Written by Doctor G

How to Teach Kids Patience (and other tricks)

impatientHow do I teach patience? 5 year old boy (strong-willed, stubborn but compassionate and joyful) is very impatient. Needs attention NOW, or needs met NOW… otherwise he just gets louder, closer and more physical (pulling on me, laying on the ground etc… not violent). Reminding him about manners, waiting turn etc doesn’t seem to phase him. Help!

Lindsey, in OH

Have you seen the movie Evan Almighty? Morgan Freeman has this great line. He’s talking to a main character who is frustrated because she prayed for patience but isn’t feeling it. His answer: “If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient?”

I have thought of this countless times as I strive to be a more patient person. Taking the religious aspect out, it’s a great point – if we want our kids to learn patience we have to give them opportunities to practice it.

If one of our kids struggles in math, we don’t try to avoid math problems and do the math for them.  We give them basic math problems to work on. We try to build their skills and build their confidence in their skills!

Here’s how we can apply that to patience and a 5 year old:

  1. Define the skill. Does your son know the word patience? And does he know that you value that, and want him to get better at exercising it?
  2. Explain what it looks like. Patience is not only waiting, but waiting respectfully. When characters he likes in books or TV show patience, point it out! When you or a teacher or babysitter is being patient with him, say so. (Note: don’t point it out in his friends or siblings because that may breed resentment or hurt).
  3. Give him tools. Many of us are patient by distracting ourselves while we wait. Encourage him to think of things he can do while he waits. Help him understand how to interrupt or make his needs known respectfully.
  4. Build his confidence. Delay his gratification so he can practice patience, but only by a tiny bit at first. Show him some successes in this area. Point out your own impatience and discuss what you’re doing to improve (I have to do this, regularly!).
  5. Give consequences for disrespectful impatience.   Explain that being disrespectful will earn a timeout or other consequence before he gets what he wanted.
  6. Praise his process! Notice when he shows patience, even for a short time, and mention it out loud when you know he has tried to be patient.

He can learn this skill! He won’t be patient all the time, but kids are really practical. If being patient earns him praise and being impatient works against his desires, he’ll get it. Now for the hard part… you have to be patient while he learns!

Please let me know how it goes if you try it!

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