My toddler often has meltdowns because she wants something right then and there. My own patience is wearing thin, and I know there has to be a solution to try and settle the storm. When I tell my kiddos to “be patient,” it sounds to them like I am just saying no.
I began to realize that my toddler may not understand what patience is. I may have to explain that “mommy will help you” but follow up with why mommy can’t help right then and there. “Mommy will help you after I’m done using the potty.” Yeah, If you know, you know. The struggle is real.
This is not my first go around with a toddler, but it feels like it. When my now seven year old was a toddler, I felt like teaching her patience was a breeze. We did not know how blessed we were to have a chill child. Now with our second, it’s a whole different ball game. That kid literally has no chill (and I mean that in the most loving way).
So how do you teach a toddler patience? It might be a lot simpler than it seems.
1. Change Your Dialogue
“Mommy is in the middle of something, can you be patient and wait?”
“No! I don’t want to wait!”
This has been said many times in our house, and of course, it usually doesn’t work well. But when changing my language and delivery with more explanation, it seems to help a bit more. For example:
“I hear that you are asking mommy for help. What are you needing help with? Ah, ok, mommy is cutting carrots right now. I am going to cut these two carrots, and then I will help you. Would you like to watch mommy cut the two carrots while you wait for me to help you?”
It seems like a mouthful to say, but it helps them understand why the task can’t be done right now.
2. Give Them Specifics
Young children may not have a good concept of time. Instead of saying “in a few minutes,” try something very specific that a child can understand. For example, offer to help “after your snack,” “when this song ends,” or “after I finish cutting these two carrots.”
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As you change your speech and delivery, you can also ask if they want to watch you while they wait as a slight distraction. Sometimes they forget, and sometimes they don’t. Remember that if they do forget, you can still follow through with what you promised to do.
“Ok, mommy is done cutting the carrots. Thank you for waiting and staying by my side while I finished what I was doing. That was really helpful. Now, how can mommy help you?” Following through is important as it teaches them that you mean what you say.
4. Positive Feedback
When you see them practicing patience, give them positive feedback and praise. “That was hard to wait, wasn’t it? You did great waiting for mommy while I cut the carrots.” By giving positive feedback and praise, it helps encourage them to practice being patient.
5. Explain What Patience Is
Explain what patience is to help them understand how to practice it. Telling a story about your own experience of practicing patience can let them know that you had to learn too.
“Waiting is hard, isn’t it? One time mommy had a hard time waiting when I wanted grandma to make me a snack. I was upset that she didn’t help me right away. I had to wait and that felt forever. Is that how it feels for you?”
Having a conversation with your child also helps them communicate their own thoughts and feelings. It teaches them that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, or frustrated. They will also feel seen and heard.
Also, reading a book, such as “Waiting is Not Forever” by Elizabeth Verdick is a great way to start conversations. You can also try role playing with your child’s toys when you sit and play with them.
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Modeling the behaviors you want your child to exhibit is not always easy. As a matter of fact, it does not always work out how I am hoping it will. When this happens, I have to give myself grace and give myself that patience I want someone to have toward me. In a way, it’s similar to that golden rule we all learned as kids: “treat people how you want to be treated.” Show them that you also can practice being patient with them.
You are their teacher and consistency is the key. They see you and hear you.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.