Raising Impatient Kids: Simple Strategies To Make 'Waiting' Fun

There was a long line of slow-moving cars, waiting to enter our favorite beach in Newport on July 4th.  Rather than join 'em, we got out of dodge.  Not too long afterwards, we encountered a crowded restaurant with, you guessed it, many folks standing-by until they got a table.  "Let's go, Mom," said one of my sons.  "WAITING is SO annoying!  We hate to WAIT!" 

"Oh, no," I thought.  "What have I taught them?!"  They aren't toddlers anymore, when waiting can mean squirming, exhaustion and tantrums, an unpleasant situation for all.  They're 9 and 11.  Time to get real.  Think: the DMV...the doctor's office.  Life involves a hefty dose of waiting!  I'd hopped-to-it so many times, trying to please my sons and keep us moving, that I'd completely forgotten to teach them the fine art of patience. 

"I think we're raising impatient children and I also think we're impatient," says Susan Epstein, a parenting coach, based in New London.  She believes modern technology, "one-click shopping" and text messaging have created a de-personalized society craving "instant gratification". 

But, really, when we all rush around so much, a little waiting can create some unexpected bonding with the kids.  "What can you use the waiting time for?" asks Epstein.  "Look at a typical parent.  She's on a cell phone.  He's on a cell phone and the kids are kicking and whining and saying, 'Let ME have your phone!'"

Instead, simply have a conversation.

"How do we get the parents to put the phone away and connect with their children when they have that down time?" asks Epstein, who truly believes our obsession with gadgets is contributing to verbal and sensory problems in young kids, because parents are spending more time on their phones than conversing with their babies while looking them in the eye.  "I think it's education and awareness and asking parents to challenge themselves to put their phones away."

Waiting can also become "game time" for families.  Travel with a pad of paper and play Hangman or "I'm thinking of an animal."  Check out this article from the May 2014 issue of Real Simple magazine, featuring advice from Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and author of "Get the Behavior You Want....Without Being the Parent You Hate!"  She advises playing "How many hats do you see?"  Ask older kids to list all jobs related to a restaurant, etc.  The article also suggests activities that build patience in kids, such as planting a garden, cooking, creating a jigsaw puzzle and raising caterpillars.

I, for one, am going to model better behavior for my young guys.  No more sighing, rolling my eyes and complaining.  I am no longer afraid of lines.  I will face them with a smile and a fresh attitude. 

Frankly, we could use a little rest.


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