It is important that we assist our children to develop delayed self – gratification, some of the research that is around suggest that children who are able to postpone immediate gratification are able to perform better in their studies.


Our parents would say to us that “they just could not afford it” and we would have to do without until they could get us wanted we were requesting.

One of my greatest challenges as a parent was to stop myself from feeling guilty when I was not able to give my children what they wanted. It was quite an interesting feeling for me to process. I had to ask myself why do I feel like this? What is triggering this feeling of “guilt”.

I reflected on my childhood, growing up in a migrant family that worked hard to make ends meet and to provide an education for my brother and I. In my growing up there were always things that I/we wanted, however, our parents would say to us that “they just could not afford it” and we would have to do without until they could get us wanted we were requesting. That did not necessarily mean that our immediate needs, wants or wishes were going to be granted or fulfilled.

Looking back on my childhood when my parents explained to me, that we have to earn and work for the things that I wanted, now makes great sense. Unknowingly, it helped me to develop self-control and self-gratification skills.

Today, we live in the credit card world where one can get what they want and pay later. It is like eating chocolate , we enjoy it now but can pay for it later. The cost of giving in and meeting needs immediately can be more expensive and damaging to our children and our relationships with them than we may acknowledge.

As parents and caregivers, we do whatever we can to make sure that our child has whatever they need to be happy. When they are happy, we feel the same, however, happiness or positive relationships is not based on the premises that if you are good, I will get or give you what you what. This behaviour is not at all helpful to our child.

When our child wants something because others have it, we need to explain to them that it may not be possible and if it is, then they can wait for a special event, like a birthday or Christmas present, or they could do things for mum and dad that enables them to earn things for being accountable for family responsibilities.

It is important that we assist our children to develop delayed self – gratification, some of the research that is around suggest that children who are able to postpone immediate gratification are able to perform better in their studies.

It is ok to reward children with gifts when they have contributed to household responsibilities, this can be a way of acknowledging to your child that you are very much aware of their contributions to the family. Acknowledgement of positive behaviours can be reward as well but these are special surprises and we need to explain to our children that it may not always be the possible.

It is important that we assist our children to develop delayed self – gratification, some of the research that is around suggest that children who are able to postpone immediate gratification are able to perform better in their studies. Plus they are also more capable of dealing with frustrating and stressful situations.

Some helpful tips for us as parents and caregivers in order to help our children with delayed self-gratification may be:
  1. Setting short term goals and celebrate their achievements
  2. Encouraging the idea that failure is OK the effort is worthy of a reward and acknowledgment
  3. Providing opportunities for children to contribute to household responsibilities.
  4. Planning with your child what they can do to get things they would like.
  5. Acknowledging achievements, positive contributions and behaviours
  6. Having an honest conversation about why ”wants” cannot be meet readily
  7. Saying a respectful “No” or statement like “I can’t buy, get or give you this now”, is also perfectly ok as well.

I reflect on my parenting approach and I am so glad that I did not give in to the all those times I felt guilty. I am glad that I did not give in the pressure, that if I do not give what my child wanted that it would reflect badly on my parenting.

In fact, when I look at my 19 year and 20 year old sons, I pat myself on the back because they rarely asks for things, both are very sensitive to our needs and understands and can priorities when it is appropriate to ask for something they truly need.

However, when they cannot do without, they find creative and responsible ways to achieve them. This is the ultimate effect of teaching, modelling and supporting the development of gratification skills.

BLOG CONTRIBUTOR:  Maurizio Vespa

Maurizio is passionate about the benefits that Restorative Practices can deliver to improving the quality of human relationships, especially when there has been hurt or damage to relationships. Maurizio consults to public and private schools as well as organisations and other social services that are focused on workplace relationships and the positive resolution of conflict. He is strongly committed to sharing his personal insights and learning’s of Restorative Practices. As well as exploring Restorative Leadership in the workplace and Restorative Parenting for the home.

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