Waiting Is Usually Better

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We’re in a hurry. As an entire culture, we are consumed with how we can make things go faster.

From technology to, and here’s the pitiful part, our children, we are desperate to rush the normal cycle of life. Faster. Everything needs to be faster and sooner.

My friend and I were just having an over-the-computer conversation about this very topic. It all started with a school discussion, but it is something I have been thinking about for months.

Actually, I have been thinking about it ever since my daughter decided to potty-train herself this summer. She was 2 1/2, so most people would consider that fairly normal. Not early, not late. But here’s the deal, I didn’t decide to potty-train her then.

In fact, I was happy to let it go a few more months. But she was ready. So, you know, even if it seems inconvenient you just go with it. And the whole thing was so painless, and almost entirely accident free, that it still sometimes surprises me that she is potty trained.

But this post isn’t about potty-training. It’s about being patient.

Is your two-year-old saying his alphabet? Counting to 10? Does he know his numbers and shapes?

Have you started your 4-year-old in soccer or T-ball? Has she been introduced to ballet, gymnastics, and music lessons? And…is he reading yet?

Are you feeling some pressure, Moms? Are you sensing that maybe your child should be doing more than he is? Should you be insisting on practicing how to write numbers when all she wants to do is play dress-up? Are you feeling the pressure from society to hurry him up?

Are you having a difficult time waiting for your child to mature at his own rate and in his own individual way? Are you impatient with the normal cycle of life?

I understand the pressure. I really do get it. I’m right there with you. None of us wants to be the negligent mother that has failed to teach our children their ABC’s.

Many a wise older mother told me that when it came to potty training just wait until the child is ready. When she’s ready, she’ll do it. You’ve heard it before, “They won’t go to college in diapers!” And you know what? They were right.

I fight this tendency to rush my children along, but one thing I have learned is that waiting is usually better.

When you start something too early, before the child is physically, emotionally, or intellectually mature enough to handle it, you will eventually teach him what you want him to know. But it will be a long process. It will be slow work. And there will probably be some frustrating tears in the process.

When you wait until it happens more naturally, it takes less time and is much less frustrating. For both you and the child. Learning to read at four might be a slow, day to day laborious process, but at six it might take just a few weeks. Potty training at two might be a long several-month stressful season, but at three (or older) it might be done in a week.

Each child is unique. Your child might successfully read at a very early age and it wasn’t stressful. Another child might do better waiting. Your child might be counting like a pro at two, but not be ready to potty train until 3 1/2. You might be dying to do “school” activities with your child, and all she wants to do is dump the jar of beans that she is supposed to be politely counting.

It’s okay. It isn’t a lack of intelligence. It does not mean she will always hate learning. She is not destined to a life of ignorance. Just put the bean jar away. Pull it back out in a month. Or a year. When she is ready you will learn more in a day than you could have previously learned in a month. Be patient.

The opposite is also true. Maybe your child is ready for all those things. Maybe he is quite capable of impressing everyone with his 3-year-old knowledge. Guess what? That doesn’t mean he is a genius. He simply developed those skills at an earlier age than another child.

Let’s relax moms. Let’s give our children some room to develop naturally. Let’s not rush the cycle of life that God intended for our particular children. Let’s take the pressure off each other and ourselves.

Let’s be patient.

This weekend, put away the frustration or worry of where you think your children should be and just enjoy them. Whether that is with their noses in a book or out jumping mud puddles.

Have you felt the pressure from our culture of faster and sooner to hurry your child along?


  1. Having a child with special needs has forced me to wait and be patient. That is not easy for me. I do still get impatient and frustrated, and that of course makes my child impatient and frustrated. A lot of pressure can be put on by all the testing, showing how far behind she is compared to other children. I am constantly reminding myself that she will get it in her own time. And I am constantly evaluating what she really needs to be able to do and what is not important. In her case, nothing comes easily. It takes constant intentional teaching, but all that work will pay off. Wisdom is needed to create a balance: when to push, when to wait, what to push, and what to let slide. But mostly, I just need to enjoy her as God created her and let her develop at her own pace. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I agree that the constant testing breeds comparison which is not always healthy. I can imagine that it is especially difficult when you have a child learning at a slower rate. I try to remind myself that progress is what we’re looking for, not a specific standard.

