Delayed Gratification


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Suffer now, enjoy later. That’s delayed gratification. When we teach our children to suffer well, what we actually teach them is delayed gratification. What’s the opposite? Instant gratification. Enjoy now, suffer later.

Why is it important to teach delayed gratification to our children? Many years ago, the Houston police department gave away “How To Ruin Your Children” pamphlets. “And it was guaranteed to be 99 percent effective.” [1] According to the pamphlet,
Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. Never give him any spiritual training. Let him wait until he’s twenty-one years old, and then let him decide for himself. Avoid using the word ‘wrong.’ It may develop a serious guilt complex. Pick up everything he leaves lying around, so he will be experienced in throwing responsibility on everybody else. [2]
Simply put, if you want to ruin them, don’t teach your children delayed gratification. 

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What they want, they should get. Immediately. As many as they want. Don’t hold them accountable. Have them blame everybody and anybody except themselves. Train them to have a false sense of entitlement. That is, if we want to ruin our children.

But the Bible commands us to teach our children “not [to] be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.(Hebrews 6:12) We are to teach them that, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Psalm 126:5) 

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There are parents who went through a lot of hardships in their lives. They worked so hard so that their children won’t suffer the same fate. Yet, instead of appreciating what their parents have done, their children squandered what they have worked for. I think it’s because they did not experience the hardships their parents went through. 

My good friend, wealth and life coach Chinkee Tan, went through a lot as a child when his family became broke. So, he sold tissue paper door to door. Whenever he went to school, his bag had more products to sell in it than books to read. He got into show business to become a comedian and one of the “Hawi Boys” (somewhat like one of the bodyguards) of a famous singer at that time. Now, he is rich and famous. 

Edu-tainer Chinkee Tan being interviewed for a TV feature. Image credit

One time I asked him, “How do you teach your children so that they learn the lessons you learned? I don’t think you would make them sell toilet paper for them to appreciate the value of hard work.” He answered me, “I teach them delayed gratification. For example, they can’t play with their gadgets without studying first. We don’t buy them what they want. They have to earn it through chores.” Simple yet effective. 

Let us teach our children to suffer well. Let us teach them delayed gratification.

“Let go and let God” Step

Reflect on James 5:7-11. What does it say about patience? In this world of instant noodles and 24-hour convenience stores, how can we teach our children delayed gratification? In what ways can we model patience to them?

NOTE: This is Day Five of the devotional guide (Volume 1, Issue 6) of our church, Filinvest Community Christian Fellowship, for the message on Pass It On!” last April 5.  

[1] John MacArthur, Jr., The Fulfilled Family (IL: Moody Press, 1981). Electronic Edition.

[2] Ibid.

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