6 Tips for Raising Patient Kids

little boy waiting patiently for cookies

Patience is a virtue.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard that once or twice (or 500 times) in your life. And for good reason–patience is a virtue! It’s an admirable quality that we strive to master, even when it feels like we often fail.

Because the truth is, being patient is hard work. 

We’ve all been there… 

Standing in line at the grocery store while the world’s most sloth-like checker rings up the person ahead of us. Or stuck in rush hour traffic with a full bladder and absolutely no break in sight. 

Patience is hard.

Then, when you throw kids into the mix? Being patient is even more challenging

You know how it goes:

First, you ask your son to do something. James, would you put your shoes away, please? 

No response. 

Then, you demand it. James put your shoes away right now.

Crickets.

Finally, you yell. “James, I said you need to put your shoes away this instant! I’m not going to ask again!”

Suddenly, you’ve lost your cool, and any ounce of patience you once had is nothing but an afterthought. Try not to feel too bad. It happens to the best of us. Just ask any parent who has ever taken my FREE class.

Simply put, being patient with kids is no easy feat. 

But if fostering patience is difficult for us as adults, can you imagine how tough it must be for our kids?

The Importance of Patience in Children

Not only is patience an excellent quality for any child to develop, it’s also a strong indicator of their future successes. In fact, the famous Stanford Marshmallow Experiment revealed that 4-year-olds who exercised patience, later had SAT scores that were 210 points higher than their peers who did not.

How amazing is that?!

Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, instant gratification is lurking around every corner. 

We stream and binge our favorite shows the moment they become available. We heat delicious meals in a matter of minutes. We can even access an entire encyclopedia’s worth of information by merely asking our smartphones a question.

When we see something we want, we want it (and often get it) right away!

Is this all convenient? Sure it is. But it doesn’t make waiting any easier. For us or our kids. 

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Check out these 6 tips for raising patient kids! 

6 Tips for Raising Patient Kids

Tip #1: Don’t Drop Everything to Help

Our children are just as human as we are, which means, like us, they also struggle with craving instant gratification. Just like we’d like to hit every green light on the way to work, they’d like to have a snack the moment they ask for one. 

But life doesn’t work like that, right? Sometimes, we have to wait. And when we wait, it’s easy to become frustrated! 

But here’s the beautiful thing about the wait. That’s where patience is learned.

As long as safety isn’t a concern, there’s no need to drop everything and help your child the second they cry your name. Allow them to wait.

You know the routine…

“Mom, can you get me a glass of milk?”

“Dad, I can’t tie my shoes!”

As parents, we know a thing or two about how it feels to be at our children’s beck and call. From the moment they’re born, it seems like we’re always dropping what we’re doing and hurrying to their aid. 

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As parents, we should help our children, especially in those early years. We just want to be careful we aren’t crossing the line from helping to enabling.

quote about patience

So instead of jumping immediately when your child asks, try a When-Then approach:

“WHEN I’m finished folding laundry, THEN I’ll grab you a glass of milk.” 

“WHEN I’ve finished my conference call, THEN I’ll help you learn to tie your shoes.”

This is also a fantastic opportunity for you to try out a tool known as Control the Environment.

Let me start by asking you a question…

If no adults lived in your household, how would you arrange the environment so your children could operate entirely independently?

Maybe you could put a step stool in the kitchen so your daughter can grab her glass when she’s thirsty. Or perhaps you lay a pair of easy-to-slip-on shoes outside her bedroom door.

Instead of dropping everything and running to her aid, you’ve now rearranged her physical environment so she can do everything for herself.

Which leads me to my next tip…

Take Time for Training!

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out Step 3 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System for more information on how you can Control the Environment using When-Then routines. 

Tip #2: Take Time for Training

Your children weren’t born with the ability to wait patiently. (Remember those newborn days?) And just like brushing their teeth or learning proper bedtime routines, patience is a learned skill that takes time, practice, and training. 

Take Time for Training is a powerful tool that any parent can (and should!) use. 

To start, make a list of all the things your children typically ask you to help them with. Now, look at the list and narrow it down to what you know they can do themselves.

(Remember, be realistic! You wouldn’t expect your 2-year-old to know how to tie his shoes. But your 7-year-old can do it!) 

Now ask yourself, which of these tasks can I train my child to do now so they won’t be forced to wait for my help?

This could be pouring their cereal in the morning or picking out their outfit. Whatever it may be, move forward with training them on how they can do it for themselves. 

Just keep in mind, this will take time, as no child gets it perfect right out of the gate. But soon, you’ll start to notice the constant demands for help and whines of impatience becoming less frequent.

Now, what about the other portion of the list? The items your children aren’t yet capable of doing themselves?

I’m glad you asked! Because this is where you train them on HOW to wait patiently. 

Let’s say your son is too young to make his own lunch, but you’re busy feeding the baby and can’t prepare his meal right away. This is an excellent chance for you to turn his waiting into a learning opportunity.

For example, when he says, “Mommy, I’m so hungry! I want lunch.”

You can reply, “I’m sorry, Sweetie, I’m busy at the moment. Why don’t you sing the When You Wait song or play with your toys until I can make your lunch?” 

Not only did you give him a few ideas on what he can do while he waits, you also handed him the opportunity to practice waiting patiently. 

And whether he succeeds for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, heap on some positive encouragement afterward. Try something like, “Thank you for waiting so patiently, you were so quiet I could really focus on finishing up!” or, “I know it was hard to wait patiently, but you made it look fun the way you set up all your blocks like a castle!”

Tip #3: Engage in Slow-Paced Activities

If the idea of playing a round of Monopoly with your kids has you cringing, I get it! That game can go on forever.

But when it comes to fostering patience, I promise you, playing slow-paced games together will be greatly beneficial. 

