Teaching My Child to "Wait"
Teaching your child to “wait a minute”, “not now, but later”, or “after you get done…” can be a difficult skill to teach. Many times the ability to wait for delayed gratification must be directly taught. Parents can begin teaching this skill by using a timer to directly teach the meaning of these words as well as the concept of time. Parents should begin by teaching this skill “out of the heat of the moment” and very systematically.
To begin teaching this skill use a preferred item or activity and a timer with an auditory signal.
Allow your child access to the preferred item for a small increment of time, then stop access to the item or activity. Do this by using a key phrase that you would naturally use in his or her environment such as “wait” , “just a minute”, etc.
Set the timer for a very short increment of time (2-5 seconds).
Once the timer goes off immediately praise the child for waiting and allow him/her access to the reinforcing item or activity.
Typically, parents can expect their child to protest when he or she is denied access to the reinforcing item or activity. As the child continues to come into contact with contingencies of the timer going off and receiving access to the reinfocing item or activity the child’s protests should de-escalte in intensity. As the child’s response to the denial of the reinfocing activity observably decrease, parents should systematically increase the duration of “wait” time. Parents should heavily reinforce compliancies with waiting and eventually begin to use these key phrases and times in the child’s natural environment (eventually removing the timer).
Teaching your child to tolerate delayed access to reinforcers can assist in increasing his or her compliancy and decreasing problematic behaviors .