Teaching Delayed Gratification is a Must

We visited our hometown over the weekend and noticed that a couple of businesses we always shopped at have closed down. I looked them up online when I got home and found that they went out of business because of the bad economy.

One store owner, who ran a wonderful Christian book/gift store, blamed her business closing on people no longer using their credit cards. She said that in the past, people bought more items and paid with credit, but then they began paying cash and only buying little things. She and her husband decided to close down while they could still pay their bills.

As a business owner myself, I understand her feelings. But part of the reason our economy is in the bad shape it’s in is because people abused credit. They bought things they couldn’t afford and borrowed the money to do so, but couldn’t pay it back.

One of the projects in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers is designed to teach teens about handling credit cards responsibly. When I speak to homeschool groups, I’m often asked at what age people should begin teaching their children about credit. The book is intended for teens, but I tell parents if they really want to teach their children to handle credit responsibly, they must begin when their children are babies.

I’m not suggesting they get their baby a Visa card. But the root of credit problems is usually (I’m excepting medical emergencies here) an inability to delay gratification. Somebody wants a big plasma TV to watch the Super Bowl and they buy it on credit, never thinking about how they’ll pay for it. They don’t have the self-discipline to set aside money each week until they have enough to pay cash for the plasma tv.

How do you raise your children to become adults with the ability to delay gratification, to wait for what they want? You gently make them wait for what they want.

Don’t pick up the baby as soon as she makes a peep. Let her lay in her crib for a bit babbling and cooing before you pick her up.

Don’t buy your preschooler a toy he demands at the store. Let him wait for it until his birthday; he’ll appreciate it more, and he’ll have learned a little bit about waiting for what he wants.

Don’t buy your preteen the latest electronic device the day it comes on the market. Teach her to save up her allowance and birthday money until she can buy it for herself.

The child who learns he doesn’t have to have everything this instant is unlikely to become the guy who puts a $3000 television on his credit card a few days after losing his job. The adults who couldn’t wait until they were actually able to pay for what they wanted helped get us where we are today: in big financial trouble.

The goal is to NOT raise a child like this: