Anyone traveling with a young child knows they should come prepared for the “long” trip ahead — yes, even a quick supermarket run turns into an extended outing for a child whose patience loses quickly. Kids this age are very impatient, and it can be stressful for their parents when they begin to act up just because they cannot immediately get what they want.
“Preschoolers are still developing self-control, which means that tantrums often erupt when they don’t get instant gratification,” says Jan Drucker, Ph.D., a clinical and developmental psychologist. That they don’t have a clear concept of time yet only adds to their frustration. A 15-minute period could be the longest wait because she doesn’t really know how long that actually is.
“Preschoolers live fully on the moment, which can make waiting hard. They’re thinking about what they want right now, instead of the end outcome,” Drucker tells Parents. That said, we know we can’t afford to be impatient ourselves when dealing with our child. How do you train a child to not be “mainipin”? Here are a few ways.
Many parents have resorted to this tried-and-tested method to keep a child from throwing a full-blown tantrum. “Ay, o, what’s that?” while pointing at nothing on the air may get your baby wondering for a few seconds, but when they’re preschooler age, you know you have to do better than that. Lucky for you, kids are easily distracted, so a few useful props like colored pens and a notebook, cute stickers, or finger puppets could buy you some time. If you want to make it more interactive, try a game of “I Spy” while waiting in line at the cashier.
Make the lesson fun
Kids almost always learn anything even better when there’s an element of fun involved. Board games or group games where players take turns and waiting for one’s time might just be the fun lesson your child needs. Schedule a fun family night on a weekend. “Keep the game moving along quickly, though, because you can’t really expect her to easily slog through three other pondering their next moves,” Drucker warns.
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If your child is impatient about an upcoming vacation your family will be having with her cousins, a visual countdown will make it easier to picture how much longer she’ll have to wait. She might also have fun decorating the countdown, another project you can do together.
Your child naturally looks up to you, and anything you do will be her guide on how to behave herself. So on those moments that you feel you’re about to lose it, remember that your child is watching. “If you demonstrate patience even when you feel the most frazzled, your child will watch and learn from it,” Susan Caudle, Ph.D., a child neuropsychologist, tells Parents.
When there’s a particularly frustrating situation you find yourself in, rather than complaining about it, humor yourself. Highlight the fact that you (and your child) are being very patient (give each other a pat on the back!), or talk about something fun you plan to do when that chore is done. It will give you both something to look forward to.
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Whenever you succeed at not yelling or not being grumpy when you’re in a tight situation, mark that. And if you’ve done it before, you can do it again. When another instance calls for it in the future, use that victory to calm you down. “Remember when ...?” would be a fun trip down memory lane with your child, and a good reminder for you both that you have it within you to be patient.