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Recently in a British broadsheet, I read the comments on civilisation of a respected political correspondent who had travelled around the world for decades. He claimed that civilisation within a society can be measured by the ability to queue.
This sentiment created something of a sensation at the time, but on reflection, I believe it to be true.
I also believe as well that it can be related to many issues in society today since whenever I see children queue-jumping, or generally grabbing for anything they can get, it leads me to consider the classic nature-versus-nurture question.
If you have ever watched a natural history programme you will undoubtedly have seen lions and other pack creatures busily ripping to pieces the kill of the day, in what seems to be an everyone for themselves assault. But, if you watch more carefully and listen to the commentary, you begin to recognise that whilst it is within animal instinct to grab at whatever food they can, there is invariably a pecking order, born of superiority, and young pretenders soon learn to wait their turn.
And, who is teaching patience to the young? It’s the elders, the parents and those who have experience of life.
And, so it should be in the human world.
You can pretty much guarantee that the child who snatches, queue-jumps or generally has a sense of entitlement in a sharing situation hasn’t been taught the basic manners of life that as the political correspondent suggested makes for a civilised society.
Any child would take whatever was on offer as quickly as they could, like lion cubs, because it is a natural instinct … unless they were taught the value of patience, sharing and all those other things that civilise us.
So how do we teach our children patience?
The first and most obvious thing to point out is that children learn by example, so if you grab, push-in or generally put yourself before others, you can expect your children to do so too, so considering your own actions is the first step in producing well-rounded offspring.
There are many other factors, however, that can help children to recognise the importance of patience.
-Start young with small steps that teach the value of patience early. Young children are impulsive and have a short attention span, but introducing the concept of waiting - be it for a snack or for iPad time can help children recognise the reward for demonstrating the appropriate behaviour. Waiting time, however, must be proportionate to the age of the child.
-Teach mindfulness. Being in the moment and immersing yourself in an activity that requires your attention such as drawing or colouring is a wonderful way of showing children how to spend their time rather than waste it. The sheer joy of completing a task that they have taken their time to complete is obvious when they can’t wait to show you.
-Using visual aids such as egg-timers or stopwatches to demonstrate how much time children have to wait makes it easier for children to visualise time and recognise that they are not going to get what they want until the time has passed.
-Teach children to cope when things don’t go your way. For example, if you are stuck in a traffic jam with your children, rather than get frustrated and beeping your car horn, spend the time you have gained with your children positively until the traffic is moving again.