Delay gratification and have fun with your kids

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 6, 2009 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Barbara, we want to know if it's wrong to give kids everything they want and how to have fun with them better ways.
From: Jimmy W, Knoxville, TN

I have a feeling you know the answer to this, Jimmy W., but I'll humor you and give my answer in one word: Yes.

One of the best things we can do for our children is to teach them to learn to delay gratification. It builds character. It teaches them to problem solve and to be independent thinkers. And in a multi-tasking society such as we have today, these are skills that no screen or technology can teach. What's more, the ability to delay gratification helps children be more emotionally balanced and do better academically.

So what do I mean by delaying gratification? It can be anything from not giving a toddler what he wants the second he asks for it ("More! More! Now!") to helping a school-age child earn and save money for a new bike. In some families -- where there are many children or few dollars to spend on anything but necessities -- learning to delay gratification happens all by itself. In others, especially where parents turn into helicopters or can afford to finance a child's every whim, parents need to be conscious of the need to delay gratification.

What can you do to have fun with your children? My gosh -- just about anything can be fun with the right attitude. Turn one evening a week into Board Game Night. Take a nature walk next Saturday morning and delight in what you find underfoot. Go to the library and take out books on your favorite animals.

What ideas do others have to help Jimmy W out?

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

4 comments so far...
  1. Two nights ago, before dinner (but after dark), I took a flashlight, a sand bucket and my daughter out for a nighttime walk around the neighborhood to gather autumn leaves. She LOVED it.

    Walk, run, bike, travel, create, read, sing, dance...these are things you can do to have fun with your kid.

    Posted by phe November 6, 09 09:31 AM
  1. Jimmy, the most important thing to remember is that it's your job as a dad to help kids find their way in the world.

    By teaching them that they don't get what they want, when they want it, just because they want it, you are preparing them for their future. A future in which they don't feel entitled to everything, in which they are willing to work and wait for what they want (and p.s. not be in credit card debt for overspending). Plus they will be nicer human beings.

    Saying no is hard, so is being a good dad. Best wishes to you!

    Posted by cosmogirl November 6, 09 09:50 AM
  1. Science projects with household ingredients; cook together with the kids (can be messy, but a fun learning experience); movie night at home with a big bowl of popcorn; skate together at a local rink if you have one; read books out loud (if you have younger ones); go to museums together; take day trips to local areas of interest and play tourist for a day; go for a drive and picnic somewhere new.

    Posted by jlen November 6, 09 10:52 AM
  1. Great advice, Barbara -- especially the longterm benefits, we are seeing the consequences of the Gimme Culture now!

    Jimmy W., sounds like you are on the right track. And when you take your kids to the library, check out books yourself on fun family activity ideas -- our local library is also a great place to pick up flyers and local parenting magazines with lots of (free or cheap!) activity ideas. You might also meet other parents & kids there. Good luck!

    Posted by serafina November 7, 09 03:25 AM
 
4 comments so far...
  1. Two nights ago, before dinner (but after dark), I took a flashlight, a sand bucket and my daughter out for a nighttime walk around the neighborhood to gather autumn leaves. She LOVED it.

    Walk, run, bike, travel, create, read, sing, dance...these are things you can do to have fun with your kid.

    Posted by phe November 6, 09 09:31 AM
  1. Jimmy, the most important thing to remember is that it's your job as a dad to help kids find their way in the world.

    By teaching them that they don't get what they want, when they want it, just because they want it, you are preparing them for their future. A future in which they don't feel entitled to everything, in which they are willing to work and wait for what they want (and p.s. not be in credit card debt for overspending). Plus they will be nicer human beings.

    Saying no is hard, so is being a good dad. Best wishes to you!

    Posted by cosmogirl November 6, 09 09:50 AM
  1. Science projects with household ingredients; cook together with the kids (can be messy, but a fun learning experience); movie night at home with a big bowl of popcorn; skate together at a local rink if you have one; read books out loud (if you have younger ones); go to museums together; take day trips to local areas of interest and play tourist for a day; go for a drive and picnic somewhere new.

    Posted by jlen November 6, 09 10:52 AM
  1. Great advice, Barbara -- especially the longterm benefits, we are seeing the consequences of the Gimme Culture now!

    Jimmy W., sounds like you are on the right track. And when you take your kids to the library, check out books yourself on fun family activity ideas -- our local library is also a great place to pick up flyers and local parenting magazines with lots of (free or cheap!) activity ideas. You might also meet other parents & kids there. Good luck!

    Posted by serafina November 7, 09 03:25 AM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives