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By: AgFed Credit Union

Welcome to AgFed Credit Union's MoneyDig blog! 

Get confident about your personal finances with a number of articles, tips, advice and more.


Teaching Children Delayed Gratification

 Feb 23, 2023
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The world today revolves around instant gratification - we want everything, and we want it now. And, thanks to businesses across a spectrum of industries, it’s made possible. Credit cards and Buy Now Pay Later programs give you instant access to money. Computers and smartphones answer just about any question you could imagine instantly. Everything from expedited college degrees to promises of shedding pounds overnight is within your reach.

But this “instant anything” mentality can have real-life consequences. For children that see and copy everything, this could cause a multitude of challenges down the road. Finding ways to instill patience and goal-setting skills in children is crucial – and the sooner you begin, the better.


What is Delayed Gratification?

Delayed gratification refers to the act of foregoing a reward now in hopes of obtaining something more valuable or desirable in the future.

For example, a child might decide not to buy a candy bar and instead save their money to purchase a video game in a couple of months. You might hunker down and cook your own meals so that you can save money for a nice vacation over the summer.

Without the ability to exhibit self-control or strive for greater rewards down the road, you (and your children) could face many financial challenges.


Real-Life Consequences:

A significant part of managing money successfully stems from the ability to budget funds now in hopes of achieving specific goals in the future. Failing to focus on your future monetary needs can cause a domino effect on your finances.

  • If a person struggles to overcome immediate financial temptations, they will likely have little to no savings and could live paycheck-to-paycheck.


  • Without savings to fall back on, individuals become more dependent on credit cards, payday loans, and other short-term financing options.


  • Becoming overloaded with credit card debt can cause your credit score to drop significantly.


  • Without a decent credit score, obtaining loans for future goals, such as purchasing a car, will be more difficult. If approved for a loan, the higher interest rate will make the loan much more expensive.


  • Once overwhelmed with debt, life goals, such as owning a home, pursuing higher education, or starting a business, can become exceedingly difficult.

While this example might be extreme, it demonstrates how simple buying decisions can compound into something much more significant.


Strategies to Teach Delayed Gratification

It’s never too early to begin teaching your children about delayed gratification. But it’s even more crucial to instill this characteristic into your teens before they set out on their own. The following five tactics are a great starting point for you and your family.

  1. Set Goals Together: Sit down with your child and ask about goals or rewards they would like to achieve in the short term. Once they have some listed, work on prioritizing them and creating end dates for the goals.


When starting out, focus on smaller goals that are easier to achieve. Use these initial items as a way to build confidence for your child and boost their motivation to keep going.


  1. Track Their Progress: It’s important to find ways to display their progress visually, especially among younger children. You could use a progress chart for kids and create a spreadsheet or review account statements with teens.


Determine how you will track their progress and the frequency you’ll do it (e.g., weekly, monthly). By reviewing their goals regularly and providing encouragement, you’ll increase their desire to succeed.


  1. Don’t Give In: As a parent, your desire to see your child happy is paramount. However, short-term smiles shouldn’t take away from lifelong happiness. Being a teacher for your kids is just as important.


So, if your teen runs out of money and pleads with you to buy something for them, don’t give in. If your child did something good and you want to reward them, find a different way to do it other than fulfilling their savings goal for them.


  1. Celebrate Wins: Finding little ways to celebrate your child’s accomplishments is an excellent approach to building their confidence. After they achieve a goal, encourage them to make the next one a little more challenging. 


  1. Make Them Earn an Allowance: Achieving goals, financially and otherwise, requires hard work. Teaching this fact to your child will help them as they pursue greater ambitions in their lifetime. So, requiring your child to complete chores or perform other tasks in exchange for their allowance is a great tactic.



Whether you like it or not, children today are growing up in a world where almost anything they could desire is only a few clicks or taps away. Teaching patience and delayed gratification is one of the best lessons you could instill within your kids.

But it’s also important to remember that your children, especially teens, pick up on everything you do. So, it’s up to you to set an example. If they see you relying on or constantly using credit cards, they’ll believe that’s perfectly acceptable.

A great way to teach your kids delayed gratification is to set a goal as a family. Find something you would like to achieve, such as a family vacation, and have everyone contribute. Kids can put a portion of their allowance in a jar, and parents can match their contributions. Then, monitor your progress together.


We’re Here to Help!

Setting and achieving financial goals is a crucial part of life. The sooner you begin teaching these skills to your children, the better. There are many opportunities to teach your kids about money management at the credit union.

If you’re interested in opening a youth account for your child, we’re ready to help. Please give us a call or visit our website to start today.

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