Patience is apparently a virtue, yet in the world that we are living in and have created for our children that quality seems to have been put on the shelf with your VCR or record player. It is an asset that many children would benefit from and even more so the adults guiding them throughout life. We have created a society that is uncomfortable with the delay of gratification and instead need things to be immediate. We have taken the concept of fast forwarding tapes, footage on DVDs and blu-rays, and commercials on YouTube to a different level where the idea of waiting has become extremely difficult for many people, especially our children. It has become common place to hear the words “Have the results been posted yet? Have you received your acceptance yet? Have the photos been posted yet?” What haven’t we got a reply to our text message?” All of these questions coming within seconds of the events themselves and then children, teens and parents alike questioning why certain things have not been done instantly. As a result of the instant world we have created, and it has led to an evolving generation of impatient children and adolescents. The words “taking forever” are repeated and that spawns an array of impulsive emotional responses. Our children are inadvertently learning that if they have to wait for something, it is the end of their world. As a result, we are breeding children who are less tolerant when there is a challenge or setback, individuals who become overly anxious when certain desired outcomes are not immediate, and then the blame falls on everyone but themselves. It is time to restart the clock on patience and help empower our children to better understand how to wait or take the responsibility to do the task(s) on their own, regardless of their age.
If we continue to operate in the instant world, not only will our children struggle when they have to wait, we as parents will adopt a similar pattern in our lives and forget that it does not always have to be this way. To begin with, when your children as asking you for something, slow down their language so that they say “Can I have a snack?” instead of “I want a snack.” The I want connotes more of a demand and if that demand is not met immediately, they can become agitated, annoyed, and disappointed that you are not meeting those demands. Helping them reframe their initial ask will help slow them down in their process, and help them learn to wait in that moment. Moreover, it can also help lessen the intensity of their emotions when they are forced to slow down for a minute rather than asking for three things at once. Additionally, often there may be multiple siblings in the room or other students in the room also needing certain things at the same time. If each student or siblings asked for something and they all needed it immediately, how helpful or logical would that be to the parent or teacher? Help your children understand why they need to wait, why they need to phrase the request differently, and why they can do certain tasks on their own, both at home and at school.
While at school, outbursts are happening far more often, stretching teachers into realms of behavioural modification that go well-beyond their job description. Moreover, if your child is the type of person who represses all their feelings and frustrations from a lack of patience at school all day, the family becomes an open target when they come home. These emotional outbursts and degree of dysregulation stems from a lack of identification and expression of their emotions. We need to empower our children so that when they feel frustrated because some aspect of their life is not happening immediately they would benefit from stopping what they are doing, asking themselves what they need, and then outlining to themselves why they can wait. In the end, that 100 seconds they use more intentionally, saves them the 10,000 seconds of an emotional outbursts. Additionally, implementing that quick intervention can help them develop the confidence that they can address their own concerns independently, especially when making that transition back home after a long day at school.
When at home, ensure that you are constantly practicing different scenarios with your children to help them learn from numerous examples that they can wait. Often times, if your children are watching certain programs on TV, ensure that they sit through the commercials so they learn that they can wait. When you are serving dinner, ensure that they know they cannot start eating until the last person has sat down or the person primarily responsible for making the meal is sitting at the table. Ensure that when they are doing their homework, if it is not progressing as quickly as they anticipated or had hoped, they need to stop and break it down into ten minute increments and accept that it may take an extra 25% more time than they had anticipated. Often times when our children place certain unrealistic expectations on a desired and instant timeline of events or tasks, when the outcome does not meet their unrealistic assumptions, their mood changes almost instantly. Help thwart that quick mood shift, by overtly engaging in collaborative scenarios with them where they need to wait. If we do not practice patience ourselves as parents (e.g., in traffic, waiting for a train, standing in line, watching our children ice a cupcake or put their snowsuits on, or expecting an email/text response within seconds of sending a message), our children will continue to lead by example and no longer see a need to be patient.