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Gayle Fisher
BY Gayle Fisher
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How to Build Delayed Gratification into Your Child’s Value System, Sparking Intrinsic Motivation

Does your child deeply desire something?  Do you know what it is? At our house, it is new taekwondo head and feet pads. They cost about $70, and John lusts for them. Not that juvenile red foam rubber gear. SHINY.  BLACK.  PROFESSIONAL. I told him he could earn it. It is a want, not a need. It is exciting when our children truly crave something (like typical kids do).

Find a Purpose for Earning Money

Your children should have a purposeful interest in money.  And, even better if they are communicating that to you. Some families might take this for granted, but not us. Here are some easily-taught, easy-to-remember, and easy-to-backward-chain ideas to help your child earn chore money:

  1. Offer your child $1 for each garbage can they haul up and down the driveway.
  2. Let them earn $1 for helping get groceries into the cart and also $1 from the store back to your house.
  3. Unloading the clean dishes out of the dishwasher.
  4. Sorting and then loading their dirty laundry into the washing machine.
  5. Moving those same (now) clean wet clothes into the dryer and then to their closet or drawers.
  6. Pet care.

You can think of other small tasks, depending on your home routines. $1 increments (whole numbers) can be most easily understood, and you can always shift later to $.50 and $.25 chunks (fractions and decimals).

Move from Concrete to Abstract Ideas

To assist your child moving from “concrete” to “abstract” understandings, start with physical dollar bills. Keep a tally sheet (markings in groups of 5: four vertical marks and the fifth one diagonally). You can count and re-count in ones, fives and tens. Help your child write addition sentences (1+5+7 = ?); subtraction sentences if you work from the goal backward. The benefit is you are using and teaching different ways to record and discuss numbers:

Tick marks, equations, counting, and a few crumpled $1 bills, thrown in for multi-modal, 3-D learning. Thus, you elevate money from something meaningless to valuable.   This works because your child wants something.

For my son and his taekwondo gear, we then count it to 70. It’s OK it may take a long time. That’s what reinforces the “delayed” part. Let’s see how much your child really wants it. Another benefit:  Does your child struggle with math (dyscalculia) and handwriting (dysgraphia)? We do.  And we are always looking for ways to practice.

Ask your school to borrow some of their math games overnight and on the weekend.

You are seeking all tools available to help your child move from intangible (almost imaginary) understanding of money to tangible (real, actual, physical). This will also help in strengthening your positive relationship with the school, increasing cooperation before, during and after the ARD/IEP adventure.

Using All Possible Tools

My son brought Hot Dots flash cards home in his backpack (like the class hamster but so much easier to care for), and actually played with it (as a preferred activity) instead of the computer. He took Hot Dots to bed with him and fell asleep with it spread out beside him. I have a photo to prove it.

Your child can also be responsible to return them the next school day. Showing responsibility is a key component of delayed gratification. The school also sent home pages of math language (story problems). We put that on his list, and played with them on the weekend.

Now your child can learn about responsibility, delayed gratification, and the actual conversations of delayed gratification.

Use the Vocabulary

When you talk to your children, say the actual term “delayed gratification”. You are building your child’s vocabulary for long-term adult success. In fact, use always the real grown-up words when talking with our children of therapy. Developmental delays cause us to back-track so much. Our kids trail their peers in many ways, and vocabulary is one of them. Exposure to the appropriate words builds long-term vocabulary.

Analog Now, Digital Later (maybe)

 I love it when there is delayed gratification in learning electronics. Once you get past the first five to ten minutes of hyper-negotiotation, your child then pays attention to other things. Much happier child.  Much happier mom. In the evening, start the bedtime process much sooner.

I bought for my son from eBay for $80 a therapy swing that hangs from the ceiling, and supports 185 pounds.

After a bath, he crawled into his swing.  With his toothbrush. He got lost in the serenity of the sensory seeking/sensory averse world in there. No wheedling for electronics. By delaying the opiate of electronic effects on your child’s brain and sensory system, you allow the opportunity for thoughts, imagination, song, and other avenues of creativity. Our children won’t create if they are chronically entertained. Which of course makes me wonder why we have the stuff in the house.
Or in the car.

Delayed Gratification in the Car

To increase reading time and delay electronics, keep a pile of books (and some toothbrushes) in your car. Surely, you spend a lot of your family time in the car.  Use it wisely to bring peace to your too-fast schedule.

My son knows he gets to do his “list” first, and then earns electronics (maybe). Yes, you may have to endure some attempted renegotiation.  Don’t use your words in response. Keep driving and smiling. Another delayed gratification teaching tool that has proved very effective has been the “earning back” process.

Make a contract with your child.

Better yet, for us, it was a contract between John and his taekwondo instructors so he can re-earn the stripes. A smidge of tough love goes a long way. If the contract doesn’t involve you, all you have to do is mind your own business. Use positive behavior re-directs and intrinsic motivation at every possible decision. Better tough love “the easy way” than wait until only tough-love-the-hard-way remains. I always tell my son to pick “easy way because hard way always hurts”.

Then I have to hold my boundaries, everyone with a zero tolerance of whackingI have to step down and walk away when I feel the heat.So you don’t think you are alone in these challenges. Peace be with us.


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Gayle Fisher

Written on October 30, 2017 by:

Gayle, who blogs at If We Learn Differently, is a mom of learning differences, an educator, and a former corporate warrior. She helps you understand what to do to help your children with learning differences prepare for today so that they can be ready for life. Gayle shares with you all that she has learned. Her workshops, presented with a team of facilitators, provide an enhanced interactive and fun experience. Gayle has a master’s degree in Educational Technology from Texas A&M that is put to use each and every day. She lives with her son John in The Woodlands, Texas. Her passion for advocating for the rights of those with learning differences and on behalf of her son, has brought her to the forefront of advancing education and awareness for all.
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