How to Improve Patience in 2-4 Year Old Kids

Parenting is a tough job and some years are tougher than others.

Most parents get their first shock when child turns 2.

In development psychology, this period is rightly called ‘Terrible Twos’.

Why is this terrible? Because children rapidly change their behaviour at this time.

It is a major social development time for children. You will suddenly see your child acting independently and running away from you and next moment expect you to carry her around.

This age, children often hit, bite and lie. They will throw tantrums, make stubborn demands and can even physically hurt parents. All this can start at age as early as 1.5 and can last till 5.

Take a breath, it is not going to be their personality through out their life. They are in social experiment mode and will try everything to see what works for them.

But this is most important period because if they see something wrong works, they can carry it to later years. For example, if parents agree to all child’s demands whenever he throws tantrums, child can develop habit of throwing tantrums.

Most parents seek parenting advice at this point, since their child feels like an alien to them. What happened to my sweet adorable child? They ask.

Main Concern, Impatience

Patience and terrible twos are opposite words of spectrum. Your child wants everything now. Your child will scream ‘NO’ to your every request but can’t tolerate a single ‘NO’ from you. Your child is still dependent on you but yearns for independence.

If your child develops patience at this age, she will surely become very powerful adult. Because patience is the virtue required to achieve bigger goals. Patience is required to plan ahead, patience is required to maintain relationships, patience is required for a happy life.

Look around you, everything is promised at an instant delivery, everyone is running late. Children are bombarded with over-stimulation. Then how can they develop patience?

Here are few ways…

Improve Patience

  • Structure

Structure or few routines calms down children. It can be as simple as ‘Dinner at 8’. Child will know that she has to wait till ‘8pm’ to have dinner with the family.

But be ready to hear question, ‘Is it 8 yet?’ hundred times. At this age, children don’t have precise idea of time and can’t estimate it. To make it easier, use a marker and highlight ‘8’ in your clock. Tell your kids to watch till small hand reaches ‘8’. This slowly improves patience.

Also never tell your child, ‘ wait for 1 min’. Child has no idea what 1 min is. Instead ask child to recite something long or count fingers. I often gave my son some pebbles in a cup and asked him to transfer them, one by one to another. I would say to him, ‘Once all the pebbles are transferred, it is 1 min and I will come and attend you’. He soon started to understand what ‘1’ min’ meant. Once he learned to count, I will ask him to count 1 to 100, 5 times to make ‘5’ min.

You can also use timers for this.

  • Planning

Plan something with your child.  Planning a story telling or short drama is excellent. Help child to practice, make props and demonstrate at a specified time.

Plan a birthday party or plan a vacation. Involve child in planning. Try short term planning first and slowly move to long term.

  • Food

Waiting for food highly improves patience. Don’t try it when your child is extremely hungry or for regular means. Try it for snacks. My son loved cookies. I would say to him, ‘ I will make cookies when sun sets’. He used to wait for them from afternoon to evening.

  • Buying

Instant buying develops impatience. You might be tempted to buy a toy when your child is making a scene on supermarket floor and everyone is watching. You may even think, ‘It doesn’t cost much. Let me buy this once.’ But hold on.

I faced this situation many times. I tried different things, walking out of shopping mall, trying to negotiate with my son, ignoring his cries etc.  Later I noticed he didn’t understand concepts of ‘buying’ at all. He thought,  ‘If Mama buys vegetables, why can’t she buy me a toy’. Later I explained him concepts of money – want, need, budget, ATM, debit card, why parents work, buying habits etc. He was too young to give big lectures, so I made stories to explain him money concepts.

These stories I have published in my book ‘I Know the Value Of Money’ (available in pdf and print versions). It is read along for young kids and self read for older kids. Check it out

  • Waiting

All incidents which requires ‘waiting’ improves patience ex: waiting in a queue, traffic jam etc. 

I use ‘distraction’ as main strategy. But this distraction should not be too distracting. It will fail the idea of developing patience. 

Ex: In a queue, I ask my son to observe people. How they behave, what they might be thinking etc. I often ask him to think whole queue as a movie and watch it.

Once we were stuck in a traffic jam and he was thirsty (he was 3 then). We didn’t have access to water and he was becoming restless. I started telling, how I wish I can dig the earth and get water for him. He got intrigued and started telling how he can get water. That day we explored all possibilities of getting water from rain water harvesting to becoming water controlling super hero!

Patience improving activities

Play board games, building games and make art and craft projects with your child. 

We did several craft projects (we still do). Initially I used to do most things and my son was a helper (well, he created most mess). Now he is a designer and I am an assistant :-).  Here is a picture of my son with his art at age 2.

Make sure your child is heard and understood

Children often become restless when they feel parents don’t hear them. They keep repeating sentences and make same demands till they feel satisfied. One trick to make them feel they are heard is ‘Repeat their sentences’.  

Ex: Child : My friend hit me.

Parent : Oh, your friend hit you.

Child : My friend hit me and I felt bad.

Parent : You felt bad because your friend hit you.

This is a tough time for your child too

Your child’s brain is making rapid connections and it is overwhelming for the child. This is also the time child has to learn social interactions (many join pre-schools) and can face tough situations like bullying. So be patient yourself. Keep reminding yourself,  ‘This too shall pass…’.

If you find these tips helpful, please like, comment and share this blogpost.

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Chetana S

Chetana S

Chetana is an animator, story teller, entrepreneur and engineer who has worked in technology domains with international clients. She is certified in psychology from Yale University and also a certified story teller from Kathalaya. She had immense success in combining psychology with story telling.

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9 thoughts on “How to Improve Patience in 2-4 Year Old Kids”

  1. My son is also 2 years old now, i am busy with my work every day, after read this article, i think i also need become more patient to teach him, we are the child first teacher, but child also teach us more, nice article.

  2. Crystal clear growing agewise analysis as how to bring up the child understanding the growth by observation and fondling by developing our own patience before imparting to it. The child catches very fast what it sees in its parents. When we lead our life through our own example by out and living what we say to it leaves an indelible impression in its mind for living in its way of life! A delicate subject treated very well when many parents fear to tread the path with effortless ease! Congrats madam!!


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