Life Style

Pedagogy: “Patience or the art of inhabiting the wait”

What is patience, presented by tradition as a virtue?

Philippe Meirieu: It is the ability to live the expectation in a positive way and not as an insurmountable frustration, the ability to inhabit this expectation to make it fruitful. This is what makes it possible to transform an impulse – which demands immediate satisfaction, like the body of a baby in the throes of hunger – into a desire, which will never be completely extinguished by its realization and which therefore opens up to a future. But to be able to wait, the promise must appear greater than the immediate satisfaction.

→ READ. Education: appropriating the notion of time, a real challenge for the child

Can we teach the child to be patient?

PM: Yes. For example, during a shopping spree at the supermarket, if he sees a toy that makes him want to, we can encourage him to ask himself if he really wants it, if it is not better to keep this money for another purchase, suggesting documentation… Faced with the whim of the child, this absolute demand that we submit to his will, the pedagogue Janusz Korczak recommended a “respite”. We do not answer “yes” or “no” but “no, not right away” or “yes, maybe”. And if the discussion turns out badly, there is still the possibility of going in writing, to put your emotions at a distance and access reflexivity.

Is it necessary, in order to be patient, to have a good notion of temporality?

PM: You have to have anchored in yourself the sense of temporality. This is built from very early childhood, thanks to a balanced environment, which makes room for rituals, such as the evening story at bedtime, while being open to events, to the unexpected. We can discuss with the child what can justify deviations from the rule we have set ourselves (watching TV on a weeknight because an exceptional match is being broadcast). Conversely, a rigid application of rituals encloses the child in a circular temporality, while an absence of ritualization causes him to react immediately to events, without projection into the future.

→ REPORT. In kindergarten, rituals to better understand the passage of time

Can we still make room for patience in education when our society constantly praises “everything, immediately”?

PM: This is a real anthropological question. Until now, education had always consisted in teaching children frustration and promise (“learn well at school, you will be freer tomorrow”). The whole society supported the parents. Today, not only does she not help them, but she whispers in the children’s ears: “Do your whim, put the adults in competition, it will end up working and make the business work!” “Instinctive capitalism”, as the philosopher Bernard Stiegler calls it, does not encourage us to take advantage of what it offers when we really need it (ordering a meal at home when we come back from vacation and the fridge is empty ) but to let us go to our impulses, relying on the suggestions of the algorithms. Digital has popularized the term “real time”, which is actually the opposite of time. It is up to us adults to lead by example. Because if children rarely do what they are told to do, they often reproduce what we do in front of them.


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