In this post, I hope to relay why this is so important and what parents can do to help.
"Help your kids learn to Delay Gratification: Our world moves so quickly. Something happens, we immediately respond. Someone upsets you, you tweet about it or post something on Facebook. The problem is that as a result, kids in particular make bad decisions because they act reflexively - because they can, and don't necessarily think things through..."
To begin with...A person's ability to delay gratification relates to their ability to recognize the rewards of patience and waiting, while at the same time being able to practice impulse control, self control, willpower and self-regulation.
Why It's so Important: This demand for immediate attention, immediate results, immediate reinforcement and immediate gratification is prevalent everywhere:
- In my writing courses, my students frequently and impulsively press 'send' spending little to no time editing their work. As a result it often contains careless errors in spelling, grammar, sentence structure and word usage that detract from the often insightful comments they are trying to make. Slowing down, editing, and attending to details before sending off the work (delaying the gratification that it's over and they can move on) can make a huge difference.
- Research shows that children who learn to delay gratification are better able to complete assignments (McComas, Jennifer J., Rehfeldt, Ruth Anne, Stromer, Robert. (2000) Designing interventions that include delayed reinforcement: implications of recent laborator Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. 33, 359-371.)
- Often when bored and frustrated we eat to 'feel better' when sometimes instead of eating we should be waiting, or simply doing something we prefer not to do. Learning not to give in to immediate urges and needs can help.
- The need or demand for immediate gratification results in tantrums that might have been avoided. This is true not only for young children. We increasingly see articles about inappropriate responses and demands for immediate attention in school and in the workplace.
Teaching kids to stop, think, and delay reactions (and gratification) may stop them from impulsive mistakes they may later regret.
What Parents and Teachers Can do:
- Sometimes we have to say, "NO" - for more on this see: "Yes..when"...The Antidote for Parent-Child Power Struggles
- Help children learn to wait. For young children this is often difficult to do, and to help them learn to wait (and avoid tantrums), you can tell them "no" but offer other, more appropriate alternatives.
- Model delayed gratification. When things move too slowly or you don't receive what you want to receive, model how to more appropriately deal with delays and frustration. For me, driving and getting stuck in traffic is the most difficult time to model these appropriate responses - I often shout to the vehicles in front of me - of course only my kids hear...and while I feel better, they don't and in those cases I am not practicing what I preach. The point is that modeling appropriate responses and how to gracefully accept delays is really important.
- Reward and praise your children when they do control their impulses and behave appropriately.
- Instead of always buying "extra's" for your child, pick one special item that you will help them save up for. They can earn money from the Tooth Fairy, from doing extra chores around the house, and/or from saving allowance.
- Talk to them about the importance of waiting gracefully and/or accepting disappointments. After movies, when traveling, after reading books when this occurs, talk about it. Talk about the frustrations characters experience and the different ways the frustration can and should be handled.
Rust: Visitor in the Field by Royden Lepp (Grades 4+). This graphic novel is about Roman Taylor who struggles to keep his family's small farm from failing after a war which took his father.
Americus by NJ Reed and Jonathan Hill (Grades 6+) is about a boy who has to wait to read a coveted book (which his mother is trying to ban from the library).
Zita Space Girl by Ben Hatke (Grade 3+) is a graphic novel about Zita who must travel to another world to rescue her friend Joseph whom she inadvertently sent through first. She must go through various trials and obstacles before finding him ad responsibly bringing him back to their world.
Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Grades 5+) is about a budding silversmith apprentice in Colonial Boston who suffers a debilitating accident and must slowly discover a new path and fate. Along the way he finds himself embroiled in the American Revolution. Not only is the book about how Johnny faces mounting disappointments, it accurately reflects life in Colonial Boston.
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (Grade 4+) is also about a child, in this case a girl, who suffers a debilitating accident shortly after the death of her mother, and here too learns to face life's harsh lessons with patience and grace. This novel is written solely in prose and poetry and the author's use of language is breathtaking.
There are also fairy tales about delayed gratification you can discuss: Hansel and Gretel (where Hansel just cannot help himself and he begins eating at evil witch's house) getting them into all sorts of trouble is one such story.
Delaying gratification is an issue we must wrestle with all our lives. Helping our children develop coping skills and impulse control will help them now and throughout their lives.
How do you help your kids with this issue? Please share this in the comments.
In the meantime, thank you for your visit and your shared comments.