Wednesday, October 16

Toddler Patience...What?

Have you guys seen this? Overcoming Temptation (In Marshmallows and in Life)

It's a take on that cute Marshmallow test. This one is actually a commercial. (And by the way, I'm not affiliated, so if the company does something horrible and immoral in the next two weeks or two years, I don't know nuthin and I'm not pushing you to buy anything!) Anyway, it's terribly cute, and it begs the question, can you really teach a toddler patience?

Many of us roll over and concede defeat when it comes to tantrums, whining, or fussing, because they're just itty bitty people. How can you expect them to refrain from trying to destroy the high chair while you prepare a sandwich and fruit? I mean, they're starving. Poor babies! Okay, so maybe the screaming gives us a wee headache, but what are we supposed to do?

Here's the thing about patience and toddlers: it's possible, but always a work in progress. When it comes to hunger, or being tired or over-stimulated, forget it. You can't win those, so just take care of the need. Next time, however, don't set yourself up for that kind of meltdown. Do your best to anticipate that hunger and start meals earlier. Don't drag them all over creation wearing them out and forcing missed naps, and avoid situations in which there is a lot of stimulus. You may not recognize it as such, but ANY place with a lot of people, noise, or eye-catching stuff everywhere intended to grab your visual attention...that's stimulus. As adults, we live in it all the time and we're used to it, but being sensitive to it myself, I can completely understand why toddlers go bonkers and get upset when you haul their sorry butts to fairs, weddings, concerts, the zoo, and cousin Teddy's fifth birthday party. Yikes! Even schools have way too much stuff on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, over-stimulating my poor eyeballs. The intent is to stimulate learning, but for me, it just stimulates a headache, and I want out. Toddlers don't have a way to filter all that nonsense yet, so don't expect them to!

As for the rest, practice making them wait when they are fed, rested, and in a good mood. Maybe it's just waiting for you to get a toy off the shelf for them, and you can use that opportunity to help them learn. If they start to fuss, stop it early and use your "no"'-without-saying-no-voice. I always advise toddlers moms not to use "No!" so much because it becomes irrelevant to the child. Not only do they put no meaning to it coming out of your mouth, but it models what word for them to use every five minutes. Thus, the incessant "NO!" we get from toddlers. Instead use something like, "Aah" or "Enh." "Un Unh." Then pair it with what you want them to do, not with what you don't. For instance, you can say, "Enh! We do not whine. I am getting your toy and you need to wait." What will not work is, "Enh! Stop whining." The reason being is that it doesn't tell them what you want instead. When you say something like that, it tells them what you don't want. So they focus on "whining" and they don't know how to stop. You have to teach them! So tell them what to do instead. "If you want me to hurry, say, 'Mommy, please hurry.'"


1. Anticipate situations that can cause a meltdown and prepare well enough to keep the tantrums and overstimulation at bay.

2. Practice patience phrases ("I need you to wait quietly,") when they are fed and rested.

3. Teach them how to stop whining by giving them things to say or do. "Tell mommy, 'I want that please,'" or "Hold your blankie while you wait for me. It will make you feel better."

It will take constant practice, but one day you will wake up to a child who can wait patiently. (And you'll freak out just a little.)


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