3 Steps To Teaching Your Kids The Power of Delayed Gratification
I believe that you cannot change someone, ever. But what you can do, is move the needle. In our family – we’ve got 5 kids with 5 different personalities which entail different parenting techniques. Three of our kids crave Instant Gratification while the other two are more Delayed Gratification. And none of them are right and none of them are wrong. But how can we teach them the different outcomes that come with an immediate reward vs. resisting the temptation for a possible later reward?
Before we begin implementing the tips below, it’s important to have a certain awareness of your family to start the conversation. You need to get involved so you can make the necessary judgement calls.
Do you know which of your children is instant and which are delayed gratification? We know that Teddy, Carly and Vince love immediate rewards while the other 2 might hesitate – they take their time. How do we know this? Because we tune in and pay attention. I have observed Teddy impulsively take all of his money and buy all 10 of his friends smoothies. Just like that. So now I know I need to teach Teddy to be more aware of the consequences in doing that. Which takes me to step 1…
1. Build Trust
Instead of just yelling, “You can’t do that!” or “Because I said so!” we like to start a conversation in our family. We build trust by showing them examples in our own lives where instant gratification didn’t work and where delayed gratification did work and then we help them recognize experiences in their own lives where they would have benefited from one behavior over the other.
For example, I have openly communicated to our kids the story of what I did when I sold my first business. As being someone who is very “instant gratification” – I took a “delayed gratification” approach. In other words, I did not take that money and go on an impulsive shopping spree! Instead, I knew the best course of action would be to have their mom, Lisa, manage the profit and guide our next few financial decisions (since she is great with numbers!) I’ve also described situations where I made some major money mistakes and other times where I trusted my instinct and made a rather quick, successful call.
We’ve also asked our kids to look back on some impulsive decisions they’ve made, and tell us how that turned out for them. Did Carly ever wear that dress she insisted on buying? Once.
2. Establish Time-Outs
As I mentioned before, you can’t change people, and that includes your children – as they are their own individuals! But you can help them to be less impulsive. As parents, we have to continually show them how and why delayed gratification works.
Lisa and I have built “Time-Outs” to help all of us (including myself) take more time in the decision-making process. Going back to Teddy and his smoothies, we can ask, “Hey bud next time, can you pause and think if you really want to pay for everyone’s smoothies?” This Time-Out allows him the chance to stop and consider, “Do I really want to spend all of my money now or save it for something later this week?” Other examples include: “Can you wait just one day before buying that nerf gun to see if you really want it?” or “Can you wait 3 days before buying those shoes?”
3. Coach Them
If they take the time to think about what they are getting ready to do, they have the ability to see the bigger picture. If I do this now, there’s a possibility I won’t be able to partake in this other thing later on. Will I regret this decision? Coaching is a consistent, daily/weekly process that requires you to call time-outs and even sometimes, let them make that not-so-good decision, to then experience the repercussions of it later.
While we continuously coach them through this process, we are able to show that when we delay our gratification, we see things a little more clearly and we are able to make better decisions.
But there’s a flip side to all of this!
We don’t want them to start focusing so much on things and less on people. Because what’s more important than money? PEOPLE. And more important than that? How they FEEL.
As important as delayed gratification is, Lisa and I are fully aware of the importance of life experiences. They might get better at saving money, but they could be missing out on moments that are still beneficial to their growth (ie. a group outing, bonding with new friends, etc.)
But I love when the kids mess up. Because I want them to mess up NOW. To feel the pain when the consequences are low. While they’re still young, it’s a good time to bring the conversation to the forefront. And this is what we’re talking about when we say “get involved” with your family.
Lots of parents want to complain that their kids make “poor decisions.” But have you taken the time to sit and talk with them about these things? Teach them the pros and cons to their decision-making process. Share stories of your own faults, mistakes and even wins?
Take a chance. Get involved!