Wednesday, November 19 2014
“But, I don’t have a second!”
When GoPlay! teachers are busy attending to a task at hand and a child asks to inspect his super-duper block tower, we explain that we'll be there in a few minutes, or we might say, “Hold on a second." That’s the phrase that was used today when I heard a child respond, “But, I don’t have a second!” After chuckling a bit, it occurred to me - GoPlay! actually teaches children patience.
By not responding instantly to a child’s every request, we give children a chance to practice patience. We do not leap up to grab a napkin the moment it is demanded; better yet, we place the napkins on the table so the child can ask to get one for himself. When we are busy, we politely point out to the child what we’re doing and we expect the child to understand. At GoPlay!, we treat children as if they can control themselves. We set the expectations high, assuming each child has the ability to remain calm. We expect children to wait to be handed an item and not grab for it. We teach a child who throws the toys on the floor how to keep them on the table. We get down on the floor and tell the toddler who is taking the paper off the shelf to stop, and we show him how to put it back.
Our secret to developing patient students isn't expecting them to wait silently standing at attention. We have found that kids become good at waiting once they learn how to entertain themselves. During our obligatory restroom wait time we play “waiting games”; this makes the wait time bearable. We know we don’t need to teach children how to distract themselves, but we do need to teach them how to positively entertain themselves.
With daily waiting practice, eventually children ﬁgure out how to distract themselves positively. By slowing down our response time, the child becomes better at coping and we eliminate boredom. We know that if the teacher drops everything the instant a student requests an action, or if they respond when a child interrupts, the child isn't going to become skilled at waiting. The student is going to become skilled at whining.
We would never ask a young child to sit through a full length movie or a presidential speech - we just want them to be able to “wait a second”.
It's a skill everyone, even we adults, might benefit from acquiring.