Success Training—Helping Littles Wait

Success Training—Helping Littles Wait

For toddlers and preschoolers, waiting is extra hard!!

This may be a universal maxim, but that doesn’t make trying to work from home while your littles are home with you any easier.

This does! Improve your child's self-control and improve your relationship with your child with Success Training.

Success Training Starts Right Where Your Child Is

First, ask your child how long they CAN wait. For some children it may be 5 minutes, for some 10, and for some, maybe only 30 seconds! However long it is, you can set a timer, and have them wait in the other room (or in their corner, or wherever). Then, once the timer goes off, they can come and tell you all of their pressing news.

You can use their success as an opportunity to name a STRENGTH like, “You waited until the timer went off! That shows you have patience!” You also want to give them your full attention and enthusiasm while they share with you to demonstrate that waiting works to help them get what they want.

Obviously, you won’t be getting much work done if your child is interrupting you every 30 seconds (or every 10 minutes, even). The good news is, with this experience of success under their belt, they can begin to see themselves as patient (or respectful, quiet, good-at-waiting, self-controlled, etc.).

Once you’ve jump-started that identity, you can help them work up to longer increments of time. For example, a preschooler who could only wait 5 minutes the first time may be able to wait 7 minutes the second time. Or maybe longer!

You can put it to them: “You were so good at waiting five whole minutes before you came back in here to talk to me! I wonder how long you'll be able to wait this time.” If your child has enough confidence in their ability to wait, you will see them expand the length of time naturally. And you’ll be there every time they successfully wait a little longer to excitedly attend to everything they want to share with you and point out their STRENGTHs!

"But I don’t want to wait AT ALL!"

Many children may not feel like they can wait at all! This is completely natural, especially for littles who don’t yet know that they have the STRENGTH of patience. For these children, deeper success training including lots of validation is in order! You can start by SAYing WHAT YOU SEE, and then setting a boundary, followed by a CAN DO:

SWYS: "You don’t feel like you can wait at all! You feel like if you don’t talk to me right now, you’re going to explode!"


Boundary: "I need some alone time to get work done."


CAN DO: "You can tell me everything you need to tell me right now, and I will give you my full attention. Once you’re done, I’m going to start working again, and you can tell me everything that’s new when the timer goes off."


Child: "But I don’t want to wait AT ALL! I want you to play with me now!"


SWYS: "You really really don’t want to wait. I’m right here and you want to play with me RIGHT NOW! It doesn’t make sense that I’m home and we can’t play together. Usually when I’m home it’s playtime. You are right. This is a really weird time. You are home from school, and I am home from work. We are both home!"


Boundary: "And I still need to get work done."


CAN DO: "Hmm. Must be something we can do. We can set the timer for a shorter time. How long do you feel like you can wait?"

You can repeat this cycle as many times as needed until your child feels validated enough to try waiting for the timer. As soon as they are able to wait, even a very short time, make sure to swoop in and name that STRENGTH! Every child has the ability to be patient, they just need your help to see it in themselves. And as you help them recognize and build their awareness of it, you get to share joyful, connective moments along the way.

Success Training During Playtime

You probably already know that your child’s ability to draw on STRENGTHs like patience and self-control will take time to develop. That’s why it’s most helpful to do this kind of Success Training when you are not in a time crunch. So for example, when you are spending time with your child this evening, or this weekend, and you don’t have an urgent deadline, you can work Success Training into your playtime.

You can tell them you’re going to pretend to work, and you want to see how long they can wait. You can keep them in the lead by asking them what you should work on. Then, tell your child you want to see how long they CAN wait while you pretend to be busy. If they’re willing to play the waiting game, you can use the same Success Training technique described above, congratulating them each time they are able to wait longer and reinforcing their STRENGTH of patience, waiting, or whatever else you want them to know about themselves.

If they are not interested in playing that waiting game (maybe because they’ve just spent all day living it for real!), you can use a Playful Parenting approach and try role reversal! Have your child pretend to work while you beg for their attention. You can let them do Success Training with you and tell you how you should react—should you be good at waiting and celebrate together when your child congratulates you on outlasting the timer? Or maybe you can’t wait at all, and you could even pretend to cry? No matter what, make sure your reactions are directed by your child, and as silly and over-exaggerated as possible.

Don’t be surprised if your child asks to play this game over and over again! This is your child’s way of grappling with the difficulty of waiting from a safe distance--in a playful space where they feel empowered by being in the lead. Watching you playfully struggle to wait, with your exaggerated displays of emotions, can be a validating experience for them. Play is how children process.

Once they’ve engaged enough within play, they will be ready to try the real waiting game. And you’ll be right there to empathize with their struggle using SAY WHAT YOU SEE, and to name the STRENGTHs as they show up. In this way, you can work together with your child to build their inner STRENGTHs as you strengthen your bond. Feeling connected to you and knowing they can wait will help them give you the space you need to work from home and make it easier for you to ask them to wait.

You can find out more about our simple 3-part coaching approach in our book, SAY WHAT YOU SEE® for Parents and Teachers. You can buy it here, or if you just can’t wait, you can read it online here for free!

Or if videos are more your speed, you can check out our online Basic Coaching Skills Course, which is full of clips that you can watch on your own time to learn how to step from controlling to coaching your child and gain more hugs, more respect, and more cooperation as a result.

You can find more tips to make working/staying at home easier with kids of any age here:

4 Tips To Help Kids Wait 

Big Reactions to Cancellations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *