Tips to Improve Patience in Children

While we tend to attribute impatience to children, everyone struggles with patience to a certain degree. Our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture usually allows us to avoid waiting for things we want.  

Children are already prone to impatience. It’s no surprise that children these days, surrounded by instant gratification, usually lack patience.

However, everyone would agree that patience is a necessary life skill. It takes time (no pun intended) to develop patience in children, but this character quality is vital to living a fulfilled adult life.

Why Are Children Impatient?

No one has to teach a child to be impatient; it’s human nature! Even before a child can talk, they want their toy or snack, and they want it now! However, there can be contributing factors to a child’s impatience. 


Cell phones, tablets, televisions, and game consoles are just a sampling of technological devices children access for hours at a time. Each one contains highly addictive programs that require minimal effort to enjoy but make it harder for children to persevere during real-life challenges.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification comes in many forms: food from the drive-thru instead of a homemade meal, watching a movie instead of reading a book, or paying for same-day delivery instead of waiting a week for shipping. When so many things are received instantaneously, there’s little need for patience. 

Modeled Impatience

Children learn how to respond to life’s circumstances from the adult role models in their lives. If their parent models impatience, it’s likely the child will, as well. 

Why Is Patience Important?

Patience is vital to live a happy and fulfilled life. Patience improves your self-esteem, relationships, and life achievements, such as education, career opportunities, and financial stability. 

While many of our desires can be granted quickly, many things in life take time, and there’s no way to speed up the process. Christmas and birthdays come only once a year, the long car ride can’t be any shorter, and even the microwave sometimes doesn’t warm up food fast enough.

Someone unable to wait will be incapacitated, jumping from one best thing to the next–as long as it doesn’t take too long.

Patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand. A child who doesn’t learn to persevere through hard times will not meet their potential and face continual discouragement. 

Ways to Help Your Child Develop Patience

It’s primarily the parent’s job to model and teach a child to be patient. This is because parents should be the biggest role models and authority figures in their child’s life. While other authority figures like teachers and grandparents are influential, if the parent isn’t consistent, the child likely won’t learn patience.

Luckily, there are plenty of practical and fun ways to model and teach patience. 

Modeling Patience

Children learn more by observation than by education. You can tell your child to be patient with their homework, but if you get frustrated at the Internet speed, your child will likely follow your example of impatience. 

Choosing to have a positive spin can help your child be more patient. For instance, if you’re waiting in a long grocery line, playing a game like counting all the candy that’s a certain color. Delaying gratification is a wonderful exercise for adults, too! 

Patience Games

Games are an excellent way to improve patience skills without children realizing it. Here are some fun patience games:

  • Hide and Seek: This classic game teaches children to wait to be found
  • Mother, May I?: Also called “Captain, May I?”, this game teaches respectful questioning and patience skills
  • Freeze: Play a favorite dance song and pause at random intervals and for various lengths of time. The child should remain “frozen” until the music begins again.
  • Popcorn Game: Sitting in a circle, pass around a bowl of popcorn in which each child take only one piece of popcorn to eat at a time. This game teaches turn taking and patience.  

Delay Gratification

There are countless ways you can help your child learn patience by delaying gratification. Delayed gratification doesn’t mean you withhold anything–you just delay it.

For instance, you can bake cookies instead of opening a package of cookies. In both cases, your child still gets a cookie, but baking them stretches their patience (and is a bonding experience!). 

Other ways you can delay gratification include:

  • Work towards a goal: Whether it’s saving up for a new toy or cleaning up their room before going to the park, children experience greater joy and satisfaction in their reward when they’ve worked for it.
  • Save toys and treats for special occasions: Children who routinely get a trinket or treat develop an unhealthy expectation that they should get rewards all the time. While you can still surprise your child with a treat, saving rewards for special occasions helps children develop patience and realistic expectations.
  • Creating (and sticking with!) boundaries: Whether it’s a treat, toy, or breakfast cereal, children will often push your boundaries. But sticking with your boundaries helps children develop patience because they learn to not give in to every whim. 

Praise the Progress

Patience is a developed skill, which means children have no idea what patience is until you notice is for them. 

Praising your child for exhibiting patience should be easy and delightful–they did it! Rejoice and celebrate together! You may be surprised at how much your child wants to please you, and if patience pleases you, they are more likely to do it. So make it a big deal and enjoy the rewards of your hard work!

Patience is a necessary life skill that needs to be developed for children to have happy and fulfilling adult lives. It takes a lot of effort and consistency, but the rewards are worth it!

At Bright Start Louisville, our teachers are skilled at helping children learn patience. Our schedule helps children learn patience through taking turns, learning fine and gross motor skills, and cooperative play.