Studies have shown that one of the most predictive factors of success in life, is the ability to delay gratification. Children who are able to delay gratification tend to have better grades, do better in college, and grow up to have successful careers. The term “delayed gratification” refers to a person’s ability to put off immediate rewards for the benefit of greater rewards in the future. In our modern world, it seems to be the case that adults are needing to delay gratification more and more while children are doing it less and less.
So much of what it means to be a child today is immediate gratification in the form of constant entertainment at the click of a button. Some studies have suggested that the rise in ADHD rates we have seen over the past couple decades has been simply due to the fact that children are so accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it, and in bright, flashy, intense, extremes. This kind of immediate satisfaction then makes it difficult for children to tolerate any delays in getting what they want.
As parents, there are ways we can combat this, but it takes some creativity. To counteract the effects of this culture of convenience, we need to provide our children with opportunities to grow their abilities to tolerate delayed gratification. Encourage your child to save up for a big purchase and find ways to give them agency to earn money for their goal. Establish a token economy that encourages working towards a goal. Provide opportunities to practice and reward delayed gratification, ie: “you can play video games for 20 minutes right now, or for an hour when you are done with your homework.”
The following video is a classic experiment done with children to measure and observe delayed gratification.