7 Ways to Practice Delayed Gratification with Your Kids
Picture this: My preschool-aged kiddo has some tv time every day. I turn on the TV and my kiddo EXPECTS her favorite show to start. Said show is on Netflix which I decided to cut from the budget this month. Do you think she calmly picked another show or had a meltdown? I know you can guess which one it was. She is so used to getting any show immediately. Instant gratification! Today I am going to give you 7 Ways to Practice Delayed Gratification with your kids.
What is Instant Gratification?
Wanting something and getting it right away. No waiting, just instantly getting that thing you wanted.
Our children (and us parents too!) have many things so readily available to us that instant gratification can happen multiple times a day. It will definitely become an expectation at that given rate. There is something very convenient about instant gratification. But just like most things in life, it is good to enjoy its convenience in moderation. There is such a thing as, “too much of a good thing.”
Here are some examples of Instant Gratification.
- Streaming TV, Movies, and Music. We can instantly watch or listen to almost anything. How often do you get wrapped up in a show you are streaming and binge-watch all of it at once just because it is instantly available? No one has to wait by the radio to hear their favorite song anymore with YouTube available.
- Free 2-Day Shipping. Amazon sells almost everything. You want it, you buy it, you get it in 2 days.
- Fast Food Delivery Apps. Grub Hub, Door Dash, Uber Eats, InstaCart. When you get a hankering for some hot and ready food it can be brought straight to your door.
- The Information Highway. Google and many other search engines are right at our fingertips. Got questions? Just type them in a search bar and off you go!
Those are all amazing things that help us daily. MOST grown-ups have the cognitive ability to be patient when they need to be. We know when to use those channels for instant gratification when necessary or appropriate. Kids still need to develop and practice the skill of patience and delayed gratification.
The Marshmallow Experiment
At the University of Stanford, they have been studying the reactions of children based on instant gratification vs. delayed gratification for many years. They eat a marshmallow they have been given right away and that is all they get, but if they can wait an allotted amount of time then a bigger reward ( two marshmallows) is given! If you want to read more about the study click here!
They basically discovered that the kids who had the ability to wait for that second marshmallow became more successful later in life. They do demonstrate in their test that kids are not born with this trait of patience and delayed gratification. It can be shaped by a child’s experiences and environment. There is even an updated article on the Marshmallow test comparing kids’ reactions today to those of kids in the 1960s-1980s. The good news is today’s kids are better at delayed gratification than one would think. Go here to read the article if you like. This does not mean however that we as parents don’t need to still teach delayed gratification and help them practice it.
Teaching our children about Delayed Gratification can help them become more successful! Showing them that it’s worth it to wait and that they have the ability to do so.
How do I Practice Instant Gratification with My Kiddo?
There are plenty of ways you can build this practice into your daily routine. You should not even have to change too much. The only hitch is that you the parent will have to slow down- give your kiddo more attention and time. Some of them you probably already do and you didn’t even know it!!!
7 Ideas for Practicing Delayed Gratification
1. Baking with your kiddo.
Really any cooking could work. Anything where you put the time and effort into preparing something and then have to wait for the final results. Timing bread to rise and watching something get baked in the oven are very fulfilling ways to practice waiting.
2. Watching a Show at a Scheduled time, as a family.
One episode, one night a week. You can enjoy the anticipation together. They learn to wait for something fun. Bonus: you will be Filling their Attention Cup as you enjoy the anticipation and then watch together. Feeling Guilty about Screen Time?
3. Weekly Allowance.
Many people like to do this chore based. You can give money based on each individual chore or give it based on the kiddo just “pulling their weight” by doing things that are asked of them to help the family. Giving that money once a week means they have to wait for that money.
4. Walking to a Destination.
It really helps if this is a good fun destination. Like the park or the movie theater. They have to put in some effort and it might take a bit longer than riding but it helps practice that delay. It also helps practice enjoying the wait- taking in the sights along the way and getting some good exercise endorphins flowing.
5. Family Traditions.
How exciting is it to put up the family Christmas tree? Most of us don’t keep those up year-round. You have to wait for the Christmas prep time. Then, once the tree is up the wait for Santa begins. This is one of those we parents do without even trying. Family traditions are important for other reasons as well. Learn more about that in 6 Powerful Reasons to Create and Carry on Family Traditions.
6. Car Rides without Technology.
This one can be harder and as a parent has to be more purpose-filled. Kids need to learn to wait for the destination without constant streaming entertainment. Sing together, play I spy, or play the ABC game (where you name each letter of the alphabet and think of a word with that letter). Keep your eyes out for a future post on ways to entertain your kids in the car without technology. Road Trip Games to Keep the Whole Family Busy!
7. Save Money for a wanted toy.
This is basically teaching your kid to budget! Say they have something they are hoping to have. A toy, a video game, some fancy clothes. You show them how to write down the goal amount and collect the money until they have enough.
If you Subscribe to my email list I will give you a sweet Kid Budget-saving sheet that I created for my 7-year-old to use! (You also get access to all my freebies past, present, and future in the Busy Box Library)
Really the most important thing that helps your kids with Learning Delayed Gratification is Reliability. When they have the trust that you the parent will give them what they want and need, as they grow and mature, it will be easier for them to WAIT.
I do need to say for the littles, the babies, and the less mature kiddos please don’t have crazy expectations. You as a parent have to Wait and Work and it will come. This skill of Delayed Gratification takes time and practice. As I said earlier- even some adults still struggle. So be sure to fill those attention cups and prove to your kiddos that things in life are worth waiting for!
I may not be a mom, but these are principles that I think any parent could benefit from (and their children). We live in a time when even adults are so conditioned to instant gratification that it’s no wonder our children are often wired for it. Your suggestion for baking with a child is a good one. Cooking, in general, is a good activity with kids, but there is something special about the process of baking. Knowing and understanding the different stages of baking, from making the dough, to proofing it, really adds to a sense of creating something.
Teaching a child that the best things in life comes to those who wait is not an easy thing to do. It is difficult to show that being patient can be a virtue, where often better outcomes are generated if you are prepared to assess and wait. I think your 7 methods are both practical and useful. It will not be easy, as nothing involving children’s behaviour is easy. They seem always to get their own way but then yet again, you have to use tough love.
An interesting experiment. I wonder how long it took for each child to adapt their behaviour?
Hi, Ashton. I agree with you that reliability is the most important thing that helps our kids with Learning Delayed Gratification. I always try to be an honest and trustworthy mother as taught by my parents. I hope my four daughters adopt the important value too. I often give challenges and opportunities to my little daughters, for examples, I give them an opportunity to draw, coloring, help their parents, etc. For my older daughters, I ask them to write articles or create Pinterest pins. Then I give them money or thing they need. It is very true that good things in life are worth waiting for!