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Just Breathe: How Nannies Can Teach Children Patience

January 15, 2014

patienceEver wonder why the children in your care struggle to sit still, can never wait their turn and interrupt constantly? It’s not easy to be patient. It’s even harder to be patient if you don’t understand or have never been taught the concept of patience.

Patience, often deemed as a virtue, can be taught, though, and it’s a valuable lesson, according to Bette Freedson, licensed social worker and member of the National Association of Social Workers.

“Patience can help develop the ability to think through and resolve problems; it can counteract impulsivity and acting out behaviors,” says Freedson. “The value of patience lies in its ability to lead to inner calm and emotional strength of character.”

Teach By Example

“Teaching patience by example helps children learn resilience, self-containment, and the ability to self-soothe,” says Freedson. “These are qualities needed for emotional maturity.”

As a nanny, the children in your care are constantly watching your every move. They see your excitement, creativity and even your frustration at times. You are the role model of patience. If you want the children to wait, ensure that you are patiently waiting yourself. Refrain from snapping impatiently at the children and others to model patient behavior on a regular basis.

When the children see that you can peacefully wait for something, they, too, will learn to do the same.

Incorporate Lessons on Patience

Learning doesn’t always have to happen in the classroom. Teach the children real-life lessons on patience through creative endeavors during routine activities. Meal time happens at least three times a day, providing you with three very important opportunities to teach patience. Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond With Your Child,” suggests demonstrating how patience can enhance the bond you have with others.

“Kids, and many adults, get excited about their own ideas and chime in or interrupt while someone else is speaking,” she says. “The family dinner table is always a great place to practice taking turns talking and listening.”

Take the opportunity to praise patience while modeling the behavior, suggests Walfish. “This is a chance for kids to grow in front of your very eyes,” she says. “Praise them for every incremental step toward respectful listening behavior.”

Listening is a difficult behavior to master, especially for young children. Further explore the idea of patience by role-playing with the children. When a child is impatient and frustrated, embark on a role-playing game to help them work through emotions. If she wants to watch a particular television show, but it does not begin for a few hours, talk about how the disappointment makes her feel. Put yourself in her shoes by taking on the role of the child and ask her to take on the role of the nanny. When the child has to put herself in the role of someone else, it helps to build perspective and understanding, which ultimately can lead to patience.

Another lesson that may help children understand the value of patience involves distinguishing between needs and wants. Often times, children have difficulty understanding that others will not always cater to their every wish and want. Ask the children to make a list of daily wants or wishes and another list of daily needs that will enable them to survive.

Compare the lists and discuss how food, water and air are necessities, yet video game time and outdoor activities are wants. When a child can prioritize and distinguish between necessities and wants, it is often easier to patiently wait for a want.

Encourage Teamwork

Children often lose patience when they are frustrated or feel as if others are not listening or supporting them. When children participate in group activities and shared play, they want to be heard and feel as if they are an active member of the group. Encourage teamwork to teach patience with daily activities.

Expose the child to play groups that emphasize constructing a project together – one that is dependent on every member of the team. Play games that require turn taking, such as building a tower with blocks contributed by everyone involved.

Meditation or relaxation techniques and silent play time can also show children how to be patient.

Jennifer Kogan, a psychotherapist in Washington, D.C., recommends practicing patience as a family. “Go to a yoga or meditation class together and engage in activities that promote teamwork as a family,” she recommends. “Emphasize the process over the end result.”


4 Responses to Just Breathe: How Nannies Can Teach Children Patience

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Amelia Hart says:

What do you do if you feel like the kids your children are around don’t model good patience? I’m trying to teach my child how to be patient, however I feel like the parents of her friends don’t necessarily have the same convictions regarding instilling patience in their kids as I do (or their kids are just really impatient around mine, haha!) Just curious if you have any tips for that?

Hi Amelia, I am thinking more about awareness as opposed to patience. Patience is such a developmental skill. I think helping your kids learn to notice where they feel their feelings in their body, how to breathe through challenging moments are important skills but they are lifelong practices that ultimately may lead to more patience. To me, the more realistic (and rewarding) goal is working on becoming more aware of what you are feeling so you have some choice about how you will react and take care of yourself. Hope this is helpful! Jen Kogan, LICSW

admin says:

Love this advice! Thanks for weighing in Jennifer!

Sue Atkins says:

I’m working in a school at the moment & one of the lovely dedicated teachers called Steve told me about how the French bake cakes with their kids on Saturday mornings & don’t eat them until tea time in the afternoon.

It got me pondering.

Technology, TV & what I like to call “placating parenting” has robbed children of delayed pleasure.

Kids aren’t used to waiting for anything anymore.

We have robbed kids of the excitement of waiting – we have denied them the joy of saving up time.

Apps, video games and technology teach instant gratification and if you add parents afraid to say “No” or “Later” to their kids then we have a generation of children who have no idea what it feels like to wait for anything.

Kids from toddler to teen want it all and they want it NOW !

So we have a generation of adults who don’t know how to wait, show the disicipline of patience or have the personal satisfaction of self fulfillment.

The mantra of marketing slogans around having it all and having it now because ”you deserve it” are not really serving children and teaching them tenacity, staying power or self discipline. We are failing to teach kids that to succeed in life or in a career without winning the X Factor, or marrying a footballer takes patience, stickability and delayed gratification.

So my question to you today is how do you “talk and teach” your kids to WAIT?