Delayed Gratification

We are living in a fast-paced world where things move very fast and instant. Information can be obtained with just a click of our fingertips. Technological advancement has made it possible to purchase food and products without the need to step out from our house. Slowly but surely, this will shape future generations who demand instant rewards and cannot stand delayed gratification.

What is delayed gratification? It is resistance to the temptation of an immediate pleasure in the hope of obtaining a valuable and long-lasting reward in the long term. It is akin to the saying that “good things come to those who wait.” However, teaching our kids to practice delayed gratification is pretty tough in today’s world of instant gratification.

Let us look at what the Bible says about the spiritual aspect of delayed gratification and later, we will discuss some ideas on how to help our kids develop this virtue.

Biblical Teachings Regarding Delayed Gratification

(1) Faithfulness to Wait for Salvation

Salvation is not given to us immediately upon water baptism. Salvation is a promise of an eternal home through a life-long process of living according to the teachings of God. Unlike fulfilling the desires of the flesh, which is pleasure-driven and instant, the reward of delayed gratification is usually not felt immediately. It requires hard work, patience on our part, and a willingness to wait for our reward.
We need to restrain ourselves from habitual sins that will keep us away from the ultimate reward of salvation, as sins can be enjoyed for a few hours or a season but will destroy us eternally. An example of a Bible character who exchanged God’s precious blessings for temporary gratification is Esau; he sold his birth right for a bowl of stew (Gen 25:29-34).

Moses left all enjoyment behind for a greater reward:
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.” (Heb 11:24-26)

The reward of God is for those who diligently seek and follow Him, and thus we need to be able to enact the skill of delayed gratification. Our reward is not found at the beginning of the race but at the finish line. Therefore, be patient and see the salvation of God!

(2) Godly Qualities

In delayed gratification, qualities such as self-control, patience, diligence, and perseverance are important. Say no to smaller pleasures but in turn, patience and self-control will produce a much greater, eternal reward. Joseph, the son of Jacob, was able to show these godly characters in him. Despite many trials over the years, he did not succumb to small pleasures as he strove for an everlasting reward from God.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4)

(3) God’s Timing

Sometimes when we pray and seek God’s help, God does not seem to answer our prayers. Perhaps what we asked for is not the best thing for us, or the time is not ripe. Delayed gratification means that you are willing to wait and trust that God’s timing is the best for us. We must have the confidence that waiting will bring the sweetest fruits in due time.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal 6:9)

Ways to Instil Delayed Gratification in Younger Children

(1) Let Them Wait

Do not buy the things that they want straight away. It will teach them to be self-centred, and they will expect immediate fulfilment of their desires. Instead, designate a time-frame for them or give them a task to finish before rewarding them. Teaching them to patiently wait for their turn and refrain from interrupting are simple ways to help kids to exercise self-control.

If you want to start instilling a certain habit in your children, let them know what their ultimate reward will be and how they can get it. Have a progress chart so that you can help them visualise their goal/ultimate reward.

(2) Start a Project

Give them a project such as growing a plant or assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Through these activities which involve a longer period of time and diligence, the child can exercise patience. This will also help them to see the final product of their labor. Tailor these according to your child’s strength and interests at first, then stretch their comfort zone as they grow older.

(3) Spending Time Wisely

How we organise the children’s schedule shows what we prioritise and value the most. Once we instil in them that God’s kingdom is the priority, then all their other plans and activities will be secondary to worship and fit outside the prioritised schedules.

Besides bringing the children to church, we must also find time to talk with them about delayed gratification in their everyday lives, share Bible verses, and pray to God to give them those qualities. This can be done during family altar time, if you have one, or a designated quiet time, usually before bed time.

(4) Be a Role Model

Children can learn far more from our example than our words. For example, you can show them that until you lose two kilograms, you will not indulge in ice-cream; or that you really like to buy a dress but will delay it until you save enough money. It can help the children to recognise that delayed gratification is an important part of being a responsible adult.

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