This second installment in our series of blog posts on The Neuroscience of Music* explores how music can help parents teach their children to wait and be patient. Boy, have parents been waiting for this one!
Researchers often call it the ability to delay gratification and say that it is the single most important requirement for developing impulse control, for resisting addictive behavior, for handling the confusion of new learning, and for setting goals and working toward meeting them. While this desired behavior can be taught to children, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:
Using Negative Strategies are Ineffective – If we get overly firm and insist on making a child wait, they will see no point in waiting when we aren’t around to discipline them. We want them to be able to practice patience on their own:
- Teaching to share in social situations is important, such as coaching children who are playing to take turns with a toy or game.
- Make sure there is enough for children to share once their turn comes. Whenever there is too much scarcity, children will learn to take what they need as soon as they get the chance.
Teaching Babies and Toddlers to Wait – There are some simple exercises and “games” that stretch the moments of anticipation of delight.
- Songs and movement games are helpful in creating anticipation and embedding small wait times. Who can forget waiting for the POP in “Pop, Goes the Weasel,” or the anticipation of the fall in “Humpty, Dumpty?”
- With infants also play little movement and touch games, such as circling your finger around and then gently landing it on their nose.
- Use reward to encourage patience. Toddlers may learn the patience it takes to put on a coat or shoes if they know they are going outside to play. Baking cookies teaches them that waiting patiently has it rewards as the warm goodies come out of the oven! Of course, it is also tough for adults to wait for the cookies to cool!
Teaching the Pre-schooler and Beginning School Child –
- Sing songs with your child that involves claps, pauses, and exact timing. This not only teaches patience and anticipation, but will also help develop a strong sense of rhythm.
- Create some family times that involve some kind of ceremony, such as setting the table before dinner or saying the blessing before digging in. This teaches pre and school age children that there is a waiting period before the gratification of eating, etc.
- In anticipation of a coming event, such as a birthday or another special occasion, mark a calendar and observe each day with anticipation to the BIG day. Think the 8 days of Hanukkah, or (sing) the 12 Days of Christmas. Saving up or preparing for an event can also teach patience, such as saving money for a vacation, or buying presents for a future event.
As you may have noticed, the exercises above not only teach children to wait, but also can have the same effect on parents! Those of us who already have children know the importance of patience, and that we should always teach by example.
*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.