tell the child that right now is not a good time, that they will have to wait, OR even better, they will have to start developing their OWN SOLUTIONS.
Additionally, the world is full of people. School should NOT be the first place kids realize that they are not the center of the universe. And parents who over indulge every single whim are most certainly setting their little ones up for frustration and major adjustments when they enter school and become a member of a community. In other words, patience whether virtuous or not is actually a necessary life skill that kids need to learn in order to be productive members of society. Face it; the world is full of waiting.
As technology changes, adults and children alike have to wait less and less for what they want. Today, instant gratification often lays in the ease of a smart phone, a computer, a tablet. But in so many other arenas of life, this instant gratification just doesn’t work. So not only should kids be taught patience, adult caregivers should realize that kids CAN LEARN PATIENCE, and MUST learn patience to be productive, happy, and sufficient members of this world. So in parental words, not dropping everything to fill up a cup with more goldfish, is not the end of the world and actually is an important part of raising well-adjusted children.
How is this done exactly? The first step is to realize that 90% of what kids demand or want can be waited for. Teaching the difference between wants and actual needs, is healthy for more reasons that simply teaching patience. Ask your child, ‘does this need to happen right now?’ ‘Is this an emergency?’ And, empower by asking your child what options they can try to pacify the situation until your full attention can be given. With older children, ask them what the importance of is having x,y,z need filled RIGHT now? And explain that sometimes, waiting makes for better decisions.
Another important step is teaching patience is ignoring the tantrums and associated meltdowns that may occur when your child has to wait. IGNORE THEM COMPLETELY! Once you have provided a timeline, and empowered children to keep their minds busy in the meantime or solve the problem themselves THEY have choices. To listen, or to continue being demanding in the hopes that you will become so frustrated that they will get their way. But before you do this, ask yourself how many other people in their lives are going to do this same thing? From the time your child enters school, they will be required to show self-control and restraint. Not doing so is going to lead to more phone calls from the teacher than you will care to answer.
Another step in teaching patience is realizing that life is often a series of waiting for things to happen. If your daughter wants an expensive doll, and wants it now what value comes from simply getting it as fast as possible? By having small children wait for a birthday, or till a holiday or to be enlisted to help earn the money with chores or good behavior, an essential sense of gratitude can begin to grow within your child. And gratitude is the one of the most important gifts you can teach a child.
That being said, there are likely plenty of us who know impatient adults, and how arduous those folks can be to be around. Impatience in adults always seems to stem from ego, and entitlement. When you consider the consequences of NOT teaching patience to a child, you will realize just how important waiting for that bowl of ice cream can be toward making them happier adults!