“You need to be patient and wait!”. Does your child respond to that by actually waiting and being patient? Or does she respond with a tantrum or a huge meltdown? Waiting is hard. And is a tough lesson to be learned. Modeling patience is key to teaching delaying gratification and self-control to your child.
Waiting is boring. However, with some forethought, you can prevent negative behavior related to this feeling.
Here are some tips:
- Help your child manage his/hers expectations
- Plan fun activities
- No screen time
- Make it quality time
- Focus on developing skills
- Focus on the concept of time
- Validate good behavior while waiting
1. Help your child manage his/hers expectations
Let your child know what to expect when you are going to the grocery store. Make a list with her before leaving. While at the store, let her help you organize the shopping cart and cross off the items on your list. In that way, she will know when you are almost at the end. Also, this will keep her distracted and entertained.
2. Plan fun activities
Be creative. When your child has to be patient and wait, provide activities for her. For example: telling a favorite story, humming a favorite song, I-spy game . etc. A clever idea is to always keep paper and pencils on hand.
3. No screen time
Experts don’t recommend the use of screens to entertain children under the age of 2. Screens (as iPads or cellphones) can work in the moment, but they can impact the child’s development. Waiting is a wonderful opportunity for learning, for social interaction and for communication. If you hand your child a screen every time she has to wait, she will be missing out on these opportunities.
4. Make it quality time
Take the advantage of the waiting time to make it fun. Routine experiences can provide the quality time that you want to spend with your child. While waiting at the doctor’s office you can sing, talk or draw picture together. While waiting in line, you can play another version of hide and seek. Hide a coin in the shopping cart and have your child guess where it is.
5. Focus on developing skills
Practice motor skills such as: pretending you are mirror images of each other, you can make faces that your child can copy, or body movements that she needs to imitate quickly. – This is also good to developing social and emotional skills while making “sad, happy or frustrated faces”.
Practice creativity: when you see a sign or a person while passing by car, you can create a story about “why is this person there?”
Practice mathematical skills: “how many red things are you seeing in our cart?”
Practice memory and vocabulary: “I went to the grocery store and I bought…”
6. Focus on the concept of time
It is important for you and your child to talk about how long you have to wait. Children do not truly understand time. So, it is important to show how it works. You can use a sand timer, so your child can watch the san flow through the timer for 1, 3, 5, 10 or 15 minutes.
7. Validate good behavior while waiting
Validate that it is hard to wait. It is extremely important to acknowledge your child’s feelings and notice his accomplishment out loud as a way of reinforcing the skills.
Waiting can provide opportunities for your child to develop her imagination, as she thinks of things to do, stories to tell, games to play and objects to spy while waiting. Be consistent. Remind your child to control her impulses, to stop and to wait. Remain calm, keep in mind that you need to model patience to teach patience.