Make Them Wait: The Benefits Of Building Anticipation

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In today’s age of instant gratification, I often worry that my children lack the ability to feel that wonderful sense that is anticipation.

Remember when it was only a couple of times a year that the really good stuff happened? For birthdays and holidays you looked forward to the good food, presents and a wonderful atmosphere of celebration.

At the risk of sounding like I’m ninety – I often wonder if everyday feels like this for kids these days?

I know in our case, even though finances are tight, my kids never miss out. New clothes regularly, outings often, ‘sometimes food’ more than sometimes!

My four year old expects a treat every time I pick her up from kindergarten – presumably as proof of my undying devotion and remorse for leaving her to play with her friends all day. It’s tough being four.

I know as a modern parent I need to take responsibility for how spoilt my children are and I do try my best to teach them the value of money and making wise choices. But I really need to start teaching them the benefits of delayed gratification.

The point that really brought this home to me was a situation we had with grandparents recently.

My son wanted a new bike for his birthday, which is in mid-April. I suggested he ask his grandparents for one, who happily obliged. TWO MONTHS EARLY! Why? Because he asked begged for it.

I know they meant well and it also enabled my son to start riding to school with his brother, which is great. However what happens now when his birthday comes around? How do you top that? And what about that sense of anticipation for that coveted shiny new bike? The bike will have well and truly lost it’s shine by then!

Interestingly, there are more benefits to anticipation that simply teaching our kids about delayed gratification.

Anticipation has actually been proven to enhance positive feelings and reduce stress. In fact, research has show that anticipation of future positive events results in more positive emotion than past positive events.

Put simply – thinking about their future birthday will make a child happier than thinking about an awesome birthday in the past.

The fact that anticipation can reduce stress is a huge draw card. It’s also been shown to improve coping and recovery from stress. So with our busy lives, it’s always good to have something to look forward to!

I, for one, will definitely be working on building more anticipation into my kids’ lives. Holding off on the treats until a ‘special’ occasion, making plans for exciting outings way in advance and doing countdowns for holidays are all easy ways to do this.

Even talking up plans for the weekend, Friday movie night or a yummy dinner mid-week dinner are easy ways to build anticipation and elicit those positive feelings in your kids.

By giving them something to look forward to, not only will you be teaching them the benefits of delayed gratification, you will be helping arm them to cope with any stress at the same time. Win-Win!

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About Author

Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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