Delayed gratification vs Impulsive decisions

There’s one paragraph from “The Successful Child” by Dr. William SEARS and Martha SEARS that I would like to share with you:

‘You are not doing your child a favour by always giving her what she wants. Reality says that when she’s an adult, she will have to wait for many of the things she wants, she will have to choose which are most important to her, and she won’t get everything she wants. Understanding the concept of delayed gratification is a valuable ability for success in life. So is learning not to make impulsive decisions.’

Too many parents are ready to give in to their children’s request. Be it at the supermarket counter or a toy shop. This will only ‘teach’ the kids that they will get whatever they demand for. It’s OK if we can make that happen for them FOREVER. But hey, can you do that? They will be confused, disappointed, disoriented and stressed out when they grow up and realize that the world is not as kind as their family are to them. There is competition out there, they will only get a piece of a pie. There are trade-offs to everything, there are choices to make. There are things that they simply can’t get, maybe because it belongs to someone else.

We can teach our kids early on making choices. Choices that are best for them. We can start simply by asking them which hat they want to wear to the park this morning, ‘would you like the blue hat or the red one?’. It helps them understand 2 things: That they do not need to use both hats at the same time, and that they have the POWER to decide for themselves (thereby nurturing self-confidence in your children).

Has your kid ever cried for almost every single piece of toy in the shop? Why not agree with him BEFORE walking into the toy shop that he is only entitled to 1 toy today (or 2, or whatever amount you are willing to buy him). If your child is a little bit more grown up, you might want to discuss with him that you are willing to spend $10 on his toys (he can choose as many items as he could but it cannot exceed $10). You are teaching him that resources are limited and that he will have to make the choices within the means that he has. This way, he will choose what he really wants. It’s good for him, it’s good for you (since he won’t forget about the toy so soon, making the price you pay for it worth it).

While giving him the chance to make his own choices, you might want to tip in some advice. Help him in his decision-making process. ‘Which toy would last longer?’, ‘Do I already have something similar at home?’, ‘How many ways can I play with this toy?’, etc. This teaches him that decision-making is something that needs thoughts-processing. He needs to think through it to come to a decision.

If you have been giving chances for your children to make their own choices, give yourself a pat on the back! Well done! If you think you have not done so enough, do not fret. Children learn along the way, it’s an on-going process. Take heart, it’s never too late 🙂

About Lili

Lili is a wife and a mum to 3 boys. Follow her parenting journey at where she writes about family happiness and how to stay connected to our spouse and kids. Additionally, she's passionate in helping kids achieve financial literacy at
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2 Responses to Delayed gratification vs Impulsive decisions

  1. easylifestyles says:

    Another great post. Thanks for sharing this. I enjoy reading your blog very much. Spending time with my family and doing fun activities is something that truly makes me happy.

    Check out these Family Activities

  2. saltysweetspice says:

    We had to hit the rough patch to come to this idea the hard way. DH still hasn’t gotten there, but he has improved drastically. Last night he even followed direction on how to reel DS back in from a “I can get away with anything b/c Daddy’s home” move… I don’t know who was more shocked… DS that Daddy pulled a Mommy move, or DH that using the tools put in place worked.

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