Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

June 3, 2016

Teach your child to wait (really!)

Do you find that you always have to chase your child around in waiting rooms, restaurants, and in other public places?

Courtney Stanley MS OTR/L, a pediatric occupational therapist at the Pineville office of Child and Family Development sees many parents struggle to contain their children in our clinic lobby.  

Sometimes, waiting rooms or lobbies are complete chaos where anyone might have difficulty being patient; other times, they are sterile and boring.  However, when a child has the appropriate environmental supports, he can learn to wait.

Step #1 Prepare: Bring along 2 toys from home (they can choose the toys) in a bag/backpack for them – they can even carry it

Step #2 Arrive: Plan to arrive only 5-10 minutes before your appointment – you can’t expect your 2 year old to wait for 30 minutes

Step #3 Set the expectation: Show and tell your child what you expect of them.  For example, “We are going to check in, then you can sit and play until it is our turn.”

Step #4 Engage your child: Help your child wait by engaging them in a book or toy; don’t expect them to entertain themselves

Step #5 Praise: Give your child positive praise for staying in his/her seat. Depending on your child, this may even mean that they earn a reward.

Step #6 Be Consistent: Children learn through consistency and repetition.  If you want them to sit and wait, carry it over in all environments and for all opportunities.

What if they can’t stay sitting?  Help motivate them by letting them choose the chair and modeling sitting for them.   Give them short, direct cues such as “sit please” and if they don’t return to their chair, bring them back and help them engage again.  You can also give them a choice such as “We are going to sit.  Do you want to sit in the chair or in my lap?” 

Keep at it, because some children may need more repetition to learn what is expected of them in a lobby environment.

Read more about occupational therapy services here