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All of us are born impatient, many of us die still struggling with impatience.
But most of us learn how to cool it. We learn to not interrupt when someone else is talking, we wait in line at the market and airport, we can recognize the needs of others and postpone our own gratification.
So how do parents help that screaming baby who wants to be fed RIGHT NOW become a more patient person? Patiently! It takes a long time. Plus one of your important parenting jobs is to model patient behavior for your children.
It starts with meeting the infants needs so he or she will learn that the world is a pretty good place and other people help you when you’re hungry or wet. Then we teach the fun of giving something up so you get it back like when you roll a ball. We teach about sharing and taking turns.
Board games help the preschooler and school age children learn to wait their turn and cope with that very important truth: “I can’t always win.”
I recommend that at about age 5 parents to start reading “big” books. The typical preschooler book can be read in a few minutes but when a parent reads a chapter or a few pages of a Harry Potter book or similar length at bedtime, the child learns to wait for the next installment.
Baking is another activity that helps teach patience. It takes time for the cookies to bake. Planting flowers or vegetables takes even more time between the task and the payoff of putting the pansies in a vase or eating the carrots. Building something like a birdhouse takes patience as well as skill.
Saving for a “big” purchase like a bike helps teach patience as well as the value of money. On the other hand if you give your children everything they want the instant they want it, you are removing any incentive for them to wait patiently for what they long for.
Don’t model impatient behavior. Instead of drumming your fingers and cussing when you’re stuck in traffic, tell your kids, “It can’t be helped. Let’s play a guessing game.”
In our complex world there are many times we have to wait like at airports. Let’s face it, waiting is boring. To me a book is an antidote for boredom so I always carry a book or a crossword puzzle with me and encouraged my children to do the same.
Finally, nature helps teach patience. Watch the sun come up or set–it doesn’t happen instantly. Lie down at dusk so you can look up and watch the stars pop out. Sit quietly in the woods and wait for a deer to come by. Or wait for a fish to bite at your favorite fishing hole.
Children today live in a sound bite, instant gratification world but the wise parent counters this with many little, age-appropriate patience lessons.
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