How to Teach Your Children Delayed Gratification

Mixed race girl buying food in restaurant

It is very common for children to live in the now, and many children today have access to almost anything they want at any given time. As a parent in our modern world, it can be difficult to teach your children about delayed gratification. But, it is an important concept that they need to learn, because researchers have found that learning delayed gratification as a child will set them up for success in the future.

Here are a few strategies that you can use to teach delayed gratification in your home:

Track Time and Rewards

Sometimes the visual exercise of marking off days on the calendar can be beneficial for the children to see how long they need to wait until an upcoming event. If you have a family vacation coming up or the child is waiting for their birthday, use a calendar to help them learn how to judge time.

Support the Healthy Expression of Emotions

If a child doesn’t get what they want, then it is possible that they might have a meltdown or throw a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. These experiences are often embarrassing to parents, but you need to make sure that you aren’t giving into the tantrum, because giving into their requests will positively reinforce the behavior. Teach your child how to verbalize their emotions and frustrations, and help them learn how to appropriately express their feelings without a physical demonstration. You can suggest words that they might use in the conversation, such as frustrated, sad, disappointed, angry, mad, happy, scared, or calm.

Practice Role Playing

Some parents forget that their children might not understand how to properly behave in various situations, and role-playing can be a great way to help your children develop these skills. Talk with them about the situation, explain the choices they need to make, and have them practice the conversation and actions that are needed to coincide with the appropriate choices.

For example, in a calm moment you might ask your child to pretend like they don’t have the toy or candy that they want. How would they handle the situation? What can they do to make themselves feel better and overcome the feelings of frustration?

Play Games that Teach Impulse Control

Certain childhood games offer a great way to teach your kids about impulse control. Play games such as Simon Says, Follow the Leader, or Red Light Green Light. Have the children take turns being the leader and the participant, so they can learn both aspects of delayed gratification.

Another option is to play Bingo with candy, and have them practice waiting to eat the candy until the game is over. It can be challenging to have the candy on the table, but they will learn how to wait until the appropriate time to receive their reward.

Help Them Save Money

If your child really wants something, such as a video game system or a bike, you can teach them how to save their money to pay for that item. Use a piggy bank so they can see the money that has been saved, or open a savings account and take them to the bank to make the deposits.

A savings plan teaches them to use allowance money and birthday cash in a smart way, because they can save their spending money to get a bigger item later on. This activity teaches them the value of saving, and they learn more about positive ways that money can be used.

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