With your help, kids can learn to be patient

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In a study in the 1970s, researchers gave 4- and 5-year-olds a choice: They could have one marshmallow immediately, or two later. The differences between the children who took the marshmallow right away and those who waited turned out to be significant.

A decade later, researchers determined that the kids who could delay gratification did measurably better in school, had more friends and earned higher SAT scores.

So, in the face of a faster world, how can you make your child become better at delaying gratification?

1. First, says New York therapist Kiki Weingarten, make sure you model the quality of waiting for your children. Here’s a hint: If you are, say, a compulsive shopper, you’re not doing that. Show children how to wait, or save up, for what they want.

2. Stick to your “no’s,” suggests Weingarten, no matter how much your children scream and yell. This will help them learn that they will survive not getting what they want – and that they can’t push you around.

3. Keep setting limits. Tell your child they can have – or do – one thing, but not the other.

4. Richard Boyatzis, a Case Western Reserve University professor of organizational behavior, says that starting in childhood, healthy nutrition (not so much sugar!) combined with support and love help children develop positive qualities like patience.

5. Continually teach and remind your children of values and virtues that are important, with patience and consideration of others high among them.

6. Don’t let your children isolate themselves with gadgets. Make certain each day has family time.

7. Have children spend time in nature, where they see how slowly the world unfolds when humans don’t interfere.

8. Remember, says psychiatrist Marilyn B. Benoit, the resilient and healthy young person can withstand setbacks, rise to a challenge, find new ways of solving problems and learn that hardships can be overcome. Look for opportunities to help your children have those experiences.

Evelyn Theiss is a staff writer for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland. She can be contacted at etheiss@plaind.com.

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