AdviceFatherhoodFriday 50HabitsParentingPatience

Habits of Mind: Friday 50 – Parenting Patient Kids

Patience is a virtue that our kids need right now!

How’s that for an ironic statement to start an article on the power of patience? Developing a patient habit of mind will help our kids improve their personal contentment and it will also pay huge dividends for them in other areas of their life like relationships, athletics, and school.

Patience is also a form of action. ~Auguste RodinClick To Tweet

Patient kids can appropriately handle those inevitable times where they find themselves cooling their heels and waiting for someone or something. They also tend to get along with others well because they know how to take turns, they don’t tend to rush to the front of the line for everything, and can often put their siblings or their friend’s needs ahead of their own – temporarily.

Patience can also serve our kids well as they navigate school and athletics. Patient people understand that growth at any understanding and skill is a journey. They don’t tend to get frustrated when they aren’t able to instantly master something new that they are trying. They are also able to keep working at something over and over again, finding happiness in small improvements over time.

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ~AristotleClick To Tweet

As parents, it’s more important than ever to consider how we model and teach patience because, in our privileged part of the world at least, we are surrounded by technologies, conveniences, and communication that are designed to facilitate an instant gratification approach to the world.

Don’t have time to cook? Toss a pre-packaged meal into the microwave. Don’t want to spend the time leveling up in the latest hot game on your smart phone? Buy the resources that you need from the in-app store. Don’t want to save to purchase that super cool must have gizmo that everyone is talking about? Put it on the credit card. Don’t want to have to answer your kids’ 300th question on your multi-hour drive to the in-laws? Plug ‘em into a tablet …

Taken individually, none of these things is inherently bad. As parents, we need to be conscious and aware of how we set our kids up to have practice with exercising patience as a habit of mind in this world of boundless instant gratification.  We need to do this before they are thrust into situations where not having patience could have a negative impact on their happiness, ability to make friends and feel successful.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo EmersonClick To Tweet

Here are some suggestions for helping your kids develop a patient approach to life. Enjoy the journey!

  1. Start small

It’s important that we start requiring small doses of patience from our kids from a very young age. It’s also important that we keep our expectations reasonable. Expecting a pre-schooler to wait an hour for food at a restaurant is just setting them up for failure. Start with small delays in gratification like requiring them to quietly wait 1-2 minutes while you get them their snack. The limits of these small periods of requiring our kids to be patient can be stretched as they get older. What we need to remember is to purposefully work these into how we teach, model, and expect patient habits from ourselves and our kids.

  1. Do activities together that require patience

Grow a garden. Build with Lego. Go fishing. Read a chapter book together.

Engage in activities that by their very nature take time to complete. Talk with your kids at different points along the way about the patience that is or will be required. Praise them as they demonstrate this habit and explain how being patient can improve the experience or the reward at the end of the activity for everyone.

Help kids understand that there is a difference between someone who is patient and someone who is lacking persistence and follow through. A certain amount of impatience can drive them to complete tasks, improve their skills, and learn new things. The secret is practice in challenging and channeling this impatience and drive.

  1. Deliver on promises

If we ask our kids to be patient and promise them that we will help them, read to them, get them lunch etc. in “10 minutes” or “after we finish our phone call”, we must honor that promise to our child.

Teach them that they can rely on us to follow through on our promises to them and they will exercise the patience we are asking from them. If we don’t follow through on these kinds of promises, we are encouraging our kids to develop an impatient, ask again and again, approach to meeting their needs and wants in part because they don’t feel like they can trust and rely on us to keep or promises.

  1. Teach and model self-control

Our kids are always learning from us. They watch and internalize our approach to dealing with all manner of situations, exercising self-control and patience included. I have caught myself not being a good model of self-control and patience while openly and angrily muttering about being stuck in traffic, displaying annoyance while waiting at the doctor’s office, or getting frustrated that a home improvement project is taking me far longer than I thought it should.  It’s tough for me to expect my kids to control their emotions and actions, even when they are anxious and tired, if I don’t provide them with some solid modelling of what this looks, sounds and feels like as an adult.

Work with your kids and require them to gain some control over their anger, annoyance, sadness etc. before you fulfill a request they are making while in one of these states. This will help keep them from developing a mind-set where acting out impatiently is the way to get what you want. I have promised myself to do the same the next time I am in line at the motor vehicles registry office.

One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. ~Chinese ProverbClick To Tweet
  1. Practice the art of taking turns

Nothing tests a kid’s patience more than having to wait to take a turn at something fun or to receive a tasty food / treat. Being able to occasionally delay their gratification to allow their friends, siblings, team mates or adults to “go first” will make it easier for your kid to develop and retain friendships and positive relationships with adults like teachers and coaches. If your child is having a hard time developing this expression of patience, find more ways to intentionally practice this behavior, not fewer. Talk to them in advance of activities about how they will approach lining up, or handing out treats, or playing a video game with a group of friends. Praise them for their ability to allow others to go first and for taking turns and sharing appropriately.

  1. Instill good consumer habits

As your kids get older, using an allowance can help them not only gain a sense of the value and power of money but also that patience is often required for positive consumer habits. Have your kids set aside a portion of their allowance for savings. Help them see that as time passes, their savings will grow. Come up with a goal together for savings and talk to your child about staying dedicated to their saving plan. Celebrate when they achieve their goal and can make the purchase they have been saving for.

Patience is key. Remember that a jug fills, drop by drop. ~Zen ProverbClick To Tweet

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The Author



I am a passionate epic dad in training, husband, and blogger. I believe that as dads we have the epic responsibility and incredibly rewarding challenge of raising our kids. I also believe in the power of sharing our trials and triumphs as a community of epic dads in order to amplify our impact as we learn from each other.

I am an educator by trade, learner, leader and coach at heart, and father and husband at my core.

Follow me on Twitter at @GregEsteves and find me on Facebook at the Epic Page and Group.