Learning delayed gratification – how can you help your child?

walking-together-1307868We live in a world where we have direct access to just about anything we want.  Everything is at our fingertips. If we want information, we only need to search on the Internet. If we want to buy a product or asset, we can apply for bank loans, increase credit limits, or shop online from he comfort of our homes. Although technology has improved the quality of life, it is also teaching our children that they do not have to entertain themselves, rather they can be entertained by the TV, whether it’s a game, movie, or series, or by cell phone games, game consoles, etc…

But I believe that children still need to learn delayed gratification.  One of my favourite sayings is good things come to those who wait. So many things in life are about Immediate gratification & postponing pain. You don’t get married to the first person you see nor do you necessarily fall pregnant the day you decide to start a family. You may not even get the first job you apply for. Yet you keep on trying, holding out hope that the desire of your heart will be met. This is what delayed gratification is all about.

How I am teaching my children delayed gratification

As a mother, it is my responsibility to teach my children the art of waiting. I can’t expect them to understand this concept overnight. I have to model it, teach it, and encourage them along the way. How do I do this? In my household we have a standard rule: the child who tidies up the most gets to choose a movie on TV.  If they do not pick up their toys and have a bath, they do not get to watch TV, apart from the occasional exception. What this teaches my children, is the reward that comes after hard work. legos-people-group-1240136

My eldest son loves Lego. As an incentive to participate well during his speech therapy session, I give him some pocket money cash after every appointment. His goal is to save his money to buy himself a Lego figurine. My son is only five years old and has saved over half of the money he needs to buy his Lego. He has not spent his money, instead he keeps it neatly in his wallet. In two months’ time he will reach his goal and get to go to the store to pick his Lego. I have given him opportunities to use his money on other things he wants and still he chooses to wait. This way my son is learning a greater sense of delayed gratification as weeks turn into months. As a mother I have to resist the temptation of giving him more money or rushing him to the store because I am proud of my him. Together we are learning to wait. He follows my lead, trusts my word, and waits with an expectant heart.

How to help you and your child reach your goal

The key to teaching children delayed gratification is following through. Make sure you always keep your promises. This will help your children to persevere until they get the reward. They learn to trust us; they learn we are honourable in keeping our promises.

While you are helping your child to learn delayed gratification, give them the space they need to express themselves. Waiting can be frustrating and hard for adults let alone children. Show them that you understand. Help them navigate their emotions and where possible help them to manage them in a constructive way. Tell your children that you see their efforts, patience, and emotions: your praise can go a long way to keep them motivated. Find out what they need to push through the waiting. Each child is different. As a parent you will adapt your tactics to suit the character of your child while keeping the goal the same.

How do you teach delayed gratification to your children? Share your experiences with us.