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Spotlight on Character Values: Patience

If you’re like most parents, managing your child’s patience, or lack thereof, may feel like a struggle. To shed light on the topic – one of the character values we focus on – read on for insight and tips from the trained educator’s perspective in this Q&A with Christle Seal, Director of Educational Programs at The Malvern School.

Q:        Are children fundamentally impatient?
A:         Children are naturally curious about the world around them. This curiosity can be interpreted in many ways, including impatience. Children are so excited by the sights, sounds, smells and tastes around them that they sometimes can’t wait to just jump in and explore. While young children may have shorter attention spans than older children, their focus is real. When a young child sees something new, their brain is stimulated and their inquisitive nature takes over. The eagerness may be read as impatience, but it is truly their eagerness to learn!

Q:        What are common misconceptions about patience in children?
A:         It is easy to read short attention spans and eagerness as impatience that needs to be solved. Children are little people that need understanding. When they are tired and hungry or over-stimulated, they may not exhibit this eagerness and curiosity in the happiest of ways. Adults may also struggle with the same feelings, but they have learned through time and experience how to channel their reactions.

Q:        How does The Malvern School help children develop and practice patience? 
A:        Patience or delayed gratification is a learned skill. Very young children need shorter wait times as they have not learned that waiting for something means whatever it is that they desire is coming. After children learn object permanence (i.e. a hidden object under a blanket is still there), they are ready to start to understand patience or delayed gratification. 

At The Malvern School, we build this skill into everyday happenings as well as focused teacher-directed lessons. As part of our daily practices, we communicate verbally with babies that their bottle is on its way and find ways to distract their focus with a song or finger play. As children get older, we fill inevitable wait times with engaging games and songs to show children that waiting for a toy or a turn can be fun. 

Q:        How can parents reinforce what children are learning at school and teach patience at home?
A:         Consistent strategies and messages at home and at school – on any topic – go a long way in helping children to embrace learned behaviors. When it comes to patience, there are a few simple approaches parents can use:

  • Verbally acknowledge that it is hard to wait sometimes. This signals to your child that you understand how they are feeling and can help avoid extra frustration.
  • Talk about waiting as it happens during the day and find a fun way to pass the time during the wait period. When waiting at a stoplight in the car, state, “We need to wait for the light to turn green. Then, it will be our turn to go. Can you find anything green while we wait?”
  • When your child would like a toy or book that is in an adult’s hand, rather than handing it over, take a few minutes to continue to play with it and communicate what is happening. For example, “Daddy is enjoying this book, too. We can look at it together and then it is your turn.”
  • Practice being patient yourself. Children are active observers. The more patience you exhibit in traffic, in the grocery line or on the telephone, the more they learn!

What other questions do you have on this subject? Contact us and let us know.

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