Sure, at the end of a long day, it’s easy to hand your child a smartphone or send them off to play a video game. Unfortunately, these types of games are often so fast-paced they actually make it more difficult for your child to develop a healthy understanding of patience.

However, when you throw in games that are both fun and slow, you’re able to teach patience without making it dull.

So pull out that dusty old Monopoly box, play the Silent Game on your next road trip, or teach your kids one of your favorite card games. The sky’s the limit!  

These activities don’t even have to be games (though those are always a great option!). 

Perhaps you and your son have your sights set on finishing a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle for your Mind, Body, and Soul Time? Or maybe your daughter wants to try learning the art of origami? What about baking a cake? Painting pottery?

Whatever the activity may be, look for options that require at least a small amount of waiting. Aim for time spans that are long enough to encourage patience, but short enough your kids won’t lose sight of the reward at the end of the wait.

Not only will they start to develop a healthy understanding of what it takes to be patient, but you’ll also be filling their need for positive attention by spending time together. With this, you’ll start to see a reduction in the number of power struggles they throw your way.

What a win!

free parenting class

Tip #4: Have a Visible Schedule

More often than not, our children retain information much better when presented in a visual format. So, if you’re trying to teach patience, creating a schedule or calendar you can display in your home can be incredibly helpful.

Not only will this help them understand precisely when something is going to happen, but it will also give you a tool to reference anytime they come asking questions.

Your 4-year-old may ask, “Mommy, when are we getting on a plane to go visit Nana?”

“It’s written on the calendar. Why don’t you go count how many days you have left to wait?”

See? So simple!

Ensure that the schedule is displayed in a prominent place in your household, like the kitchen or living room. You can also dress it up and make it fun or colorful–especially if you have younger kids! 

Make sure that both the start and end dates are clearly labeled. Then, add a sticker, move a magnet, or X-out each day between now and the big event. It may also help younger children if you detail out everything you plan on doing until then.

On Monday, we do our laundry. On Tuesday, we pack our bags. On Wednesday, we head to the airport. On Thursday, we see Nana!

You can review your family’s schedule at your weekly Family Meeting so everyone gets a feel for the rhythm of the week–and learns that the all-important trip, birthday, playdate, or whatever will happen eventually.

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members, be sure to check out Step 6 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System to learn more about running an efficient, informative, and FUN Family Meeting.

Having a visible schedule is also incredibly handy on road trips. After all, what parent hasn’t fallen victim to the ever-dreadful question:

“Are we there yet?”

Consider making one of these cute and straightforward road maps to show how far you’ve gone and how far you have left to go. 

As the schedule starts to become a standard reference in your children’s lives, you’ll begin to notice their impatience waning. 

Tip #5: Use a Timer 

Much like the schedule, using a timer is another tangible way to help your child better understand time moving forward. When he can see the end in sight, waiting patiently is much easier. 

One of my favorite timers on the market is the Time Timer. This helpful little gadget will show your child the passage of time in a way that’s easy to comprehend. An hourglass sand timer is another excellent alternative for shorter periods, like brushing teeth or washing hands.

Note: Avoid countdown timers, as kids have a hard time processing this type of information.

Here’s how using a visual timer could play out in your home…

After a long day of working from home, you only have a few more tasks to complete today’s work. It shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. But virtual school has already let out, and your 5-year-old is now begging for his special time with you.  

First off, don’t drop everything and cater to him (remember Tip #1?). Why?

Because this is an excellent opportunity for a little lesson in patience! Of course, you can always help him out a little by letting him experience the wait along with something to show the passage of time. 

Simply say, “I can’t wait for our special time, either. I have two more things to do for work, and then we can be together. To help you out, I’m going to set a timer for 10 minutes so you know when I’ll be ready.”

By acknowledging your child’s anxious enthusiasm AND providing a tool to help them cope, you are no longer the “keeper of the time.” The timer is the boss! 

Tip #6: Demonstrate Patience 

I know, I know. This may be the hardest one of all, but also the most important. 

Because, even when we are at our worst, our kids are always watching and learning from us. If we want them to be patient little humans, we can’t talk the talk unless we walk the walk, too.

That means personally exercising and demonstrating patience every single day.

You may feel the need to honk your horn and swear at the car in front of you in a feeble attempt to make traffic move faster, but don’t forget the little ears listening from the backseat. 

Instead, fight the urge to give in to impatience. Come up with a fun car game to pass the time or crank up the tunes to enjoy a rush-hour jam session.

Or, instead of getting angry at the grocery store clerk for moving too slowly, try offering up an understanding sentiment about why the wait may be taking so long. 

“Maybe he’s had a tough day, or perhaps the computer is running slowly.”

Demonstrating patience in your daily life is a great way to lead by example. But don’t forget, you must also show patience with your children as well.

That means curbing the urge to yell or scream when you find them wrestling in the living room or using a Calm Voice even in the midst of a toddler temper tantrum.

I get it. Sometimes it feels like no one can push our buttons quite like our own children. Show them some grace and be patient with them anyway. After all, we’re the ones with years of experience under our belts.

Our kids are just now learning. Teach them patience by being patient with them.

I promise, you won’t regret it.

Final Thoughts

Our children are little mirrors of our own selves. If we want to teach them to wait without agitation, we can’t do it if we don’t have a handle on the skill ourselves. 

Using these 6 tips is a wonderful start–but it’s just the first step! In fact, it’s best if you think of this path as more of a lifelong journey; one we must walk alongside our little ones.

Parenting is a learning process, one I happen to know a lot about. So, please, read our blogs, try our FREE WEBINAR, and sign up for the proven 7-Step Parenting Success System.

We’re here to help in any way we can!

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About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.