Building On…The Virtue of Patience


By: Nicole Leuci Gilmer

Patience is a virtue that is essential to developing emotional intelligence in young children. In today’s world of fiber internet, express food delivery, and next-day shipping, it can be difficult for children to understand the importance of and learn how to be patient. It’s hard to blame them – I want my meal or impulse purchase from Amazon ASAP too! However, honing patience is crucial for a young child’s development and socializing abilities. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, nearly 50% of parents reported that their child struggles with impatience and frustration. With the help of educators and parents, children can learn to develop the capacity for patience, which is an important part of growing up.

The Importance of Patience

Developing patience is a crucial aspect of early childhood development. It goes beyond simply waiting for a turn to go down the slide or delaying gratification. Patience helps children navigate challenging situations, control impulsive behaviors, and regulate emotions effectively. When children learn patience, they develop the ability to stay calm in the face of frustrating situations and work on building healthy relationships with their peers and caregivers.

Additionally, patience teaches perspective in a unique, situational way. Children learn that not everything can be obtained instantly, those around them are not at their beckon call, and that good things come to those who wait. By understanding the value of patience, children can navigate through life’s ups and downs with resilience and optimism, building a strong foundation for realistic expectations and dealing with life’s disappointments.

Through patience, children can unlock the key to emotional intelligence and ultimately, lead happier, healthier lives. By using strategies such as praise, visuals, and building on their existing interests, we can foster an environment where patience is celebrated and rewarded.

The Science of Patience

For children, patience is not just about waiting; it involves a dynamic interplay involving emotions, cognitive processes, and self-control. Neuroscientific research has shown that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for impulse control and emotional regulation, is still developing in young children, making patience a challenge. Parents and educators can promote patience by engaging children in sustained attention activities and incorporating play into learning experiences. Understanding the science of patience allows for effective techniques to support emotional and cognitive development in children.

Encouraging Patience

One of the most effective ways to encourage patience is through engaging activities and games. Start by setting clear expectations and preparing them for what is going to happen, as this helps reduce triggers for impatience. Visual aids, like timers, can also help children manage their expectations and understand the concept of waiting.  Additionally, incorporating activities that require waiting and turn-taking, such as board games or group projects, can help children practice patience in a fun and interactive way.  Make sure to provide positive reinforcement and praise when patience is exhibited to help reinforce and motivate the behaviors.

Playtime is an excellent opportunity to cultivate patience in young children. Engaging children in activities that require waiting and persistence can help them develop the important virtue of patience in a fun and interactive way. One idea is to provide children with open-ended toys, such as building blocks or art supplies, that allow them to explore their creativity and problem-solving skills at their own pace. Engaging children in imaginative play, such as pretending to be characters or setting up a restaurant, helps build patience and cooperation skills as they learn to wait their turn and to cooperate with others. Incorporating patience-building activities into playtime, such as completing puzzles or crafts, fosters emotional growth in a positive play-learning experience.

It may feel like every time you are having an adult conversation, your child is interrupting, which can feel frustrating for both you and the child. Reduce these interruptions by teaching your child to hold their hand on your arm while waiting for their turn to speak and cover their hand with your own to acknowledge their need without verbally interrupting your conversation. This ensures the child feels acknowledged while respecting the delayed gratification.

Infusing patience into daily routines is an effective way to help children understand the importance of waiting and develop the resilience needed to navigate life’s challenges with grace and optimism. Simple activities like waiting in line at the grocery store or taking turns during playtime can teach children the value of patience in a practical way. By setting clear expectations and consistently reinforcing the concept of waiting, parents and educators can instill patience in children during their everyday routines.

Instant Gratification and Big Feelings

Children may face certain obstacles when it comes to developing patience, such as difficulties with delayed gratification and managing frustration. Children are often used to instant gratification in today’s fast-paced world, so teaching them the value of waiting for things can be a struggle. By explaining the benefits and helping them understand that good things come to those who wait, we can shift their perspective and instill patience.  Furthermore, when children become frustrated, they may struggle to control their emotions and resort to impulsive behavior. It is important to teach children coping mechanisms, such as taking a deep breath, to help them regulate their emotions and handle frustration calmly.

In a world filled with screens and constant entertainment, it can be challenging for children to sit still and focus for extended periods of time. Distractions and overstimulation further hinder the development of patience. By creating dedicated times for a quiet and calm environment, with minimal distractions, and introducing activities that require sustained focus, we can gradually help children develop their ability to stay patient and increase their attention spans.

Remember that perfection is not the goal, and the tips and tools listed above are often easier discussed than implemented. It can be difficult to implement many of these tactics, and teaching little ones to be patient is a true test of an adult’s patience. As we acknowledge and address this very common obstacle in a child’s development, educators and parents alike can provide children with the necessary tools and support to develop the valuable virtue of patience and build their emotional intelligence, in turn, setting them up for successful emotional management and strong relationships.

Until next time, continue to BUILD ON!