Teaching Patience

In class, we encourage people to listen to others, to take turns speaking and to wait until a friend is finished so they avoid interrupting.  It can be helpful to coach children to listen to others and wait for a break in conversation to speak.  When children are little, it may work more smoothly to give a visual or physical cue.  A physical cue might be a talking stick.  You can introduce this at dinner time.  Take a popcycle stick or something similar and discuss how whoever has the stick is the speaker and others must be listeners.  Practice passing the stick regularly and develop a cue they can give if they need the stick next.  This takes practice but quiets the table and gives everyone time to speak and actually be heard.

We had a mom in class who taught her children that if she was on the phone or speaking with someone and they needed her, they should put a hand on one of her hands, she would them put her free hand on theirs to let them know she felt the touch.  This exchange of hands was a signal to mom that the child wanted her attention and a signal back to the child she would get to them as soon as possible.  For this to work well, the first 10 or 15 times, the mom immediately following the hand exchange said, “Excuse me, my child needs me,” turned to the child and said, “I felt your hand, how can I help you?”  The child was learning to trust the system.  After several immediate successes the idea is to gradually add a bit of time.  Start with a 5 second delay before you turn and speak with the child, a few times later a smile at and a 10 second delay before turning to the child.  Gradually work your way up to a few minutes or more.

If waiting for you on the phone or computer is often problematic, you might give them other things to do such as a writing pad beside the phone to communicate that way or just activities they can quietly do to fill their wait time.

After each time they successfully wait, draw attention by saying something like “Wow, that was a while to wait.  You were so patient!”  You might also highlight when you or they are patient about waiting in life.  Talk about how it was nice to have pleasant conversation waiting in the grocery line or how they were able to wait for a turn on the slide at the playground.

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  1. […] Answers: First, if you can, save the texting and emailing for when she is asleep or otherwise occupied.  If there is a 30 minute stretch of tv show that’s the time to text away.  I get things can’t always wait but when they can it’s a nice practice.  Second, plan for distractions.  If you know you are going to be on a 20 minute call run some water in the sink and let her “wash dishes” or break out the play-doh set that she can mush for a while. Third, teach her how to politely interrupt like standing in front of you waiting or touching your hand quietly.  I wrote notes on how to teach that earlier in this blog post – https://parentingbydrrene.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/teaching-patience/. […]

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