Learning to Wait

Infants need adults to respond right away, yet have you ever thought about teaching the skill of learning to patiently wait to toddlers and children? And at what age would one start that? And how would you even start to do that with somebody who is one year-old? In this episode we will discuss a few strategies you can use with your children to help them learn to wait. Can you imagine the benefits of your kids having this skill?

(0.05) Interruptions Lead to Being Frazzled 

When we can learn and apply strategies with our children that prevent the feeling of being frazzled by them we are in a better position to successfully be present and kind when we do turn our attention to meeting their needs.

(0.51) Assessing Need

Learning to wait allows time for a person to observe when to step up or when to step back. Sometimes we need to advocate for ourselves, of course, yet teaching children to be aware of others’ needs, and to have patience while they wait their turn can lead to more peaceful interactions. This is one small but powerful way to change the world for the better.

(2.24) The Red Chair

In a Montessori classroom for children ages 3 to 6 the ratio is often 20:2. There is no way that two adults could get each of these childrens’ immediate needs taken care of and there is a huge benefit in this! When a child has to wait the plus side is that independence is being fostered by the very act of waiting. This “pause” allows children to find other possible solutions to their needs. One might be that they try and try again and learn that they can do it on their own. Another might be that they ask a peer for help and peer learning takes place which then benefits more than only one child. The use of the red chair in Megan‘s classroom is a visual cue to the children about the teacher’s availability. If the teacher is sitting in the chair the child knows they can go ask for help immediately, if the teacher is not in a chair they are currently unavailable but the child can then stand next to the chair to give the teacher the visual cue that they are waiting for some help.

(3.42) Be Consistent 

The key for the red chair to work is consistency in the response of the adult. One must avoid distractions as you make your way back to the red chair when you notice that a child is waiting there. If they are waiting and observing you attend to other children who simply walk up to you, then that is what they will learn and the red chair will have no meaning. 

(4:45) The Hand Squeeze

A quiet way between parent and child for the child to signal that they need your attention is to take your hand and give a squeeze. Over time this can be a helpful tool as the child knows that by patiently waiting versus interrupting they get their needs met and are learning to be respectful.

(5.07) Signing Wait

Young children may not be able to speak the word “wait” but they can sign the word with their hands if you teach them. Using the American Sign Language sign gives them another way to understand and communicate the concept of waiting. It gives you a nonverbal signal to communicate with your child, whether they are 1 year old or 15, which can come in helpful when you want them to know you recognize they want your attention but that your focus is currently elsewhere (say on a phone call for example). Here’s a link to learn the sign: https://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-signs/w/wait.htm

(5.45) Teach about Eye Contact

Teach children what they are looking for to identify if the person they want to speak to is available or not. Identify for them that when they see people looking at each other’s eyes and talking that they are to wait and listen for a pause. And that this is a great time to use nonverbal signals to alert each other that one is waiting for their turn. 

(6.41) Practice Waiting at Home

Even if the adults are able to quickly attend to the child’s every need, should they? Be intentional about practicing with your child, have them wait! You are not at their beck and call and being so does not serve them in this important life skill. Foster your child’s ability to be patient and to trust that their needs will be met even if not immediately. 

(8.05) It Doesn’t have to be a Red Chair

In the home the idea of the red chair can be adapted to other pieces of furniture or a location. This can be especially helpful to adults/parents who are working from home. 

(10.19) Your Attention is the Reward

Teach waiting without bribes or rewards attached to your child’s displays of patience. Giving them the fullest attention you can in the moment is the reward! Your patience, your unfrazzled state and tone of voice are encouraging enough for the child to want to continue practicing to wait! 

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