“Wait a minute” Teaching your child to wait

“Wait a minute…”

“Just a moment”

“Hang on!”

“Just WAIT!”

Sometime’s you just want a minute or two without your child nagging, tugging, pointing, crying, talking right?

Teaching your child to ‘wait’ can be tricky…

“Hang on a sec”
“Wait a minute”
“Hold on”

We use these phrases so commonly in every day life – but do they hold any meaning for our kids?

Time is an abstract concept and quite an advanced skill to learn. If your child is young and doesn’t understand time… what do these phrases really mean to them…??
Probably  “NO”

For a young child with no understanding of time they really hear:”Hang on a sec” = NO
“Wait a minute” = NO
“Hold on” = NO

Learning time based concepts is one of the most important skills for young children because the ability to wait is essential for success at school, safety and building relationships.

Below are some ideas to help you teach your child to wait and therefore begin to gain an understanding of time and delayed gratification.

Use a reinforcer

Find a picture of an object or an activity your child enjoys to use as a reward. Show your child a picture of the wait icon (see below) along with the picture of the reward. Tell you child that you are going to wait for a specific amount of time (start with seconds) and then they can have their reward. Praise your child for their good behavior during the waiting time and give them the desired object/activity. Gradually extend the time your child has to wait for the reward. If your child displays poor behavior during the waiting time, try having a shorter waiting time until you have success.

Teach the time

Some children, particularly young child have difficulty understanding the concept of time. Telling your child ‘in 5 minutes’ means nothing to them as they do not know how long that is. A way around this is to teach your child to tell time. This does not have to be on a conventional clock, there are a number of count down timers available for your home or even on phones and iPad’s (such as “Time Timer” app). Explain to your child that they need to wait for a certain amount of time (e.g. 2 minutes) then show them the timer. Using the timer as a visual helps your child to understand the concept of time.

Use direct cues

Another way to help children learn the skill of waiting may be to use direct cues. Similar to providing a timer as a visual, using direct cues provides child with an idea of how long they are required to wait for. Try having your child count to a certain number or play a number of songs. When the counting or songs are finished, the waiting is over. For example “let’s wait for 5 – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5!”