I was at the library the other day, checking out a New York Times Bestseller to read (I have sworn off the bookstores and my Kindle for my own reading for now), when I overheard a mom telling her young daughter that she could watch the video they just checked out right away. I assumed she meant when they got home. Coincidentally, I was walking out to my car as they were and watched the child, about three I would guess, point to video and say, “Now!” I looked over as the mom obediently took the video out and placed it in into the car DVD. Wow — right away meant RIGHT AWAY. Not a good start for teaching the life skill of delayed gratification.
It struck me as I pulled away that there are a ton of teachable moments when we, as parents, can and should teach our child how to wait for what they want. In this example, waiting until she got home to see the DVD would have been a good move. Then, possibly waiting until after she helped mom with something at home so they both could sit down and watch would have been another good move.
My girls are teenagers, one almost the legal age of adulthood, and if I were to start to teach them how to delay their gratification now, I (and they) would be sunk. I started teaching the girls, and many other children, how to delay gratification at a very young age, when they were still listening and thought that I was a genius.
So, start thinking of ways to make your child learn to wait. Teach them young so they have time to practice the art of waiting. While they wait, teach them how to reflect on why they are waiting. To keep them patient, talk to them about their options, their goals and then, after some time has elapsed, allow them to have what they were waiting for.
Toys picked up before TV, guessing what is in the box this Holiday season before it is opened, looking out the window of the car at the beautiful Fall landscape instead of watching the newly checked-out DVD in the car — however you do it — just do it. Mold behavior now so you do not need to change it later.