The Great Benefits of Delayed Gratification!

Date: April 20, 2011

Just what is delayed gratification? Well, I would say, put simply, it is not getting what you want when you want it. A more positive perspective might be, getting lots of things you want after working hard to get them.

When it comes to parenting, we have thousands of opportunities to give our kids what they want when they want it, or, have them wait for a more appropriate time. Naturally, there are many times when giving them what they want immediately is just fine. But I want to talk about the other times…..when not handing it over to them right away is in their best interest.

When kids are little, their desires are little. Gum, candy, a toy, a McDonald’s Happy Meal, a stop at the park, etc. When they are teenagers their desires are often larger, more expensive, potentially more dangerous and life altering like cars and sex. And when they are older much of the time they are making their very own decisions about these desires.

Since most of us hope to have teens and young adults that are able to delay their own gratifications, make wise choices and think before acting, giving them lots of practice when they are younger helps increase the odds that they will, more often than not, do the right thing. When our kids learn early on that today may not be an ice cream day, the wanted stuffed animal will have to go on the birthday list or sweeping out the garage will earn them enough money to get the new computer game, we are building the road to an adolescent who makes good decisions, most often.

There are times, especially the older our kids get, that we want them to have things we might know deep down, they would be better off not getting right away. Sometimes we want them to have these things because we believe they will be more admired by their peers by having them. And sometimes we want our kids to have these things because a little piece of us wants our kid to feel better than others. And sometimes we give them what they want because we think it will make him or her happy…..and we cannot really be happy until our kids are happy.

The danger we fall into by giving in when our soul knows we should not, is that of robbing our kids of the many benefits of delayed gratification. When an object of desire is earned and yearned for, it is valued and appreciated. The even bigger benefits are the feeling of accomplishment….the raising of self-esteem and the strength of character that come from working hard to get what we want. The ripple effect of these benefits are massive. They carrying us through rough times in life and help us feel worthy in other times. Conversely, the absence of these benefits are usually disastrous. A teenager who has not had plenty of experience with delayed gratification has a sense of entitlement, little self confidence and is usually a very unhappy person. They often bully others and use substances to deal with life’s pains rather relying on their own strength, which they have little of.

We are all tempted to give our kids too much, too soon, too often. But when we can look at the bigger picture of their lives, we see that it is so often in their best interest to allow them the chance to earn and yearn, work hard for the things they want, strive to reach their goals and feel strong and capable at the end of the day. (Real self-esteem comes directly from feeling capable.) It is not always easy to look beyond the here and now of a situation. But when we try to see the larger benefit of the big picture, it is easier to watch our kids struggle and cheer them on along the way!

Best of luck letting your children and teens delay their gratifications!