Do you remember have a cream biscuit when you were a child? You know the kind that has cream in the middle of two biscuits? How did you eat it? The whole thing in one go? Or did you do what I did? I would take it apart. Eat the plain side first and leave the cream-covered one for last. That way I got the taste of the cream better and saved the best for last. Unbeknownst to me, I was following the principle of delayed gratification with biscuits.
Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. – Source Wikipedia
I do believe we’d be doing our children a great service if we taught them to practice this in their daily life.
It’s never to early to start the process of delaying gratification with your children. Baby crying? Your first motherly instinct is to pick her up right away. Let her cry a little longer. It won’t hurt her, I promise.
Looking for ways to entertain an infant? You don’t have to do that all the time. Create a little space where she can learn to play by herself for a little while everyday. Once it’s part of her routine, she’ll love it. It frees you up to have some ‘you’ time too.
Many parents find it hard to say ‘no’ to their kids. I’ve watched parents looking helplessly as children fill the shopping carts in super-markets with all the candy and snacks they can get their hands on. I’ve watched kids quietly put their vegetables to the side of their plates, eat all the food they like and then choke on the vegetables, until their Mum felt sorry for them and took the plate away! What if we taught them the value of delayed gratification instead?
You set your expectations for their behavior and what will be the ‘reward’ for them. This involves you entering into a contract of sorts with your child: “If you do this, you will get this……..”
Instead of saying ‘no’, you say: “You can have that candy over a week, if you agree to ………….”
Instead of throwing out those vegetables, you say: “Eat your vegetables first, then all the other food you like. If you do I will give you an extra slice of cake……”
Instead of saying ‘no, we can’t afford that’ you say: “I will buy the cycle, if you agree that I deduct a portion of your pocket money towards the cost of it……”
Be prepared for whining, bargaining, temper tantrums at first. Stick to your guns. Children are wise – they’ll realize pretty what they’re missing out on and fall in line. 🙂
As the child gets older there are several times you can delay gratification – like letting them have a candy treat only after a proper meal. You can also teach them the value of not interrupting you when you are talking to someone else on the phone or in person. The reward for this? A few minutes of your undivided attention when you finish your conversation.
Similarly you can help children set goals for themselves, with rewards. “If I study one chapter by 5 o’clock, I can play Angry Birds for 10 minutes.”
If you teach your children the value of delayed gratification, you’ll be giving them a life-skill that will see them through a lot of difficult situations in life.
(This post was written a while ago and published on Parentous)
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