What’s So Great About Delayed Gratification?

Those of you in the Chicago area have probably seen the publication “Chicago Parent” many times. It’s an excellent monthly magazine, and I recommend visiting their website even if you don’t live in Chicago. They have articles, blogs, and other helpful info. They cover many issues that are of interest to any parent or educator (this month’s cover story, for instance, is on autism).

One regular feature of the paper is a column about kids and money management. Although my kids are still young, I find it helpful to get ideas about how to help them handle money when they get older. This past month, the column “Healthy Finances” focused on the idea of delayed gratification. Basically, the author asked “Why should our children learn to wait?” After all, in today’s world they can have almost everything they want right away.

But there’s more to delayed gratification than meets the eye. She cited a study from Stanford University – one that spanned several decades – that concluded that children who could wait for a treat rather than have it right away – called “the resisters” – were more positive, self-motivated, and persistent in the face of difficulties. They had more successful marriages, higher incomes, and greater career satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the “grabbers”, kids that couldn’t wait for a treat, grew into adults who were more troubled, stubborn, and less self-confident. They had trouble subordinating immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. They had unsuccessful marriages, low job satisfaction, poor health, and more frustrating lives.

Wow, that’s a huge difference! All based on a little thing called “impulse control”. Looks like that should be a huge area of concern for every parent and teacher. Obviously, it’s a good thing (a loving thing) for us to sometimes make kids wait for a snack, treat, present, video, etc. It’s a good thing for kids to save up their own money to buy things rather than have everything purchased for them. Good stuff, Chicago Parent!