Delays are something nobody particularly likes, but toddlers have a very hard time being patient. Every parent has been there – the stomping, the tears and the meltdowns. All this for waiting – for a turn, for a friend to visit, to buy a toy. It can be frustrating for any parent to go through the whole sobbing and whining drill, but this is also the time for you to practice your sense of control. Children of this age are developing their self-control and are not whining and stomping to make you angry. Time is an abstract form for a toddler so asking him to wait for 30 minutes can feel like forever. Here are some coping skills you can equip your child with so that bidding time will be easier for both of you.
The next time you are about to moan and groan in the company of your child at a check-out counter where the person in front of you has just pulled out tons of coupons or lots of loose change, bite your tongue. Playing it cool at this time will model the right behaviour and your child will watch and learn from this. At this age, children pick up behaviour simply by mirroring the adults around them, so watch your patience level. Before your child has the chance to whine about waiting at the check-out counter, take a few deep breaths and chat with him about an upcoming play date or visit to the ice cream counter after this.
Pre-schoolers live in the present. They don’t really think about the outcome of things as much as they enjoy the moment. Kids know that they are taking a picture with Santa and they want it now, not after ten minutes of waiting in the queue. You are looking at a child about to explode. The best part about toddlers is that they are very easy to distract and if you have stocked yourself up with age-appropriate distractions, you can pull one out at times like these. Some ideas for you – a small pack of crayons and a sketch book while waiting for meals, a couple of finger puppets in your bag for an impromptu story at the check-out counter, some stickers and to stick around while waiting for traffic to clear. When you notice that your child is starting to fidget, give him a couple of options of what he would like to do and you both will be fine. If you run out of ideas or props, games like I Spy, the Memory Game or 20 Questions can work wonders.
If your child is waiting for days or weeks for a vacation, a relative coming over or a birthday, make frustrating waiting time fun by making a paper countdown chain. Every day, your child gets to take off a day of waiting and can visually see how long he has to wait. Inside some of the days, you could hide a note of something fun you both could do together on that day – like bake cookies, take a walk in the park or go and see some furry friends at a pet store. When the number of days visually look less every day, your little one will be able to put a more concrete idea into abstract time.