Promoting Delayed Gratification in Your Children

An Important Tool to Help Your Child Learn Patience and Perseverance to Better Succeed in Life

Today I’d like to speak with you about an important topic that you might want to consider and meld into your child-rearing philosophy and practices. The topic is: Promoting delayed gratification in your children. Just this one idea can have a real lasting effect on your child’s future and success.

First, let’s answer this question. What is delayed gratification? According to Wikipedia delayed gratification is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. So, basically, how can we, as parents, get our children to wait for a reward. Actually, it’s not so hard.

There is a growing amount of information that links delayed gratification to children that do better socially and academically, are healthier, and more emotionally stable.

Sometimes children can be very demanding and insistent on wanting things “now.” If we can teach them to be a little more patient, we are essentially helping them out in life by simply saying, “You’ll have to wait a little bit.” This is about NOT giving your child what they are demanding the minute they ask for it, even if they have a tantrum.

If you can do this on a regular basis, I believe that your life will be easier for you and your child in the long run.

Now, let’s review the research, based on a book by Walter Mischel, as documented in his book, “The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control (2014).” There’s a very entertaining video on delayed gratification called the “Marshmallow Test” that you can find by clicking on the link at the end of this article.

In this experiment, children ages three through seven are instructed by the experimenter that they could eat the marshmallow that is sitting in front of them. Or, they can have two marshmallows, if they wait until the experimenter returns to the room. As the video is running you watch how children react to the instructions. This is very entertaining!

What this study showed was that children three years of age had much more difficulty resisting eating the marshmallow before the tester. Seven-year-old children had less challenge with waiting than the three-year-olds. The interesting group were the five-year-old children. Some of the five-year-olds were able to wait and receive the second treat while others gave up on the wait very easily.

The experimenter did a follow-up study on the five-year-olds some ten years later and found some pretty interesting findings:

  • The five-year-old children who could wait and get a second marshmallow were performing better in school with better grades.
  • They were healthier with less body fat.
  • They had more friends than the children who had only one treat and didn’t wait to receive the second treat.

A person’s ability to delay gratification relates and helps build patience and self-control. This also affects impulse control, will power, and what is called self-regulation. Self-regulation is about being able to adapt to change and demands.

With this information in mind, you can work to delay your child’s immediate need for gratification with responses that teach a child to wait. Example responses are:

“You’re getting so good at waiting.”
“I’m so proud of you for waiting.”
“Please be patient.”


You can also buy the book on Amazon, click here: The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success