Five Ways to Cope with an Impatient Toddler

Are you struggling with an impatient toddler? Toddlers are notoriously impatient, hence the nickname of Terrible Twos and Threenagers. First it was waiting for the bottle. Then, waiting to be unbuckled from the car seat or waiting for dinner to cool so they don’t get burned. It’s frustrating and overwhelming when your toddler is constantly screaming for their wants to be met. It can be a grueling process, but they can learn techniques to help them cope with waiting for things, because let’s face it, not everything in life is instant gratification. Teaching your toddler to cope with this is teaching them lifelong coping skills (they will evolve, of course).
Teaching your toddler to cope with this is teaching them lifelong coping skills because let's face it, not everything in life is instant gratification.

Choose your battles.

It can help to practice having your toddler wait a minute or two when he wants something, but if you do it all the time you’ll be battling all day long. Your toddler may not have developed a sense of passage of time yet.


Distraction is such a versatile tool dealing with toddlers. If you have to wait, i.e. you’re waiting on your food to be served at a restaurant, try distracting your toddler with a fun activity such as nursery rhymes or coloring. There’s a good reason restaurants give crayons two kids.

Out of sight out of mind.

If it’s something your toddler can’t have or can’t have right now, move it out of their line of sight. You may have to physically remove your child from the temptation, such as a ride or object they want to climb and should not be climbing. I will combine distraction and out of sight. For example, my daughter is constantly bringing me a bottle she wants me to open so that she can practice putting the lid back on. This is not always feasible, so I will distract her with a different toy and then hide the bottle. She will look around for it, but will quickly forget with her new task. It sure beats a screaming tantrum!

Utilize a timer.

My daughters early intervention instructor had a great idea of using an egg timer or even the timer on your phone. Tell your toddler that once the timer goes off, we are done with this activity and moving on to the next one. Eventually they will learn that the timer means there is a transitional coming. You can also use it for waiting, like telling your toddler that they can watch their name nursery rhymes after five minutes, and have the timer go off when it’s time. You could also use a sand timer that they can look at to keep track of time.

Wait with them.

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the timer. If your toddler does not want to get out of the bathtub or stop playing, say OK, you have two more minutes. And then OK, you have one more minute. And then OK we’re going to get out in 30 seconds. This gives them time to prepare for the fun to end.

Some great tips on helping your impatient toddler learn to wait.

While it may seem frustrating at the time, coping with your impatient toddler will get easier and they will learn to wait. What strategies do you use with your toddlers?


  1. I love the timer! It’s so simple, but works!

  2. Great tips! Choosing your battles is so huge as they are growing up. It was the number one rule my husband and I had when our children were small. Step back and decide if this one is the place you want to draw the line!

  3. These are very helpful ideas! I like that you said to wait with them, this can make it easier for them to understand that we all have to wait sometimes.

  4. My 2-year-old is very impatient sometimes (which I understand is normal) so I love your timer and waiting with them suggestion. Going to putting these to use.

  5. Great tips! My son can be impatient and we’ve been working on it. I do a lot of distraction!

  6. These are such great tips. I’ll admit that when my boys were smaller, I could have utilized a few of these ideas a little more! Toddlers are a lot of fun, but some days they are not easy. Great post!

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