I believe parenting may be more difficult now than it was for other generations, especially in our modern world of "instant" everything. You and I had to wait.... for a meal to cook, for a special toy on our birthday or trip to the zoo, for our favorite T.V. show, for our favorite song to play on the radio, for a phone call from someone special.
Today, even in the the most remote areas of our country, children have instant access to the Internet and on-demand television programs. Music is always accessible on an iPod & new games at the touch of a phone or tablet App. Your child can call, text, or Tweet anyone at anytime. This instant gratification makes it hard to parent -- the older the child, the more difficult, because there are very few times and places where parents consistently have the opportunity to set limits and restrict access.
Yet research shows that ability to delay gratification leads to:
- adult achievement,
- ability to control overeating,
- resistance to drug or achohol abuse, and
- vocational success.
How can you help your child develop the ability to delay gratification? Say, "no", set limits and stick to them.
For children aged 5 -18 years - Parents can work together to set limits:
1. TV AND VIDEO LIMITS Remember, television and videos should be viewed as entertainment, a reward for getting work or chores finished. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends two hours a day.
2. NEW GAME AND TOY LIMITS Limiting new video games, iPod apps and toys to gifts for birthdays or as rewards for exceptional achievements helps children learn patience and the joy that comes from giving and receiving.
3. CANDY AND SNACK LIMITS Limiting sweet, fatty or salty snacks to one dessert a day or to special occasions helps children control cravings for high caloric foods and improves eating of nutritious foods.
4. EARN SPECIAL PRIVILEDGES Opportunities to earn points can include: helping to prepare dinner or set the table; keeping a neat room with made bed for a specified time period; babysitting for a younger sibling for several evenings; helping mow the lawn, feed the pets, take out the trash, etc.
5. SET AND LIMIT AN ALLOWANCE Set a weekly allowance for necessary purchases with a savings target (10%). Help your child budget by putting some of the allowance (and monetary gifts from relatives) in a bank or savings account. Set a savings goal aligned for a special purchase like a new game console, a special pair of shoes, a trip to an amusement park- and allow your child to spend when they reach the goal or set a new bigger goal for a bigger purchase.
As your sons or daughters enter adulthood, the limits you set and stick to when they are young will enable the young adult to be patient, understand the value of earning rewards, and not be disappointed when he or she cannot "have it all". Adult happiness depends not on instant gratification but the reward that comes from working, waiting and saving. Hours and hours of boring homework builds ability to do well on tests; boring practice builds athletes and musicians. Saving builds the capacity to afford a car, a home, and purchase necessities.
Tip 47 Help your child learn to delay gratification for a happier childhood and adulthood by setting limits, sticking to them and saying "No!"