Helping a Child to Wait

Helping a Child to Wait

Do you ever wonder if it would be better not to tell your child about something fun that is planned for later? Maybe your child is one of those who has difficulty waiting, asks ‘when’ over and over, or fusses in other ways.

One approach is to ‘give the question back.’ Here’s an example. Your child asks for the umpteenth time, ‘when are we leaving?’ You have already said, ‘at 5:00’ many times. This time, you ask the child, ‘what time do you think we are leaving?’ Some children will stop asking the question after it is repeated back to them a few times.

Another approach is to help the child monitor the time themselves. If they can read a clock, you can show them the time on the clock that is the ‘when’ time. Then if they ask, you can direct them to check the clock.  After being directed to the clock a few times, many will stop asking. You can also direct the child to the clock with nonverbal cues, such as pointing or nodding toward the clock, so as to minimize interaction around this topic.

Another idea is to limit the number of times the child may ask the same question. For example, “I know you are excited to do this and you would like to ask how soon.  You can ask three times and then no more.’  Some children do better with a physical token for each question opportunity, such as giving them three ‘tickets’ and when the tickets are gone, no more questions.

As with many child behaviors we are trying to change, redirection can be helpful. This would mean providing the child with something interesting to do while they wait. Some families keep a box of ‘special’ toys, activities, and crafts that are only brought out when really needed. Older children may be able to figure out a ‘waiting’ activity for themselves.

We can also use these ‘waiting times’ as opportunities to help our children learn to manage their feelings, including impatience. Some ideas are to talk about what they are feeling, have the child draw a picture of their feelings about waiting or about the event, check for any worries about the event that contributes to repeated questions, or read books about waiting.

Modeling is yet another approach.  We all need to wait at times. So adults have many opportunities to talk through their own strategies with their child listening. This can be incorporated into everyday life. ‘Oh, I have to wait for this light to change' or 'I have to wait for something I ordered on line to come in the mail.’ Bringing up the subject of waiting, and talking about how we cope, normalizes the waiting process and gives the child ideas to use and ways to keep things in perspective. This helps take the negativity out of waiting and helps waiting become a normal and manageable part of life



Blog Disclaimer:  Please be aware that this blog contains general information. It is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as treatment or a recommendation or prescription for a particular child. If you have questions about your child, please talk to your pediatrician or seek other professional services.