Teaching Patience to a 3 Year Old

Patience? To a 3 year old?

Before you scoff at me and think that is completely impossible and click the [x], bare with me and let me explain. I was a little skeptical like you are, trust me. I feel like I’ve got the world’s most impatient toddler but the reality is I’m not the only one and teaching patience to a 3 year old is possible.

A really good friend of mine (actually, you may know her — Stephanie of Naturally Mindful) asked if it was possible to even teach her toddler patience. She made a great point in saying toddlers have no recollection of time; they don’t know how long a minute is, let alone know much about time in general.

But there is nothing worse than having your hands dirty or being in the middle of something and your toddler wanting you to get them or do something for them now. Have you been in those shoes before? I know I have.

“Andrew, give me one minute and I’ll come over there and help you.”

2 seconds later. Andrew has asked the same thing about 5 times but it has turned into a whining voice which literally  makes you feel like you want to rip your hair out.

“Andrew, just give me a second. Mommy has to finish this and I’ll be right there.”

More whining and constant nagging.

A simple trick for teaching patience to a 3 year old

At this point you’ve had it up to your knees and your toddler is beyond frustrated and is heading towards a tantrum. Not a place you want yourself or your toddler because it can quickly go into a downward spiral. So what’s a mom to do?

Thanks to the genius suggestion of my friend Kristen from The Earthy Mama, she suggested asking your toddler to sing a song; whether it be the ABCs, 1-2-3 or Old McDonald. So when your toddler is nagging at you to pour them more milk but you’re in the middle of mixing together homemade meatballs and your hands are dirty, ask them to sing the ABCs and when they’re done, you’ll get them milk. If you need more time, ask them to sing the ABCs and then ask them to sing a different song. Just make sure the song is long enough to give you an appropriate amount of time to finish what you’re doing to help them.

But does it work?

Absolutely! I don’t remember what I was doing but Andrew needed something now and I couldn’t get it to him. Instead of saying, “Give me a minute” I asked Andrew to sing the ABCs and you know what? He did it and he loved it! I even sang with him. There have been times where I’ve asked him to sing the ABCs twice and he did it. No complaining, no whining, just happy song singing.

Since my 3 year old (and I’m sure yours as well) is in the “I can do it” stage, this was perfect for him. He could show me that he could sing the ABCs, he had fun singing it (who doesn’t love to sing?), and everyone ended up being happy with zero frustration.


What a game changer for me! Thank you Kristen for the suggestion!

I’m not promising this is going to work all of the time but I can promise that it will help divert many to-be tantrums. If it can divert tantrums from my highly spirited 3 year old, I’m sure it can help yours. You just have to remember to change your way of thinking and remember that your toddler can’t grasp the idea of “just a minute.”

Once you start to “think like a toddler” and genuinely try to understand where they are coming from, it’s amazing how much easier parenting can be — even with the most spirited of children.


Have you ever tried this? What other methods of teaching patience to your 3 year old have you tried with success? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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    1. I hope it works for you! I’d say even if it only worked half of the time, you’ve been granted half of your sanity. 🙂 I’d love to hear how it works!

  1. This seems like an excellent tool to have in your bag! I have four children, ages 8 to 16 months, and there are many times when I cannot drop what I’m doing to “help me, mom” or “come look.” And all my kids love to sing. I have found that if I give my children a better explanation of WHAT I’m busy with, they cope better and are able to be more patient. Sometimes I ask them if they want to watch what I’m doing while they wait and that way they can see when I get to a good point to take a break.

    1. I agree with you! Being able to explain to your children about what you’re doing is SO helpful. It’s just a little harder when they are younger and can’t quite grasp everything yet. Gotta have a few tricks up your sleeves to be able to cope with all age-ranges. 🙂

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