8 steps to Teach Delayed Gratification

How do you teach your child
  • To be patient?
  • To be able to wait for things?
  • To set goals and work toward something in the future?
  • To feel confident in multi-step problem solving?

Here are a few ideas to work on this summer. 

1. Set a mid-term goal of a semi-larger family purchase, activity or event that they can & want to be part of the process   

    Perhaps it's a vacation,attend an event together, a larger purchase such as a TV, camper, redecorating a bedroom, etc.

This is something 
  • you are probably doing or buying anyway
  • they really would like
  • happening 2-4 months in the future.

You're child doesn't have to do anything to earn this. It is not a reward. You are simply making them more aware of the process you regularly go through in planning for the future.  

2. With your child, map out a plan with steps toward accomplishing the goal  
    Make a list and break down the steps and timeline when they might be accomplished. This may include saving or setting aside money, calling support people, purchases, preparation, packing, etc.  You already do this, either in your head, on your computer, or some other way. This time you are intentionally including them in your mental process. You are Not putting pressure on them to accomplish a task. You Are modeling how it's done; letting them see into your world of thinking, planning, preparing ahead and even letting them contribute their ideas. 

3. Make it visual   
    Put the goal and plans up in the house where they can be seen. Perhaps you'll make a chart, or just have a paper on the fridge
. Let your child help and even decide what that looks like. In fact, let them participate in what ever ways they may think up to watch the progress. It may be turning it into a game, a graph, or a checklist. There is no correct way to do this. Do what works and feels right. 

4. Have weekly (or more) conversations about progress 

    We get busy in our lives and don't think to talk about the details of ordinary living we go through, and yet we may expect our kids to naturally grasp them.  Talk, at least weekly, about progress toward this goal;
  • what was done,
  • how did it go,
  • what is next,
  • how will you approach that
  • what obstacles came up & how are you solving them

5.Model positive self-talk through the process 

    Talk about gratitude for things that work, belief in being able to succeed, determination in moving forward, and how good it feels internally to work at something. Talk about how continued effort is as important as outcome when moving toward a goal. You are actually teaching your values by both, modeling and talking about the process. 

6. Celebrate progress & success
    So often in our busy lives we quickly move on to the next thing without appreciating what we've done. This creates burn out and fatigue. Pausing to appreciate, celebrate and take in our accomplishments increases joy, fulfillment, satisfaction and pleasure. When we are always looking at what else we need to do, we deprive ourselves of well-earned confidence, esteem, and jump starting motivation for what's next. 

7.Connect the dots!

    Kids don't always automatically connect the dots and learn from their experiences.  It helps tremendously if you have follow up conversations that reflect the process and how it worked. Then talk about how it applies to new situations as well, empowering them to copy the process in their own lives. You want to bring this conversation & example up repeatedly down the road, to help them when they feel impatient, urgency, overwhelmed, or like giving up; including homework assignments next school year. 


8. Applying it to life   
    Finally, help your child set another goal that they would like to work toward. It may be a purchase (that takes weeks or a month or two), a performance, sports, etc. Help them pick something that is fairly easy to succeed with, but takes a little time and patience. Don't go for the big, difficult life problem here. Keep it simple and fun. As they build a history of success, confidence and practiced skill, they will be better at breaking down and solving all problems of many sizes and being patient and able to wait for success and gratification.  

    One of the biggest keys to having this make a difference, is the conversations that help them see and think through 
process over time.