Teaching Patience: How to Help Children Wait


I started this post before Baby B was born. He’ll be 6 weeks old tomorrow and I’m finally getting back to it. =)

Here I am at 40 weeks, 5 days preggo and counting! My little boy is apparently quite cozy where he is, unaware of how anxious his daddy and I are to meet him.

While I’ve been told to be patient, enjoy the time and rest while I can, it’s not always so easy. Patience is a tricky thing when faced with an unpredictable wait. If it’s this hard for me (a grownup) to be patient, how must it be for children?

Toddlers and preschoolers are just beginning to learn about self control and patience – important life skills that many adults haven’t yet mastered. So, what’s a parent to do when their 2-year-old is having a hard time waiting for breakfast or wants to run around rather than wait in line at the bank? How can we support children when they need to be patient and wait?

Have Realistic Expectations

As a parent, you know your child’s limits better than anyone. Is it getting close to lunch or nap time? Has your active child had enough time to run around today? Your child’s mood, temperament and comfort level affect how successfully she can wait. Keep these things in mind when planning your day.

Acknowledge Feelings

Say something like, “We’ve been waiting a long time. Sometimes it’s really hard to wait.” Or, “I can see that you are very hungry and you’re having hard time waiting for me to finish making lunch.” Simply acknowledging your child’s feeling can help him feel better. Follow up with one of the tactics below to help him cope.

Explain Time in a Concrete Way

Time is an elusive concept for children – and some adults! Explaining time in a concrete way can help kids understand how long they must wait. For example, help your child count down the number of bedtimes left before the special day. Or, count the number of kids in line for the swing. Understanding when the waiting will end may make it a little bit easier.

Set Up for Success

Come prepared. Bring snacks, water, a book and a toy while you’re out and about. Consider keeping a couple of special things in your bag that only come out during times that your child is getting antsy in public.


If you’re waiting too, use the time to bond with your child.

  • Have a conversation.
  • Play peek-a-boo.
  • Whisper secrets to each other.
  • Play a quiet game of I Spy.
  • Give your child a simple task (counting how many types of fruit are in the shopping cart, for example).
  • Offer a paper, bank deposit slip or a piece of junk mail to doodle on (preschoolers love credit card offers).

Take a Deep Breath

While these ideas can help, there will inevitably be times when your child is just having a hard time waiting. In those cases, take a deep breath. Remember, we all have trouble being patient sometimes. Like me – right now….

What tricks do you use to help your child wait patiently?
Please share!


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