In a world fraught with differences and populated by impatient, trigger happy leaders, it hardly comes as a surprise that we are living through another catastrophic war. The fact that impatience makes people act impulsively has been corroborated by numerous studies, one being the Research Centre for Behavioural Economics and Decision-Making, which in a study found impatience led to rash behaviour from people. Geoffrey Chaucer, English poet and author, recognized patience as a valuable asset, and termed it a ‘conquering virtue.’ Patience not only helps in developing good character, it ensures an individual makes rational choices that results in better life outcomes.
Patience is an asset children too need to possess. It makes learning at school far more easy, and when life throws up challenges to test their character, patience will come to their rescue. Waiting can be frustrating and the sooner they learn to exercise patience, the better. Early childhood allows parents countless opportunities to start with little lessons in patience. For instance, games like puzzles and building blocks challenge children to go one step at a time. These games cannot be rushed. Children might sometimes lose their temper when unable to find a piece to complete the puzzle, and that’s when parents can gently remind them that there will be times when they must take a long deep breath, and plod on. Getting frustrated or giving up isn’t going to help. And instead of themselves finishing the puzzle for the child, help the child find a way to complete it. Like hinting at the colour or shape of the missing piece.
Levels of patience wary from child to child. Some will be remarkably calm while awaiting their turn while others could jump the line to get ahead. But patience is a must for every child to be school-ready and to facilitate fair-play on the playground. Impatient children not only struggle to learn and make friends, they often find themselves isolated, sitting out of games and missing out on group activities and fun. Children who display impatience have more likely grown up used to having their demands met instantly. They have either bullied adults into complying with their temper tantrums or thrown their weight around peers who have relented out of sheer helplessness. It doesn’t help that we live in an era of instant gratification where reliance on technology has heightened our impatience. High speed, quick delivery and services seem to be the current mantra! And it’s taking a toll on everyone, especially children who are now accustomed to having their demands met without delay.
Remember the study by the Stanford University on patience in children, that was popularly called the ‘Stanford marshmallow experiment,’ in which it was found that children who were patient and waited ended up being more successful in school and with less behavioural problems. For according to Roy T. Bennett, patience isn’t only the ability to wait. It’s the calmness and composure a person maintains while one waits and the reassuring belief that waiting isn’t futile, but it will end in a positive outcome.
Children learn from observing adults and parents are their first role models when it comes to habits and character development. Children watch how their parents react in situations and emulate them. The way you react when caught in a traffic jam, standing in the queue at the shopping mall or awaiting service at a restaurant, is how they will react when their turn comes to exercise patience. Sometimes having an understanding and explanation for the delay can cut down on the anguish of waiting. For instance a person’s vehicle might have broken down which resulted in the traffic snarl. Or the holdup and a lengthy queue at the billing counter might be the outcome of a malfunction in a billing machine.
But simply expecting children to be patient isn’t going to work without acknowledging their discomfort. Show them you are aware of how difficult and demanding it is to wait. At the same time also point out that they aren’t the only ones in the situation. Also, appreciate them for being patient. This gives them the much needed encouragement to hang in there longer. Another way to make waiting bearable, is to change the concept of ‘waiting is boring’ to ‘waiting can be fun’.
The brain of a child enjoys being engaged so ideally provide it with a task when a child needs to wait. Keeping them occupied will not only help children stay distracted from the boring and tedious wait, it will make passing time fun. Hand them a book instead of the phone at the doctor’s chamber. Play a game of counting the colour of cars when stuck at a traffic jam. In her book titled The Book of Patience: 250 ways to a More Patient You, author Courtney E. Ackerman suggests easy ways to build patience, one of them is by intentionally waiting a few moments before a meal. By simply sitting at the table and taking a few seconds to appreciate what’s on your plate before savouring your food, conditions the brain to wait for something it desires. In the same way, giving a child a piggy bank is a great way to teach them to save for something they desperately want. And even if they fall short of a few rupees, resist the temptation to loan them the sum. This will allow them the chance to learn the value of waiting and the sweet fruit of patience.
Patience is much more than a virtue. The intentional choice to stay calm and composed is a display of an individual’s mental strength. It’s an incredible quality to possess that will come handy through many challenging situations in life that demands a lot of patience to overcome.