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Delayed Gratification and Children #MondayMusings

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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8 Comments

  1. Shilpa Garg Shilpa Garg July 18, 2019

    This is such a relevant and important post as we we live in an instant gratification era. Kids need to be taught about delayed gratification early on. It is a much needed life skill that helps build self control, patience, motivation which helps in the long run.

  2. Vinitha Vinitha July 17, 2019

    I wasn’t much of a cream person, so I ate the cream biscuits without separating the parts. But ice cream or something else which I really loved like chocolate I always saved up to savor as the last bite and it tasted extremely delicious, always. Delayed gratification increases the sweetness manifolds, right?

  3. Gilly Gilly July 16, 2019

    Yes – I ate the cream last too! Am not a fan of leaving babies to cry though. But yes, as soon as children have language skills, they should be taught to wait for gratification. Too many young adults max out there credit cards because they can’t wait to get the latest this or that. My parents never had anything they had not saved up for. Maybe that was why I ate the cream last as a child!

  4. Jennifer Jennifer July 16, 2019

    I learned delayed gratification as an adult when it comes to eating. My husband eats what he likes first, but I try everything and decide what I like best and save that for last. I wasn’t good at delayed gratification as a child, perhaps because as the baby of the family, I was spoiled. When I was raising my son, my parents spoiled him as well, so he didn’t really learn delayed gratification as a child. But he did learn it as a teenager when he wanted to buy things. He learned to save his money instead of spending it right away. I don’t think that was a planned lesson from me but instead the harsh realities of life with a single parent.

  5. the bespectacled mother the bespectacled mother July 16, 2019

    I don’t remember how I ate my cream biscuits in my childhood. I think I separated the 2 parts, licked the cream first and then ate rest of the biscuit. Now, what will this tell about me 🙂
    D doesn’t like biscuits so I may not know what type is he. But, I know this is not the context of this post. I feel the message in the post is worth trying with awareness anchored in because I might be doing it in some cases and may be not in some other or when my patience runs low and anxiety high.

  6. Esha Esha July 16, 2019

    I think in today’s time and age, delayed gratification is getting to be a rarity but I still do see quite a few of us following that, more so, because we, as parents were brought up believing this was the norm (like you say you did!) and it has taught us something invaluable in life. We’ve always encouraged this in our household so our teen knows what is expected of him and he usually follows through, without any fuss, most of the time.

  7. Dr.Amrita Basu Dr.Amrita Basu July 15, 2019

    Thats some serious food for thought and excellent advice.We still eat cream biscuits at home like that and it tastes yumm. Children will learn seeing us and this is a good reminder.

  8. Balaka Basu Balaka Basu July 15, 2019

    Delayed gratification is important as it teaches us patience and gratitude. Great post, most parents these days are busy giving their kids whatever they like instantly.

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