Developing good character and positive traits need to be taught and learned. For adults, teaching patience is a challenging task but for children, grasping the concept of patience is not easy either.
Helping our children to be patient is challenging but not impossible. Here are some tips to help us get started on character development.
Why it is important to instil patience from young?
Patience is a virtue. It is also that one strength that will benefit every aspect of our lives. Many studies, including the Stanford marshmallow test, have shown that preschool children who delayed gratification longer are significantly more competent 10 years later.
Competency aside, safety is the primary reason for parents to instil patience in a young child. In their day to day lives, children need to learn to be patient. Examples include waiting for their turn to play with a toy or even waiting to cross the road.
To avoid any conflicts or accidents, parents need to educate their child on the importance of waiting. Children may find it challenging to grasp the concepts of danger at a young age but the importance of waiting can be communicated to them in a way that they can understand.
Patience moulds our children to become adults with resilience and magnanimity. It teaches one to be resilient, and what it takes to reach one’s goals, and also develops children into individuals who take things in their stride, and give in when the situation calls for it. It is a trait that is much needed in today’s disruptive world.
How can parents introduce or teach the concept of patience to children?
Being a role model. Children learn by observing the behaviour of adults and being a role model is the best learning experience we can provide them.
It is inevitable that a child becomes uncooperative during the morning rush hour. In such stressful situations, we are more prone to flaring up. Yet, it is important that we find alternative solutions to get our child moving along. This may include using humour, games or even solving the situation together with your child.
Teaching patience through daily activities. Children learn best when it is put into practice. An easy way to condition them to wait is to set a timer or sand clock for every activity.
For example, if there is a toy that needs to be shared, the sand clock is a good tool to teach the child to wait for his/her turn.
When is a good age to start introducing patience?
Patience is a good gift to teach our children and it can be taught from as early as they turn one. For children aged 1 to 2 years old, patience can be taught in small doses.
When he/she demands for something, avoid pandering to those needs immediately. This teaches the child that things do not happen instantly in life.
For those aged 2 to 5 years old, the sand clock plays an important role in helping them to cope with the wait.
For children aged 5 and above, parents can set a longer waiting time period. For example, if your child wants a pet dog, he/she can wait till his/her birthday so that they learn to wait for things that matter to them.
If their children do not respond well to this idea, what can parents do (or not do)?
It’s normal for young children to respond negatively as they continue to develop self-control. Here are some tips to cope with an impatient child:
- Re-framing the conversation with young children
Instead of using specific time markers such as ‘later at 1pm’ which does not mean anything to your child, words such as ‘before’ and ‘after’ help children to understand what has happened, what is happening right now, and what is going to happen in the future. When a child understands the concept of time, he/she is likely to become more patient as they can better grasp what to expect.
- Setting up a daily routine
Young children thrive when they are able to follow the same time schedules daily. It sets an expectation for how much time is given to complete their tasks throughout the day. This also helps them to feel secure and therefore less likely to kick up a fuss.
- Persevere and continue to be a role model
Patience is a learned behaviour. To raise a patient child, we need to practice patience on ourselves. A starting point is to communicate gently but firmly to get our message across. Avoid yelling as it communicates discomfort and frustration.
For example, ‘Can’t you tell I’m busy?’ can be phrased as ‘I’m busy right now, but I’ll attend to you in 10 minutes.’ A reasonable approach teaches children to be reasonable, and they are likely to accept what they have been told.
This article is contributed by Dr Carol Loy, Director of Curriculum at Kinderland Singapore. This is part two of a series by TNAP and Kinderland, focusing on developing E.Q skills in children. Read part one on the spirit of giving.
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