Patience Stretching 


Hi all! I hope you’ve enjoyed our parenting series so far! To wrap it up (for the time being 😉), I’ve got one more tip from Dr. Harvey Karp’s lecture I attended a few weekends ago. If you’ve read any baby books, chances are you’ve read his: “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. His toddler version includes the following tip that I hope will help your little one become a bit more patient – and not just during museum outings. 

Our little toddlers do not innately have the virtue of patience. More often than not, they will cry, and whine, and yell “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” until they get what they want. But let’s be real, giving in to their needs immediately is not only not beneficial to their development, but also not practical. I mean, raise your hand if you are able to cater to every one of your toddler’s wants….. While you’re nursing a newborn. Not really doable, right? 

In fact, teaching our little ones to have patience teaches them how to practice self-soothing, and self control, both which are characteristics of well-rounded kiddos. Ever hear of the Stanford Marshmallow experiment? Kids were sat in front of a marshmallow and told they could have two of them if they could wait until the experimenter returned (15 minutes later). Most kids ate the marshmallow as soon as the experimenter left the room, but some were able to hold off and received the bigger reward – 2 marshmallows. 

Years later, researchers studied these kiddos and found that those that had been able to wait to eat the marshmallow until the experimenter returned were better able to cope with stress and frustration, and had better SAT scores. Now, I’m not saying that stretching your little sprout’s patience will get him or her into an Ivy League school, but I do know it will help them develop an important life skill – and hopefully let your ears rest from a bit of whining in the process 😉 

To practice stretching their patience throughout the day, pick a time when your kiddo is asking for something that is easy to give into at that moment. Repeat back to them what it is they want and move to give it to them so they’re aware of your intentions – in other words, they’ll expect what they want shortly. As you are handing them what they want, move back and (this is where you get creative!) tell them you have to do something really quick, after which you’ll give it to them. You can now get to your brief pretend task for a few seconds and return with the object (or game, attention, etc) you were about to give them. Next time you try this, stretch the time you’re doing your pretend task for a few seconds longer. 
In action, this would go a little like this:
Let’s say your toddler asks for your help to put on some dress-up clothes. You can pick out the dress/gloves/tool belt of their choosing, but just as you’re about to help them put it on say something akin to “hold on a sec, I have to go put my car keys on the couch” – or some small task that will take you away for 5 seconds. Think outside the box on these pretend tasks as they’ll progressively get longer (this also stretches our patience apparently :D). 

When you return, briefly and in an upbeat manner praise them for waiting and go ahead and put those dress up clothes on. Dr. Karp suggest starting with 5 seconds, then 10, 30 and so on during the next times you try patience stretching. 

As you can see, this is a simple thing we can do to help our kiddos increase their patience (and eventually decrease on-the-spot tantrums!). Good luck! I’d love to hear what pretend tasks you come up with! Sound off in the comments! 

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