Parenting Help

4 Tips to Teach Kids Delayed Gratification

Today, with the challenges to our economy, it is imperative to teach your children the self-discipline of delayed gratification, particularly economic self-discipline. The ability to wait and save money to purchase whatever we want and need using cash—especially in today’s “gotta-have-it-now,” instant gratification world—will bless your children (and their families) for their entire lives.

The recent economic recession caught many people unaware and has resulted in loss of homes, personal bankruptcy, and even the breakup of families. All because people were over-extended on their credit—they were living beyond their means. Our culture has become so accustomed to using credit to purchase whatever we think we desire, that the idea of delayed gratification (or living within one’s means) is almost laughable.

Certainly it seems outdated and parochial. Yet think about how different your life might be if you were debt free. You’d have much less stress, you would have more flexibility in life, and you’d be able to take advantage of opportunities when they occur (like that special deal on a vacation to a tropical island)—in essence, you’d be free!

Tips for Teaching Kids Self-Discipline

  • Teach them to be grateful—not feel entitled. Teaching them to say “Please” and “Thank you” often encourages gratefulness. Giving thanks in prayer also develops a grateful attitude.
  • Teach them to control their emotions. Teach them the value of cultivating positive emotions like love, hope, and faith into their lives instead of being mastered by negative emotions such as jealousy, envy, and greed. They’ll not only be happier and healthier, they’ll be more successful in life. 
  • Teach them to manage their time effectively. This self-discipline will benefit them greatly throughout their lives. The only thing every person on earth is absolutely equal in is how much time they have each day. Those who are disciplined enough to use their time effectively are happier and more successful.
  • Teach them to fast (it makes me shudder just thinking about that word). This is also an activity that requires great reserves of self-discipline. Fasting is not only practiced in a religious context, but is used by various people who want to develop their discipline and willpower. Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain both extolled the virtues of fasting. In addition, you can fast from anything—it doesn’t have to be food. It could be TV, video games, shopping, etc.

The best way to teach your children about delayed gratification is by modeling it for them. But another way is to pay them an allowance for chores and then require them to use their own money to buy the things they want (not necessities—as a parent you still need to provide food, shelter, and clothing). Don’t loan them any money or advance their allowance. Help them identify expenses or events that are coming up for which they might need to save their income. If you go to church, teach them the importance of tithing. Teach them the value of consistently saving a portion of their allowance. Also, teach them to wait before making a decision to buy something. When I want to buy something I generally wait a day or two before making a purchase. It’s surprising how often I decide I don’t really need or even want what I had to have.

Kids with self-discipline are happier, and grow up to be more satisfied and productive adults. And–oh yes–parents of self-disciplined children are also less stressed and more productive (and happier) as well.

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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

2 Comments

  1. Javasuz
    June 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Great foundation! Thank you

  2. Javasuz
    June 19, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Ooops, didn’t click the stars 🙂 Great article, appreciated reading this.

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