Positive parenting: 'Patience stretching' might just be the key to raising toddlers
Toddlers are amazing.
No, really – they are. Anyone who has ever been around toddlers will know this as a universal truth.
They are probably the most intense creatures you'll ever come across. As in, nobody will be as intensely angry as a toddler – but on the flipside, no-one will ever love you as wildly and intensely as a toddler will either.
They are a whirlwind of emotions, and everything with them is full-on.
This also presents itself with the way everything with toddlers has an urgency about it.
They want a certain toy? They want it RIGHT NOW. They want mummy? They want her RIGHT NOW. They want to eat something? They want it RIGHT NOW.
It can be hard to know how to deal with this as a parent, especially as sometimes the reality is that they can't have whatever it is that they want RIGHT THIS MINUTE. And there is an important lesson in that to them, and one we as parents have a responsibility to teach them.
According to 'baby and toddler expert,' Dr Harvey Karp, known, among other things, for this books The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block, there is a special technique you can teach, even at the earliest stage of toddlerhood, to increase the ability to wait: It’s called patience stretching.
'Patience stretching,' explains Karp, is a way of teaching toddlers to wait for what they want, with the end goal being that you will give it to them – but that they have to learn how to wait a few seconds – or a couple of minutes – before this happens.
For instance, if your little one demands a drink with her dinner and he wants it RIGHT NOW, all you have to do in order to practise 'patience stretching' is to let him know you have heard him ("OK, I hear you are thirsty, I will get you a drink), and then, as you are about to hand him his cup, stop yourself and say: "Hang on a second!" and turn around, as if you are just tending to something else for a second before you turn back and hand him his drink. Don't forget to praise him for being patient with a: "Good waiting, buddy!" at the end.
The lesson? There are in fact two lessons there: Sometimes you have to wait a little bit to get what you want. But mummy doesn't lie – I said I would get you a drink, and I did.
When it comes to the patience stretching bit, Karp explains, this refers to the fact that as your child grows, the little periods of waiting for something should increase bit by bit (start with five seconds, then increase to 10, 20, 60 and so on and so forth.)