  2. I LOVED this post, Johanna! This is something that I have told a lot of moms: just wait. Even within my own three children, they all were SO different! One of my biggest ‘proofs’ of the benefits of waiting was that because of family pressures (and me being a new mom), I worked SO long to potty train my oldest. It was such a battle. With my second, we tried for a couple of days, and I could tell she just wasn’t ready, so we stopped. I waited for almost a year and she finally started showing some of the signs of being ready. She was! She basically potty trained herself. She only had one accident! So…when my third came around, I knew it was best to just watch for the signs and let her dictate (and I had to retrain my own brain to not get so caught up in what people would say or comment) when to start. We also heard a lot of negative about when they talked and walked. Eventually all those things happened and it was at different ages for all of them. We’ve got to stop pressuring moms to push, push, push for the next milestone or getting them in every program. Take things slow, and observe your little ones, moms :) Before you know it, they will be in high school!

  3. What you have written is so true. Too often we forget that each child will develop at his or her own speed. Thank you for reminding us as adults to remember this and accept the differences.

    • Differences are a unique gift from God, but unfortunately we tend to want “sameness” when it comes to development.

  4. @Becky…”I had to retrain my own brain…” Isn’t that the truth?!
    Johanna, another great post, and I whole heartedly agree. I teach my kids to read in K, but, K has varied in age from one to the next. I didn’t start my second until he was over 5-1/2. It was hard. All his girl cousins, who were born within months of him, started the year before. But I knew he wasn’t ready. And I learned with potty training, that it isn’t wise to start him on something before he is ready. It just frustrates both of us.
    It is hard not to compare. My bff son is almost 17 months younger than LC. He reads, and has for a while. He is currently only 3. He has been “potty trained” but with lots of accidents, and still wearing pull up until he was almost 3. Yet, he started before 18 months. So, it is all in the best face forward data put forth too. It isn’t always accurate. Plus she has one child, I have 4. I can’t spend every waking moment trying to get my 1 year old to read. Nor is it that important to me.
    LC was not really getting her letters and numbers last year in preK. This year it is coming just fine. Time…solves a whole lot of things.

    • Thanks for your story. I have found the same thing, when kids do things extremely young (potty training, reading, etc) it is often because there is intense parental involvement. When they learn a little later they need direction from parents, but it is more natural! I have to remember too, that each of my kids will do things at different ages — like the fact that my 15 month old is still not walking. 😉

  5. Excellent post, Johanna–exactly what I needed to hear! It was also good to be reminded that each child is different and you need to work with them where they’re at. I had a very similar situation with my youngest who was potty trained in the blink of an eye this summer, because she wanted to and therefore she was ready (and she won’t be 3 until February). What a difference between her and her brother who took MONTHS to train (which looking back, was due to the fact I was in a rush with it)!!

    I think there is a lot of pressure and almost an atmosphere of competition when it comes to learning to read, write, count etc. and I’m guilty of getting caught up into it. We did choose to keep our son home instead of sending him to school for K4 but now I’m looking for ways to keep his mind engaged and busy and want him to enjoy learning.

    Thanks again for this reminder to be patient.

    • I knew our sons were the same age, but so are our daughters! Olivia will be 3 in February too :)

      Yes, I agree with you that there is an atmosphere of competition. Playgroups are dangerous! 😉 I find myself getting sucked into it, and I have to really catch myself all the time!

  6. Thank you for the discussion, and for stating this so simply and clearly.

    “Just put the bean jar away.”

    I think that can encapsulate an entire philosophy of patience in parenting. :)

    Each new child in our family is such a reminder to me that each child is unique, and even in their development patterns. I know it will only show up more and more as they grow older. Not always easy to remember in the moment, though. :)

    • Remembering in the moment–ah yes! — I find myself getting sucked into making comparison comments, etc, and have to really guard myself.

