How teaching your children about delayed gratification can help them later in life

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A preteen counting his money with his grandmother.
A preteen counting his money with his grandmother.
GALLO IMAGES: Beau Lark/Corbis

Your teenager just got their first paycheck and blew it all on food, the latest sneakers or clothes. 

You wanted them to find a job so they could learn some financial lessons before they become adults, but instead, they seem to be making more mistakes along the way.

It's normal, experts says. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn a lesson and now, when they are young, is the perfect time to learn - as long as the mistakes aren't too serious.

Counselling psychologist Dr Joshua Ndlela says instant gratification has a huge role to play in that.

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“Many young people want what they want when they want and often do not want delayed gratification which requires the ability to wait. It's like if a person wants to lose weight, they need to ignore and stay away from certain types of food and have self-control so they do no delay their weight-loss journey.

“The same principle applies here too because in life sometimes you have to forego the thing you want now, for the better thing you can get later. There are many things that one can enjoy instantly, but they can derail their plans,” he says.

Dr Ndlela adds that sometimes people do not want the delay because they are not looking at the bigger picture.

“It helps when parents take the things their children want and turn into rewards. So instead of saying ‘no you cannot get a PS4’, rather say ‘if you get certain marks at the end of the year you can get the PS4’. In that way, it is a win-win situation for both parties.”

He says parents should also influence the way their children think, to avoid the “you only live once” mentality.

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“If parents can get their children to enjoy delayed gratification it will help them learn that just because you cannot have something immediately, does not mean you can never have it, just wait for the right time. That way the children do not feel starved of nice things,” he adds.

Clinical psychologist Zintle Nobangule says proper planning helps people spend their money better.

“This is not only a challenge that is faced by teens, but adults. When you do not plan properly for your money, it seems like a lot of money when it comes to your account. But it is always better to have a plan or a budget so that when it comes in, you can use it for the allocated things. Then you can do the fun things like going out with friends or takeaways because the things that are your responsibilities are taken care of.” 

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