First, Then Statements
Patience is something I often think about. I used to joke before I became a mother that patience was something I didn’t have. Looking back, as a wife and mother I realize how essential patience is! Thankfully my husband is one of the most patient people I know and I think (I hope) I’ve grown in this area over the last few years. Now that Izzy is two and a toddler, patience is something I’d like for her to learn. As to be expected, she doesn’t have the ability to wait. She often immediately gets frustrated if things aren’t going her way or aren’t working the way she wants them to.
If you are around her, you know that she often asks for a snack or her newest interest “cold water.” As soon as we get in the car from the park she asks for a snack or a drink. Sometimes I have one and other times I don’t. If I don’t I usually hear protesting and sometimes high pitched screams from the backseat. Now she is working on my patience!
Recently we have been using the First, Then statements with her. After a few weeks I noticed a difference in her response. She likes to have a plan and know what to expect. Instead of ignoring her request we acknowledge her wishes and tell her what has to happen.
Here are some examples of First, Then Statements:
- Izzy gets in the car from the park and asks for a snack. I tell her “First, home. Then, snack.” She has gotten to the point where she will repeat what I’m saying and she seems to understand. I usually don’t hear any crying and instead she says “first, home.” Then when we get home I make sure I follow through.
- Izzy also loves to listen to her favorite song “Jericho” in the car. If I’m listening to a song I want to hear, I tell her “First Mommy’s song. Then Jericho.” Again, she is satisfied that I acknowledged her request and she will 90% of the time wait until my song is over.
- Being in my third trimester I often have to use the potty. When Izzy asks to go outside she often wants to go right away. I’ve been using the first, then statement with this situation as well. “First, mommy goes to the bathroom. Then, outside.”
- Another example: First clean up your blocks. Then you can get out a new toy.
There are so many situations in which you can use the first, then statement. I personally think it has been teaching Izzy some patience. It isn’t going to fix every fussy moment, but it is teaching her there is an order to things and you can’t always get what you ask for immediately.
Do I ever mess up and give in right away? Certainly. I’m not perfect and I definitely don’t have this parenting thing 100% mastered.
But I do know as a school psychologist I used the First, Then statements with my students and I definitely noticed a change in their behavior. You can make First, Then charts where you show pictures of activities. This helps with kids who are visual and need more concrete evidence of what you are saying. I found it gave students something to look forward to and it also showed them what you expect of them. Most people seem to like order and knowing what to anticipate.
I love this method of teaching kids to be patient! I’m going to have to try it.