Is patience still a skill we need in the modern world?

Patience.

We all admire it, we strive for more of it, we try to teach our children to be it. But in a world which is always in a hurry, how easy is it to be patient and why is it important to keep trying?

Patience is a word I heard a lot as a child. I wanted to do something, eat something, be somewhere and it was so exciting I wanted it now! “Patience” was the word the loving adults in my life used to remind me that good things are worth waiting for. That whatever it was was coming but I had to wait and enjoy the anticipation.

When eventually we were there or I was eating that yummy treat, it was always SO good.

When we have to wait for something it is always better isn’t it?

Have we lost the ability to wait patiently and enjoy the anticipation though?

We live in a world where we have been conditioned to think that fast is best. A world of next day delivery, fast food and fast download speeds have we lost the ability to be patient?

This week I have been reminded of the importance of patience.

Last week I was cooking up all sorts of things I wanted to do after the school holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful week with my family. We had days out, enjoyed the beautiful weather and had lots of fun together. But whenever I have time away from work my creative juices flow and I have so many ideas I can’t wait to implement them all.

I had a busy day on Monday and got into my office on Tuesday morning ready to get cracking with my to do list only to sit down and open a message from my amazing web sprite to say that there was some essential maintenance happening and it would take a couple of days and whatever I did, I must NOT make any changes to my website until it was all done!

Hmmm! So the exciting new product I have been desperate to launch still needed a new webpage, that was on my to do list, as was writing this blog, a blog on my non-school website and man other things, most of which required me to access my website.

Could I change anything?

No.

Was it a little bit frustrating?

Of course.

Did it give me the opportunity to create other magical things offline which I can upload at a later date?

Oh yeah!

I could have shouted, cried, been frustrated with the company doing the maintenance because it wasn’t done while I was off and not accessing my website last week.

Would any of those things have got my website back online any quicker? Of course not! All that that would have achieved would have been a raised blood pressure, awful guilt when I calmed down for shouting and smudgy make up.

Not very productive.

From a very early age these days children use screens and are used to fast wifi, instant music, watching programmes and films on demand. They never have to wait for anything.

I know I’m old, but when I was very little we didn’t even have VHS. If we wanted to watch a film we had to wait for it to be on the TV and be sitting watching it at the right time. There was maybe an hour of preschool appropriate TV a day and you had to be sitting watching it or you missed it that day.

Don’t even get me started on the hours I spent rewinding an fast forwarding tapes to listen to my favourite songs.

Nothing was instant apart from mashed potatoes (and they were not a positive let’s be honest!).

If we had a project to do for school we had to find a book, which usually meant going to the library and maybe even ordering that book in. Even when I was at college you couldn’t do research online in any real quantity.

Now if you want to know anything you can find out instantly.

My daughter decided she fancied French toast the other morning. She had never made it and I was busy so she found a website with instructions and images and off she went.

If I need to do something for work that I haven’t done before, a quick Google search will usually give me my answer.

This ability to find out everything from the age of a celebrity or what they have been in before, to simple explanations of elements of quantum physics is incredible and I wouldn’t want to go back to a world without this wealth of knowledge but what about the downside.

Our wifi was faulty a few weeks ago. You would have thought the world had ended! The children didn’t know how to function without being able to watch Netflix on their screens, my husband and I were frustrated because we couldn’t get work done and of course even the TV wouldn’t work.

How did we survive?

Well, in a strange way it was amazing. The kids read books (which they do anyway, but they read even more!), they drew pictures (which they rarely do now) and we spent lots of time together chatting.

I often hear discussions about the pace of lessons and keeping children’s attention. There is no doubt that this instant world we live in is having a detrimental effect on children’s ability to concentrate for long periods of time. Not just children either. How many adults can’t watch a whole programme without checking their mobile?

Talk to any reception teacher and they will tell you of the struggles of many children when they first enter school. Much of that is around the fact that they are used to being either the only child their parents have to focus on or the may have to share their parents attention with a sibling, but they certainly aren’t used to competing with 29 other children for the adult in the room’s attention. It can be quite a shock when they have to wait their turn.

So should we be making children wait for things?

If my children want something, they don’t always get it, and they certainly don’t get it straight away. I know of families where the child gets upset because someone at school has something they want and mum or dad goes straight out to get it for them.

What does that teach the child?

They are going to get such a shock when they are older and they have to work for several hours to earn the money to buy that item, or get into a lot of debt feeding their need to have everything and now.

We may think we are being kind giving them everything they want. We may think that we are making them happy by stopping what we are doing and immediately giving them our full attention but are we really helping them in the long term?

Children must learn patience. They must learn to wait for and work for things they want. They must learn to joy of deferred gratification.

Anticipation of something wonderful is often almost better than the actual thing.

How often do we look forward to an event, or going on holiday, for months and then it is past so quickly we hardly have chance to enjoy it? But the joy of looking forward to it is so wonderful that that pleasure becomes part of the enjoyment.

So next time you are tempted to buy them that toy that everyone else has, or take them to that film all their friends have seen. The next time you they want your attention while you are busy working or doing something. Consider using that word I heard so often as a child; patience.

Teach your children to wait.

It might hurt you a little to say no, or make them work for something they are breaking their heart over, but in the long run they will thank you and you won’t regret it either.

Kate Beddow is the creator of Calmer Classrooms with Mojo a whole school mindfulness and relaxation programme which is delivered in schools around the world. She works closely with teachers and provides them with resources to help them create a calm and focused environment for their students to learn.

Kate is also the mindfulness trainer for Become the Force, a real life Jedi training school, and was a contributing author to “Women of Spirit” a book featuring amazing stories of real life women overcoming adversity.

Kate Beddow is the Calmer Classrooms Creator, she creates relaxation and mindfulness resources for schools and helps teachers stay calm and happy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store