Because kids mostly live for now and also have instant access to almost everything, it can take a bit of work to reinforce the concept of delayed gratification. But according to research, helping them learn this kind of patience can have valuable benefits including better test scores and better health. How to make it happen?
Tick off time. Something as simple as an upcoming family event can be just the tool for helping kids realize that anticipation is fun and rewarding. Just mark the event's date on the calendar and then cross off days together. This helps kids "see" time passing and realize what they're hoping for will indeed happen in the future.
Attend to feelings. When kids are able to verbalize their frustrations, anger or**** disappointment over, say, not getting something right now, they can release the emotional pressure that builds with impatience in a healthy way. Help yours learn that it’s not okay to hit or throw toys out of displeasure, but it is okay to express frustration verbally. Help your kids with this strategy by suggesting words they can use to describe their feelings—like angry, frustrated, mad, happy, nervous, calm.
Practice listening. Kids sometimes have unrealistic expectations because they don’t fully listen to facts and directions. Counter this by having them repeat directions back to you. Slowing down communication helps kids process instructions and understand how long or complex a project might be.
Develop problem-solving skills. Sometimes plans change, and kids need to cope when situations don’t go their way. Encourage them to find multiple solutions to a problem, and let them be part of implementing solutions. Say to your child in a calm moment: "Pretend you are impatient about not getting the toy right now. What can you do to make yourself feel better? what else can you do?"
Encourage impulse control. Games like Simon Says, Red Light-Green Light and Follow the Leader are great for helping kids learn to control impulses and knee-jerk reactions, since kids have to watch closely, wait for instructions and take turns being the leader.
Open a savings account. When kids want a pricey item like a skateboard or a bike, suggest they help pay for it. A savings account where they can contribute allowance and birthday money not only demonstrates delayed gratification as they work toward their ultimate goal, it also shows the value of saving.
Jennifer Chung is the co-founder of Kinsights.com, which provides parents with a safe place to ask questions and organize their child's health information. Visit the website, like on Facebook, and follow on Twitter.