Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
"Patience, patience, it is all coming your way," or "Why can't I ever see a thread of patience in you?" are lines we have used very often with our children when they want to hurry things they want to do or procure. We have never heard the end of it, and it will go on and on - that patience is a virtue. But being patient is a concept that is normally not experienced or commonly known, especially with children, unless taught. When there is so much to be anxious about in this world, it is understandable that our little ones just don't have the patience to wait. With their birthday, the cricket series, New Year, summer vacation, etc., it seems like all they do is anticipate the next big thing to happen in their life.
With "I can't wait for…" or "Are we there yet?" being frequently spoken by them, the best way to fight impatience in our children is to teach them patience. Patience isn't merely a great quality for children to have right now- it is a great ingredient of the tool kit used in life, and it will continue to help them be successful in most of what they intend to do. Patience can lead to self-control, understanding of how things work, and helps our kids to maintain and overcome adversities in their adult life, and helps develop social and interpersonal relationships.
The preschool period is adamantly pre-programmed in our children to be impatient, although that doesn't make it right. Just as young children have to learn how to walk and talk they need to learn how to be patient. It starts with us parents showing patience to our children, whether we are on a time constraint or not. For instance: if we have to run an errand and it is time to leave the house and we want them to pick up their toys first. We could try to reinforce the theory of patience and simply give them a hand (without doing it for them). "We have to leave the house in two minutes, so let us pick up your toys together to make it go faster."
Sooner or later (if we are patient it'll probably be later than sooner), our children will begin to understand everything will need patience to get through. When we are waiting for an appointment in the waiting room, we need to talk about turns and how everyone has to patiently await their turn. "We are after one other person before we get to see the doctor, we have to be patient and wait for them to call our name just like all the other children. While we are being patient we can always do something to help pass the time, like read this book."
If they show a patient behavior at the doctor's office or wherever it is they need to wait, we should reward their behavior with an appropriate compliment. Should they show a behavior that was not appropriate we need to take a moment to explain the importance of being patient and instruct them when they do show patience they will be rewarded.
A great lesson for our children to learn is how most things take time to create, receive or obtain. We could do that by building something with our children that takes time such as a tree house, an outside playhouse, doghouse or any other project that takes time to make. As we work together on this project day-by-day or week-by-week it will demonstrate to our children how patience and persistence will ultimately make our goal successful.
Another great way to teach young children about patience is to talk about future events such as holidays, birthdays or family events that will be taking place. We could sit down with them with a calendar and count the days together until the day the event will take place and point out how patience will play a role in waiting for that special event.
Once our children get older and have the ability to understand pros and cons, we should allow them to help make decisions in the family unit. Understanding decision-making can make a big difference in their learning patience. Even if we don't fully allow their opinion to make or break our decisions, we could allow them to be interactive with their opinions.
Acceptance, understanding, patience, are all similar qualities each maintaining another. When we understand we accept, when we accept we allow change, when we allow change we are patient. It is necessary to accept their desires and opinions as important beliefs and theories. Even if their desires and opinions differ from our own, allowing them to be an individual will help to maintain the patience in our children.
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at or