Do you ever have one of those episodes with your children where you wonder, “When is he going to stop doing this?” Your child does something weird, aggravating, or just won’t grow out of a phase? Wish you had someone there to give you the help and advice you’re seeking? Well, your in luck. Breezy Mama is very excited to introduce our Question of the Day piece. A simple (ha!) parenting question with the answer you need. Even more exciting is who will be doing the answering. . . Dr. Fran Walfish, who is an Expert in Parents Magazine’s “Ask Our Experts” column, has agreed to become our “Question of the Day” expert! So send us your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Walfish will answer it in a future Breezy post. Now on to today’s question. . .
When do children understand that they can’t have “instant gratification”? For example, while in the car, my 4 year old daughter asked to have a snack. I replied that I didn’t have any food with me, yet she kept asking, over and over again, working herself up into a tantrum. What advice can you give for this?
Children need to be introduced to the concept of “delayed gratification” in the early toddler phase which kickstarts at 18 months. They must practice wrestling with the experience of “delayed gratification” dozens and dozens of times before they understand they can’t have “instant gratification”. We do not expect a child to demonstrate and master “delayed gratification” until they are at least 4 years-old. The way to teach a child to wait for what they want is through empathic narration. If a child wants the red ball her preschool friend is playing with she might grab it. The best way to respond is with empathic narration which is talking out loud about what she wants and feels. You might say (in a genuinely empathic tone of voice), ”You want the red ball and right now Sally is holding it. It’s hard to wait for your turn. You get mad when you can’t have the red ball.” Watch your child’s intensity decrease. She may not calm immediately but you will see her come down a notch. Then, you can offer alternatives. For instance, you can say “Let’s go find the blue ball to play with while you wait for Sally to finish her turn and give you the red ball.”