Posted by: Cathi Brese Doebler | April 6, 2009

Learning to wait

People in our culture do not like to wait. They don’t like to wait in lines, on the phone, for a table at a restaurant, for entrance into a concert, etc.

We don’t like to wait, because don’t have to do it very often, and we’ve gotten used to fast-paced responses. Text messaging, cell phones, email, fast-food, and other modes of quick communication or fast living are a part of our daily lives, and they have increased our comfort with speed and our annoyance with waiting.

How do we teach our children to wait, especially in a country that moves faster than ours did when we were growing up? We can start with simple steps.

First, we can remember to be better at waiting ourselves. Instead of complaining during a traffic jam, we could try to use the time to talk to our kids, sing songs with them in the car, or even say something as simple as, “Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to sit in a traffic jam every day?” or “I’m so glad that if I have to wait in this traffic jam, I’m here with you.”

Second, we can teach our kids about the rules of waiting. For example, at the grocery store if you are in a longer line than normal, use the time to cuddle with your child, or talk to them about what you are going to do next.

You can say things like, “I’m so glad we have a few minutes to stop and rest here in line,” or “Hey, since we get to have some time to talk in line here for bit, do you want to know what else we get to do today?”

When you respond to a long line with optimism and patience, your child learns from your behavior. They see that you are waiting, and that it hasn’t been a bad experience.  They see you teaching through your actions and words.

You can also explain the rules such as:

  • we wait until it is our turn,
  • we don’t push,
  • we don’t complain,
  • etc.

I can remember a pair of shoes that I didn’t wait for when I was about 8 years old. They were brown shoes, and had cute bumblebees on them. I loved them…but not enough to wait.

At the shoe store, my mom gave my sister and I each a choice. We could either:

  1. order the bumblebee shoes in our sizes and wait a week or so for them, or 
  2. buy a different pair of shoes.

I chose to buy a different pair of shoes, and my older sister chose to wait for the bumblebee shoes. My sister made the right choice, because she was able to wait. I learned an important lesson with those shoes. I learned rule #1 – get better at waiting.

What are some ideas that you have for teaching your child to wait?


  1. Your common-sense notions as a parent are spot-on. Educational and Psychological research points to the fact that youngsters who learn early to delay gratification (i.e. to wait!), are more socially competent and better stress-handlers by the time they reach high school. They also had overall better grades and higher SAT scores! Of course a parent who provides training for their child to learn to wait is also a parent who is likely to foster good educational practices at home, but still it is obvious that learning to wait is vbery important!
    One of my children learned easily to wait, the other was by nature extremely impatient. A stopwatch, timer, or sweep hand on a watch were good visual reminders for him. I taught him to operate the equipment and he learn to wait. Also, having pre-event discussions helped him prepare for waiting. For example, before going on a trip to Disneyworld we had more than one discussion about how long the lines would be and how we needed to be ready to wait in line. Once there, and waiting, we reminded each other that we had known about the wait and were willing to wait in line in order to have the fun. It was worth it!

    • Great ideas Karen! Thanks for sharing them!

  2. Thanks Cathi for your blog posts…I’m learning a lot and getting great ideas. I like them so much that I hate waiting for the next one!!

    • What a fun compliment…thanks JV! And a nice pun in the process too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: