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Teaching Children to Combat Instant Gratification

by bkhoury on October 11, 2012

You know the routine. The phone rings and suddenly chaos breaks out in the house throwing any appearance that I might actually have my kids under control out the window.  Or contending with dinner-time fits as a sudden burst of hunger engulfs little tummies unable to hold it together while dinner is prepared.  We are a society of instant gratification.  First call. No answer? E-mail. Text. Call again.  Is this demanding (to be polite) behavior being passed on to the next generation?

I’ve come to realize often my son’s main behavioral challenges revolve around learning to take a deep breath and wait.  Looking back I have exacerbated this problem.  I mean the whole idea of Small Helpings is quickly whip up homemade meals so kids don’t have to wait (or compromise).  On top of that we are a kid-focused society.  If junior cries there is no way we are going to let that continue.  Instant gratification.  Need a snack? Some open a bag for instant gratification.  Personally, I waited on my son’s hand and foot, even at times tisking my husband for not moving fast enough to satisfy their every need and to avoid upsetting the little angels. 

There are studies suggesting that a child’s school success often has more to do with their ability to exhibit self-control than traditional academic factors.  So from sitting at the tables to getting dressed to waiting for that meal or snack, it is all worth the time and effort we as parents have to put in!

Here are just a few tips that I admittedly need to work on:

• Teaching self-control and routine is all about consistency, time and patience. Something I struggle with (see above.)

• Set parameters for snacks.  Don’t ever give your kids an entire bag of crackers or there is a high likelihood they will not be eating dinner.  And anyway it develops bad habits for the future. Depending on your child and their stage in growth, you may even need to limit snacks to fruit and vegetables.

• Let the children make choices within the parameters you set. 

• Encourage children to help themselves but set out the rules and limitations for doing so. (this needs work for us as my son’s favorite thing to do is “make” his own breakfast in the morning).

• Finally, set expectations high. I’m reminded of this when I go to my son’s Montessori school where they are expected to do everything themselves with utmost self-control!  Sometimes in our zest to be great parents we forget what these amazing little children can do on their own.

Ok, Mom, now to work on leading by example! No more sneaking bites directly out of the ice cream container! 

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