As a child, I had opportunities to wait—long car rides, commercials, and home-cooked meals every night that seemed to take hours to make. And yet, I’m still not the most patient person. I grit my teeth at a slow computer or at my son who takes f…o…r…e…v…e…r to put on his shoes.
And when God asked me to wait for over four years for my husband to finally propose and nearly five years for me to finally get pregnant, I really struggled. So can you imagine how our kids—the kids of this on-demand, fast food, instant message, Snapchat, no commercials, everything-needs-to-be-done-by-yesterday world will behave when God asks them to wait?
So I asked myself: am I adequately preparing my kids to learn to wait?
Would my kids be ready if they were asked to wait for that perfect job, for their spouse, to have a child, or to make decisions that could affect the rest of their lives? Was I taking the steps necessary to help my kids build up their “patience endurance” for those waiting marathons that would surely come their way as adults . . . if not sooner?
Honestly, I felt my kids didn’t even have the shoes to participate in that race, so I decided to be more intentional. I knew it was my job to train them properly but how would I teach my kids to find joy in the not-right-now moments in this right-this-minute world? I knew my kids weren’t about to arrive at being patient in one giant leap, so I decided to start with baby steps.
With just a few simple phrases, my kids have begun to step forward in learning patience through learning the skill of waiting.
“In a few minutes.”
Unless it’s a medical emergency, there is nothing wrong with asking kids to wait just a few minutes instead of getting them whatever they want right that second. They may cry. That’s okay. I do that too sometimes when God makes me wait.
“When the timer goes off.”
Asking kids to wait until a timer goes off for a snack, for TV time, or for going somewhere fun can help add a little more waiting time into their day.
“When you get a little older.”
Not all movies, games, TV shows, and activities are appropriate for every kid at every age. Asking kids to wait until they get older not only helps them to learn patience but also teaches them to respect boundaries.
“What can you do while you’re waiting?”
Waiting doesn’t have to be boring. As agonizing as waiting may feel, empowering kids to use their own brains and creativity to find something to do is critical. I’ve started a “Patience List” where my kids can write down their ideas, so when they are asked to wait, they can look at their list. What’s at the top of that list? Thinking! That’s my favorite one to teach. It can be done anywhere!
“Look at _____waiting so patiently.”
Because I am not always the best model for patience, the science teacher in me looks to nature to help me teach patience to my kids. A spider, for instance, is one of the most patient creatures I know—taking so much time building his web and then waiting and waiting for a bug to fly into it. Such patience! We turn to the spider often when my kids are impatiently waiting for their dinner!
“How were you waiting so patiently?”
Every time my kids wait for any amount of time without complaining, I ask them what they did and congratulate them! “I’m so proud of you for _______while you were waiting.”
My home isn’t full of kids who never complain and sit with their hands folded neatly in their laps while waiting for hours. There are still fits and quarrels and protests, but there are also moments you will find a little boy smiling because he waited so patiently for me to get him out of bed or a little girl dancing while she waits. It’s the small victories we celebrate.
Teaching our kids to grow in patience takes . . . patience! It doesn’t come instantly. It’s one s-l-o-w step forward at a time. But soon, you will notice these baby steps lead to big steps, then running strides, then a steady pace. That steady pace creates endurance, endurance creates strength, and strength creates kids who become adults who can better withstand the often tormenting blows of a world literally waiting to knock them off their course.
At least I know that as their coach, I can equip my kids the best I can—and more importantly, I can stand on the sidelines cheering them on as they run this race of life . . . hopefully with a little more patience.