  7. Good thoughts. Reminds me of Grandma Morgan’s “don’t rush the washing machine.” :-)

  8. So very true, and I definitely could give plenty of examples with my own children. Especially within the realm of homeschooling–I’m fairly “laid back” in some parts of school details and haven’t chosen any one set curriculum path, at least not yet, so talking with other moms sometimes leaves me reassuring myself that my children really are learning just fine with library books and online printables–and my two oldest are just in K and 1st grade!

    But your post made me really think of my mom, who was tall for her age and was sent to K at 4 (her birthday is in Nov.) She always struggled in school and hated it. So when I was growing up, she was careful not to push in any way. I was very blessed to have her repeatedly tell me things like “good grades aren’t everything” and “doing your best doesn’t always mean it’s perfect.” And I did tend to be perfectionistic on my own without having parental pressure adding to the stress!

    • What a great example from your Mom, but I feel bad for her. And I’m really afraid that many, many children are in that position with parents putting them into activities too young.

      I also think that this is why many children hate school by the time they get to highschool. Too much pressure when they are young they will burn out. The pressure is better saved for the highschool years–I think we have it backwards in our society–we push young kids, and then when they get to be teens, we don’t expect anything of great consequence out of them. Anyway, I am getting carried away, so I’ll stop:)

      I love the relaxed approach you are doing and I plan to do the same for the early years! thanks for the inspiration, Erika!

  9. You KNOW I loved this post. :) Good thoughts.

  10. As a new mom (I think I still have a little while to say that…) this post was so refreshing. Thank you!!!

    p.s. I CANNOT wait to start our friendship in real life too!

  11. This post couldn’t have come at a better timing :) My eldest, just turned five, has always loved to learn and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with her – she was reading by three, and is in 1st grade math, and no pressure on my part, she keeps asking for more. My youngest, though, who is now turning 3, simply enjoys playing with his cars and tearing around outside on his bike. I have felt the pressure to have him do his numbers and letters, since it seemed so natural with my eldest, and he knows a few and counts to ten, and it seems he thinks that’s about enough for him :) So I was wondering whether my gut feeling of “putting the bean jar away” was ok… And just let him play with his cars and paint freely etc while Lara does her things. So, all this to say that you’ve helped me see that it IS ok!! Thank-you so much… It takes much pressure off me!

    • It’s so hard not to compare. My oldest has done many things early, but my 2 nd is very different. (even things like walking and talking). They’ll learn when they are ready, and really, I do think they learn a lot from playing so that is an important part!

      • Yes, I agree playing is how they learn best at this age… And it’s true what you say about pre-schoolers and teenagers. Here in Spain it also happens: society pushes and prods and pressures little kids, starting school at 3 (or 2 if your birthday is late), long hours at school (from 9 till 1pm and then from 3 until 5 pm), extracurricular activities etc… And then teenagers are allowed to be bums, go to the next grade without passing all subjects, etc etc, instead of demanding excellence and challenging them to do their best when now they are capable of doing it.

  12. What a great post, Johanna! You’ve hit the heart of parenting in one blow! I’m learning to feel the wave of anxiety coming when I think my kids aren’t “measuring up,” and I tell myself to turn it off. They are fine and will be fine! My two-year-old is ready to potty train, but I’ve been putting it off, namely because I worked too early on it with my oldest and my middle one is the most stubborn child ever! haha. I’m sure my baby will make it just fine.

    • “turn it off” — oh I can so relate! I think it is helpful to have thought it through ahead of time, then I can remind myself, “you’re getting swallowed into the hurry-things-up thinking!”


  1. […] Waiting Is Usually Better – If we could just grasp this concept, we would save ourselves, our families, and our children a boatload of frustration and trouble. From womb to tomb, our culture (and others) seem to be lived at emergency room pace. Johanna shares some helpful insight on learning to patient in teaching our children: […]

  2. […] your inclination for teaching your children, just remember that waiting is usually better, and there is no need to formally teach preschool. You can relax, they’ll learn what they […]

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