Toddlers aren’t really known for their angelic patience. If they want something, they want it NOW! But how do you make sure your toddler waits calmly until they get what they want and don’t start nagging? According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of the book “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”, there are several steps you can repeat to teach your child more patience.
Step 1: Repeat their words
If toddlers think they’re not being listened to, they’ll start nagging to get your attention. Therefore, the first thing you have to do is repeat their request. “oh, you want a cookie?” This way they know you heard them and they understand.
Step 2: Give them what they want… almost!
Give your toddler what they want, but just before you give it to them, lift a finger and pretend you’ve just remembered something you still have to do. “Wait! Just for a second.” Then you turn around and pretend you’re looking for something. That way he knows he’ll get what he wants, but he’ll have to wait a while.
Step 3: Reward them for their patience
After a few seconds, you’ll return to your baby. When he/she has waited calmly, it is important that you reward them for this by saying, with a happy face: “Good wait!” or something like that. This teaches them that patiently waiting is a good thing.
Start small with 5 seconds and gradually build this up to 10 seconds, 20 seconds and so on.
Step 4: Now really give them what they asked for
After rewarding your toddler for their patience, it is important to really give them what they asked for. By doing this, they learn that you keep your word and that they can trust that they will eventually get what they were promised.
Step 5: Use a timer
As your toddler gets better at being patient, you can start using a timer. A simple timer is enough.
Show, at a quiet moment, how the alarm clock works. “Look! When the bell rings RIIING, mommy will come back!”
Then, when your child wants something, repeat the previous step of almost giving them what they want, but ask them to wait just a little bit. Now you add the timer. “Wait a minute sweetheart, Mommy has to do something! If it rings RIIING, you’ll get your milk.” You can distract them by giving them something to look at in the meantime.
Start small again by making your child wait 20 seconds. Gradually, you can extend this to about 2 minutes, but you can also make the alarm clock go off faster, now and then. This sometimes gives them a pleasant surprise and makes them look more positive at the alarm clock.
Introducing a second reward can also work. For example, give your little one a biscuit or candy if they have waited longer.
Raising children is not easy. Just like Rome wasn’t built in one day, your toddler won’t be able to have the patience you hope for in one day. But, with patience from the parent, patience comes from the toddler! So keep repeating these steps consistently and get rid of that annoying nagging once and for all.