Tips for Teaching Children to Wait

Like the elderly, children live in a society where everything is moving too quickly. As a mother, it's very important that you teach your children the value of patience. Here are four helpful tips for teaching children to wait.
Tips for Teaching Children to Wait

Last update: 29 October, 2018

Teaching children to wait is very important because it will also show them coping mechanisms necessary for everyday life. Patience for children involves observation, concentration, and learning.

Patience is a critical value for everyone, but it isn’t an innate ability. Children must learn it gradually from the first years of life. This isn’t an easy task since, like us, children live in a society where everything is moving fast and progressing exponentially.

On the other hand, parents strive to meet all of their babies’ needs at all times and as quickly as possible. But as children grow up, they must learn that it isn’t possible to acquire certain things immediately, and that patience is sometimes essential. 

Before putting into practice some of the tips we’ll give on teaching children to wait, it’s important to understand how waiting mechanisms and emotions work.

How do children face patience according to their age?

During the first 12 months, babies can’t control their emotions or clearly express their feelings. When they cry, they express discomfort, an unfulfilled need such as hunger, pain or fatigue.

For babies, waiting causes panic, fear, and vulnerability. This experience can be traumatic if it’s prolonged, so it’s essential to try to respond to their needs quickly.

Between 12 months to three years of age, children have a little more control over their emotions, but they have difficulty putting themselves in other people’s shoes because they don’t have the notion of time. Depending on the circumstances, waiting may seem very long or very short.

Tips on Teaching Children to Wait

Until they’re old enough to be more receptive to the notion of time, it’s better to give them a concrete reference and time points that they can understand. For example, say “after a nap,” “when your dad comes home from work,” or “when you finish your meal.”

These terms will be more appealing for them. In this phase, it’s advisable to have children wait for one to two minutes before satisfying their wishes.

After four years old, children will begin to understand the concept of patience quite well and can tolerate waiting before satisfying their needs. At this age, they’re also autonomous and can take care of themselves. If their order isn’t urgent, they can wait.

“Those who can have patience can have whatever they want”

–Benjamin Franklin–

Tips on teaching children to wait

Now, here are four tips on how to teach children to wait:

1. Explain

You should calmly explain to your children why they can’t get what they asked for immediately. Children will be able to understand why they have to wait and for how long.

For example, if they want a toy, explain to them that they have to wait for a special occasion: their birthday, a family celebration or Christmas. By imposing a delay on your children, you allow them to understand that there is a shift between their desires and the outside world. 

2. Value and reward

Remember to always encourage your children when they show patience and show them your sense of pride. Continue to congratulate them on their good behavior, giving them some rewards or privileges to recognize their efforts for waiting.

3. Give a visual signal

Concrete timelines also help your children learn to wait. For example, place small stickers in the shape of animals or fruits on the clock. You can ask them to wait until the clock hand lands on the horse or the apple, for example.

When your children begin to learn how to tell time, buy them a watch so they appreciate the notion of time and it becomes a reference. 

Tips on Teaching Children to Wait

4. Organize

If you know that your children will have to wait during the day (a doctor’s appointment, a field trip, restaurant, etc.), plan some games that will catch their interest. Don’t forget their stuffed animal, their favorite book, pencils or a simple snack to entertain them.

In short, when it comes to teaching children how to wait, the four above-mentioned tips will help you. They’ll provide you with useful tools to improve your little ones’ patience so that they’ll master the art of knowing how to wait. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Isaacs, D. (2003). La educación de las virtudes humanas y su evaluación (No. 370.034 Is14e Ej. 1 022524). EUNSA.
  • Savater, F. (2001). El valor de educar. Educere, 5(13).
  • Shapiro, L. E. (2002). La salud emocional de los niños (Vol. 16). Edaf.
  • Snel, E. (2013). Tranquilos y atentos como una rana: la meditación para los niños con sus padres. Editorial Kairós.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.