Girl. Must. Have. A. Cracker.
My 3-year-old wants a cracker. Naturally, five minutes ago in the grocery store, she refused one near the fancy cheese, but now, as I nose the car into the wild Poplar tra c, hunger rages and she is desperate to satisfy it.
Alas, there are no crackers. The crackers are at home, seven minutes away. But I don’t panic; my child (and yours) has what it takes to survive the ride home.
Young children are bundles of needs and wants, driven by the natural urge to satisfy. This comes from our biology; we need certain things to survive, and our brains are hard-wired to understand these needs.
Out in the wild, we’d rely on this instinct to stay alive. But humans live among other humans, all with their own wants and needs. When children learn early in life how their needs fit among other members of the family or classroom, they’re primed for solid social and emotional well-being through childhood and beyond.
Establishing routines from the beginning lays the foundation for a patient child. Your child knows activities like mealtime, naptime, and bedtime come at regular intervals. Such events also help you plan your day, by preparing food when you need to, and saving certain tasks for their naptime.
Children thrive on routine; it takes the guesswork out of having needs met. This frees them to live in the moment, concentrating on the activities you or their caregivers plan for the day. It also regularly forces them to wait for hunger and other animal urges to be satisfied, which makes them more accustomed to practicing patience.
Give Language to Waiting
“You’ll have to wait for a cracker until we get home, but that’s only five minutes. That sounds like a lot of time, but we can be patient. And then, you can have a cracker, plus an orange or some grapes,” I say to my ravenous daughter.
Of course, this kind of comment won’t magically calm a raging cracker fit (or other types of fits, for that matter), but helping your child develop language that lets her articulate and understand time, patience, and waiting will have a long-term effect. They will begin to understand that 20 minutes is finite, and there are other factors, in addition to their own needs, that dictate when a snack takes place.
When your car is third in line at the bank drive-through, how do you handle the wait? If you grip the steering wheel and glare at the other customers, groaning — “How could this possibly be taking so long?” — don’t be surprised when your child shows a similar annoyance at waiting.
Take a breath, commit to your spot as one customer among many, and, within reason, endure the wait. You’ll demonstrate that waiting is something we all must do at times, and by being patient, you eventually get what you want.