I heard Harvey Karp speak this week. You may know his books The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I wholeheartedly endorse his baby book and the techniques in it. It’s one of the 3 books I always recommend to expectant parents. But I have some questions, doubts, and concerns about the toddler methods. I’ll talk more about that another day, when my brain is working better. It’s been a long day.

For now, I want to tell you about a great idea he talked about that I don’t think is in his books. He said that the way most parents teach children to wait isn’t very effective. Say you’re on the phone and your little one comes up and starts pulling on your arm and asking you to “come see.” You might pause your conversation and say to your child “Just a minute. You need to wait. Mommy will come soon.” If you are imagining this scenario right now, you know what will happen next. The child continues to demand and pull. Asking them to wait often doesn’t work very well.

Karp says we ought to pause our conversation and let the child lead us to what they want to show us and then ask them to wait right before we actually grant their request. His point is that when humans are really close to getting what we want, we’re more willing (and able) to wait. So in many different scenarios, we can ALMOST give the child what they want, but right before we do, we ask them to wait. He modeled this in a video where he showed a toddler wanting to play with a flashlight. Right as he’s about to hand the flashlight, he says “Oh, just a minute—I need you to wait.”, at which time he looks busy for about 10 seconds, then hands the toddler the flashlight and gushes “Good job waiting!”

Using short waiting times and reinforcing the behavior of “waiting” by then giving them what they’ve been waiting for right then and there, and then praising them will do a much more effective job of teaching waiting. Then we can stretch the times we ask them to wait. Makes sense to me! I’m going to give it a try. If you try it, let me know how it works!