“A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.” –Jerry Seinfeld

All toddlers start out with an immature left-half of the brain. That’s the center of language, logic, problem solving…and patience. No wonder, they get so wiggly and wild…and act like blenders without lids! But, the good news is that even with toddlers, patience is like a muscle; it gets stronger with exercise.

Strengthening the brain’s patience center automatically makes tots more reasonable, easy going, and better able to keep cool when they don’t get their way.

Two great ways to boost your toddler’s self-calming ability are magic breathing and patience stretching, a way to teach even a hyperactive one-year-old better emotional control. Magic breathing is a proven path to train the brain of older tots (and, big kids) to be calmer and bounce back from stress. (You can read about it in the “green light” chapter in The Happiest Toddler.) But, for the moment I’d like to focus on the simple skill of patience stretching.

Let’s say your one-year-old interrupts you asking for juice. Instead of gratifying her demand immediately, try this:

Stop what you’re doing and start to hand her the juice…BUT…halfway through the motion, suddenly say, “Wait! Wait! Just one second!” ….as if you just remembered something super-important.

Immediately pretend to look for something for 5 seconds. (Since she almost got what she wanted, she’ll probably wait…a little confused, but confident she’s about to get it.)

Turn back and give her the juice, brightly saying, “Good waiting! Good waiting!”

Quickly rewarding patience teaches tots that Mom and Dad always keep their word. Little by little, add more time to the waiting period. Start with 5 seconds, then increase to 10…30…60, and so on. Practice every day, and within weeks your child will easily be able to wait a minute or two.

Patience stretching builds within our tots the precious talent for self control…one baby step at a time. And, in The Happiest Toddler, you can read about some great ways to use patience stretching as a tool for eliminating annoying behaviors, like whining and nagging. And, in The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Birth to 5, you can read how to use patience stretching to quickly eliminate sleep problems…without crying it out!