Teaching a child how to wait his turn is part of the process of building his or her emotional intelligence. Not all kids start at the same place when it comes to the ability to wait patiently (or any other trait for that matter!). The ability to wait is called upon regularly throughout life – from lining up for baseball tickets to dealing with not getting accepted for the team or school in a given year. Unless we have the patience and the fortitude to wait, we can find ourselves defeated by frustration.
If your child has a need to always be first, consider the following tips:
Start with Emotional Coaching
Emotional Coaching – the naming of feelings – is a good place to start. When your child runs ahead screaming that he or she wants to be first, you can say something like, “You want to be first!” This simple acknowledgment lets the child know that you understand. Now you are in a much better position to help the child make a shift. For instance, you can say something like, “You want to be first! Let’s let (your brother/friend/whoever) have a chance to be first this time.” Although this may not yield instant cooperation, the short naming of the child’s feeling does increase the chances that the child will be able to shift.
When an older child is the one who badly needs to be first, the step of Emotional Coaching is even more important. Be careful not to use the word “but” when naming a child’s feeling. For instance, instead of saying “I know you want to be first, but others need a turn and you can’t push them out of the way,” you would say “I know you really want to be first. It’s hard to let someone get ahead of you. Still, other also need a turn. You can’t push them out of the way.” Although the difference between the two structures is small (the size of a period!), the difference in meaning is large. The word “but” acts like an eraser, erasing the understanding and compassion of the Emotional Coaching that just occurred.
Offer Simple Explanations
Let your impatient youngster know that others have needs and feelings too. “Jason feels sad when he doesn’t get a turn to go first.” “Rachel doesn’t like to be pushed.” “Everyone deserves a chance to be first.”
There is no need to offer long lectures or reprimands. Keep your lesson short and sweet. When YOU must make your child wait, offer similarly simple explanations: “The baby has to get his first; you’ll get yours in a moment.” “You got served first last time, now it’s Kara’s turn.” Brief, matter-of-fact and business-like works better than more emotionally laden responses.
Acknowledge and Reinforce
Look for any little sign of patience and try to make a comment. In fact, the most effective type of positive reinforcement can be found within the 3-step process called The CLeaR Method – comment, label, reward (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on using this educational technique). When your child has been able to wait without making a huge raucous, the CleaR Method might sound something like, “You waited your turn! That was very patient of you. I think you deserve an extra treat in your lunch for that.”
Try Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Remedies are harmless, water-based tinctures available in health food stores around the world. They address emotional tendencies and help bring out-of-balance emotions into balance. Indeed, over time they help to gradually eliminate or minimize negative inborn emotional tendencies. There are 38 different remedies in the system, each helping to correct a particular stressful emotion. Several remedies can be prepared in one mixing bottle. An empty mixing bottle is filled nearly to the top with water; two drops of each desired remedy is put in the bottle. The remainder of the bottle is filled with a bit of brandy in order to prevent bacteria from growing in the bottle (which will last about a month when used according to directions – 4 drops in a small amount of liquid 4 times a day). The remedies that are often useful for inability to wait, are the following:
- Impatiens reduces a sense of urgency
- Holly reduces feelings of competition, anger, over-sensitivity
- Vervain reduces issues around fairness
- Vine reduces excessively strong will, rigidity, aggression
For further guidance with the the Bach Flower Remedies, consult a Bach Flower Practitioner in your area.
If your toddler or young child can’t seem to wait his turn, don’t panic – at this age most children have trouble with patience. Moreover, toddlers are an egocentric crowd, wanting what they want right now without the ability to take the needs of others into consideration. But don’t worry – egocentricity will ease up in just a few short decades. Be patient! Despite this, however, toddlerhood is actually a good time to START a training process; just don’t expect any instant results. Move steadily, slowly and patiently as you encourage your child to be more patient and selfless.