How to Teach Your Child Delayed Gratification Skills

The art of delayed gratification is a discipline we’d all do well to master. Studies almost- unanimously report that “to function effectively, individuals must voluntarily postpone immediate gratification and persist in goal-directed behavior for the sake of later outcomes.”  1

Delayed gratification is increasingly difficult for kids in this digital age– most of the time, instant gratification is the name of the game. We can access so much of what we want instantly, with a few taps of a smart phone, and it’s eroded our ability to be patient. Fortunately, we have the power to swim against the current here: delayed gratification is a skill anyone can learn! With a growth mindset, you can master any new skill with practice, delayed gratification included. It’s a muscle!  Like any muscle, this good habit takes exercise to develop. It’s worth the discomfort to create a habit that will consistently serve you well into the future.

Here are some practical ways to start teaching your kids delayed gratification skills young:

1) Bake something! Who doesn’t love spending the afternoon covered in fluffy white flour? Baking is lots of fun, but it’s also a great way to teach patience. Baking shows your little ones that food doesn’t appear on the plate whenever you’re hungry, and you get a tasty reward at the end.

2) Waiting to give your kids their chore money until the end of the week. In the adult world, most of us only receive paychecks biweekly or monthly, and if you pay your kids allowance for chores or otherwise you have a great opportunity to teach the same principles.  They can learn to wait patiently for their “paycheck” and also learn how to stretch it from until the next one when choosing how to spend their money.

3) Encourage them to learn new skills. Even for adults, it’s easy to get frustrated when we branch out to try a new hobby only to discover we’re not very good at it in the beginning. It takes serious patience and confidence to keep working and practicing through the phase where we’re not very good at the new thing in the beginning, and children can get even more frustrated, especially if they’re used to usually picking up new things on the first try. If your child has an interest in a new hobby that’s going to take some practice, like drawing,  dance or playing a musical instrument, encourage them to stay the course long enough to see themselves improve.

This skill of staying the course and working hard even when the rewards aren’t immediate creates a powerful force for success throughout life.

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, psychologist Angela Duckworth says, “I have learned that if you create a vision for yourself and stick with it, you can make amazing things happen in your life. My experience is that once you have done the work to create the clear vision, it is the discipline and effort to maintain that vision that can make it all come true. The two go hand in hand. The moment you’ve created that vision, you’re on your way, but it’s the diligence with which you stick to that vision that allows you to get there.” 2

Delayed gratification is a skill that gives you phenomenal returns when you invest your time and energy. It extends beyond the world of personal finance into careers, relationships and more.

You can seize life’s “teaching moments” to impart it to your kids daily, but the best way to teach patience is to model patience– how can you better embody grit and perseverance in your own life? Leading by example is by far the best way to pass it down to your child. Give it a try–  the challenge is always worth it!

Jassby is a free mobile payments system for the whole family.  With our iOS and web app,  parents can safely give their teens money for rewards, accomplishments, gifts and more; teens can learn money management by saving or shopping from an parent-approved list of online vendors. When it comes to money matters, Jassby is part of the family!

  1.  “Delay of Gratification in Children,” W MischelY Shoda, MI Rodriguez. Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York 10027. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/244/4907/933 (accessed February 27th, 2018).
  2.  Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. (Simon and Schuster, 2016), 262.

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