How to Model and Teach Your Child About Patience
Birds are singing, flowers are blooming and the stiff Oklahoma wind is kicking up the red dirt on the softball field. It’s your child’s first game of the season and she is finally up to bat. You hold your breath as she waits for the pitch. The ball sails through the air and over home plate as she swings too late.
"It's okay, honey. Just try again." She stomps her foot and shakes her head. The pitcher winds up and once again the ball flies toward her. This time she swings much too early.
“Strike two!” Your daughter shakes her head and kicks at the dirt, a familiar frustrated look colors her features. The third strike comes as no surprise. She makes her way to the bench, her teammates glancing away as she passes. On the bench, she seems more interested in the laces on her shoes than the plays of the game.
After the final inning, you walk to the car together. She doesn’t have much to say about her first real softball game.
But when she closes her door, she makes an announcement. “I’m no good. I’m quitting softball.”
It would be easy to agree and let her quit. But then you would be sending the message that it is okay to give up when things get hard. The situation also gives you the opportunity to discuss the character trait of patience. Patience means accepting that some things may be difficult—and it may be some time before they improve.
Very few of us master a skill on our first try. And for many of us, accomplishments can take a very long time. Consider this quote from Thomas Edison regarding his trial and error with the lightbulb. “I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
Edison mastered the art of patience long before he discovered which filament would glow inside the glass orb without burning up.
M.J. Ryan summed it up in her book, The Power of Patience. “Anything that we could potentially become good at requires that we dedicate ourselves to long effort. This is only possible when we are patient with our progress, no matter how slow or fast it may be.” How we respond to the situations we face every day is the biggest influence on how our children will develop patience. If they see us blow our top when traffic is heavy or when we can’t make the latest electronic gadget perform as promised, we are sending a loud message.
Patience also helps us directly as we parent our children. “It allows us to stop in this battle between independence and safety and assess what the best response might be,” Ryan writes. “It allows us to think before we act, which is crucial in this relationship where we have such power.”
To learn more about patience, check out the book The Power of Patience. Ryan includes chapters on how patience can improve every aspect of our lives in the home, workplace and community.
Elementary students will enjoy Beverly Billingsly Can’t Catch—the inspiration for the scenario above. And don’t let the title fool you, Beverly practices with her buddy Oliver. This book is about playing ball and is definitely not girly.
Gayleen Rabakukk is a freelance writer who spends her time in Edmond keeping up with her teenage and preschool daughters.