Short and Sweet Parenting Tips

Don’t Put Off Delayed Gratification ~ PART 2 | S1 E29

January 26, 2021 Anne Hanovich Season 1 Episode 29
Short and Sweet Parenting Tips
Don’t Put Off Delayed Gratification ~ PART 2 | S1 E29
Show Notes Transcript

Get ready for more great tips on how to develop delayed gratification in your kids. Plus, get the most recent research on the topic, which reveals some surprising results. And you’ll want to make sure to be aware of a few things parents do to unknowingly jeopardize their kid’s ability to delay gratification/wait. (See episode 29B below for included kid’s activity) 

INTRO – Snowed in, not problem. SSPT to the rescue. 


[laugh] Welcome one and all! This is Episode 29 of Short and Sweet Parenting Tips. We’re on Part 2 of ‘Don’t Put Off Delayed Gratification’. If you missed Part 1, we covered several definitions of delayed gratification. Plus long-term observations from the original study, and five methods for parents to cultivate the habit of waiting in their kids. 


One important carry over from Part 1 is that delayed gratification is a habit that can be learned. This was new information to me. Did anyone else assume that someone either had the ability to wait or they didn’t? We also discovered, in Part 1, that experts have proven that instant gratification is actually a habit that can be broken and redirected. Some of the suggestions on how to cultivate delayed gratification in Parts 1 and 2 are ideal for very young children, but it’s never too late to help our kids develop this skill, regardless of their age. Please visit the Short and Sweet Tips Facebook page to find all the articles and studies referenced in both episodes. Also, additional resources will be posted, including worksheets and exercises to hone this skill.


Since the original Marshmallow study by Walter Mischel in the 1960s, there have been countless other studies based on the original concept. Let’s jump to the most recent one, from 2018. Psychologist Dr. Stephanie M. Carlson from the University of Minnesota actually found long-term benefits to delayed gratification that were similar to the original, 1960s study, in which Mischel’s team followed their test subjects for decades. In the 2018 study, Dr Carlson found that, “The ability to delay gratification in early childhood has been associated with a range of positive outcomes in adolescence and beyond. These include greater academic competence and higher SAT scores, healthier weight, effective coping with stress and frustration, social responsibility, and positive relations with peers.” So that was pretty consistent with long-term benefits cited 60 years ago. But, there is new information Carlson found that just blew my mind. [explosion sound?] Not kidding! Her study proved that the youth of today actually have the ability to delay gratification even longer than kids who were tested in previous studies. Carlson said “Although we live in an instant gratification era where everything seems to be available immediately via smartphone or the internet, our study suggests that today’s kids can delay gratification longer than children in the 1960s and 80s. This finding stands in stark contrast with the assumption by adults, that today’s children have less self-control than previous generations.” Crazy, huh? And by the way, in case you wondered, her study ensured that none of the children were on ADHD medication during the testing. 


So how can we cultivate the habit of delayed gratification in our kiddos? In Part 1, we explored five techniques, but here are five more based on a 2010 study by award-winning Family Psychologist David Bredehoft and his associate Mary Slinger. The study actually focused on how self-control is negatively affected in someone who was overindulged as a child. Bredehoft’s definition of overindulgence is actually super insightful. He said, “Overindulging children is giving them too much of what looks good, too soon, and for too long. It is giving them things or experiences that are not appropriate for their age or their interests and talents. It is the process of giving things to children to meet the adult’s needs, not the child’s.” [pause] Wow! Let’s just sit here and let that definition/perspective sink in a little. [pause] Hmmm, maybe we need to do an episode on over-indulgence in the future.


Back to the study. Bredehoft actually summarized their research in a 2016 article called “10 Strategies to Teach Your Child Delayed Gratification”.  This article is the number 1 resource from this podcast series because it includes a wealth of suggestions for parents. So look for it on the Short and Sweet Tips Facebook Page. For now, here’s a quick summary of his suggestions on how we can help our kids develop delayed gratification:

1. Their number one suggestion is for parents to model patience and delaying gratification. For more resources on how to go about modeling behaviors for your children, you may want to go take a listen to Episode #3 on Positive Discipline, if you haven’t already.

2. Parents are also encouraged to teach children to set goals and develop plans to work toward their goals.

3. They also suggest that parents reward delayed gratification and self-control.

4. Play games that emphasize delayed gratification and self-control (like Red Light, Green Light).

5. For their final suggestion, which is based on their 2010 study, is for parents to resist the urge to overindulge – meaning giving children too much, over nurturing them, and/or not providing rules.


Maybe one or two of these methods stood out to you. One that really resonated for me was helping my kids set goals and make a plan to work toward those goals. Our family is so busy putting out little fires, that goal-setting never seems to come up. If anyone else tries one of the techniques, or already has something in place, I’d love to get your feedback on the Facebook Page.


Before we close up, here are a few factors that can negatively affect our kids’ ability to delay gratification. 


The first is stress. A social psychology research report underlines the effects of stress on delayed gratification. “Unfortunately, the cool (or logical) system is most difficult to access when it is needed most. Chronic stress during childhood impairs the development of the ability to delay gratification.” ‘Chronic stress’, huh? Doesn’t our whole culture suffer from that, adults and kids alike! The research report actually referenced college freshman as an example of how stress negatively impacts a student’s ability to resist food and stay fit during their first year of college.


The second factor that hamstrings delayed gratification is when adults consistently go back on promises they’ve made. This comes from a 2013 study headed by Celeste Kidd from the psychology department at the University of California. She said that kids can be conditioned to ignore the motivation of delayed gratification if the adults in their life consistently go back on promises. They used the marshmallow test, but beforehand, every child was promised something non-food related. With some of the kids, that promise was broken. The children who did not receive the promised item actually had less self-control to wait for the marshmallow than the other group who trusted the researchers to keep their promises. The key take away, “Children who have consistently experienced broken promises from adults will have fewer delay capabilities.”


Before we wrap up, just a quick recap of Bredehoft’s suggestions to cultivate delayed gratification in your kiddos: try to model your own waiting and delaying gratification; help your kids set goals and develop plans to work toward them; reward self-control; play games that incorporate delayed gratification; and recognize when your approach borders on over-indulgence. It’s understandable that many parents are motivated to give our kids ‘everything we didn’t have’. For that matter, most of us can easily afford to provide more than enough for our children. This makes me think back to my own childhood. My brother and I didn’t have a lot growing up. Sure, sometimes it really stunk. But I believe he and I have benefitted greatly from the good work ethic and tenacity that our parents instilled in us. Thanks Mom and Dad.


So, before researching this series, I had no idea how developing Delayed Gratification in our children could have such a huge impact on their long-term health and success. Boy, we parents sure have a lot of things we could be doing for our kids. Let’s remind each other to do the best we can with whatever unique inputs and factors we face in our own family situations.


Thanks for being open to the information in this very academic episode. Hey, if you haven’t had the chance to leave a review yet, we would appreciate you taking a few minutes to do that. This wraps up our Short and Sweet Parenting Tip for the week. Fresh ideas in bite-sized portions.