Teaching your pre-schooler to WAIT

Madeline Sibbing, Psychologist at Northern Centre for Child Development

Being a working Mum is hard work.  You get home from a long day at work, your kids are hangry, you’re trying to explain to your partner how your NBN connection STILL isn’t working (true story), and your 3-year-old keeps shouting “Mummy mummy mummy mummy water!”

It’s enough to make your brain explode!

This is a frequent scenario in my household – so, many years ago I learned this simple tip for teaching pre-schoolers to WAIT. Yes you read that correctly, my children CAN now ACTUALLY WAIT!

It’s totally simple – and it only requires consistency and a bit of perseverance to pull it off.

mother and child in street portrait Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Here’s the trick – credit goes to someone on the internet somewhere sometime ago for teaching me this strategy:

  1. Child interrupts your conversation or your task
  2. Stretch out your arm and extend your hand
  3. Explain to the child that if they want your attention, they need to place their hand on yours.
  4. When the child has placed their hand on yours, you place your other hand on top of theirs. (This acknowledges that you know they are waiting).
  5. Commence with a short wait that you think your child can cope with initially. Even 5-10 seconds is a good start.
  6. Praise the child warmly and thank them for “waiting quietly” or whichever words feel right for you! And immediately give them your full attention.
  7. Keep doing this each time they go to interrupt. Extend the wait time gradually each time.

Good luck and happy waiting!

Madeline Sibbing – Psychologist

This article was written by Madeline Sibbing for Northern Centre for Child Development – a paediatric psychology practice in Melbourne. Madeline is a Paediatric Psychologist with a Master of Educational and Developmental Psychology from Monash University. Her fifteen years of professional experience has been attained within government and independent schools in assessment, therapeutic interventions and consultation with children, adolescents, parents and teachers. She also developed primary prevention programs, mental health awareness activities and teacher training in a secondary college. Madeline spent several years working as an Educational Psychologist in London, UK, as a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society before returning to Melbourne, Australia. Madeline works with all ages at the Northern Centre for Child Development in Preston (Melbourne), from young children through to adolescents and parents. She is able to adapt her therapy accordingly, using playful, creative therapy and parenting strategies for younger children and for older children and adolescents she employs Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Solution-focussed Therapy and mindfulness techniques.

Photo credit: Sai De Silva on Unsplash