Your Clever Toddler in Week 90: Beginning to Delay Gratification
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 90
When your child was an infant, you instantly accommodated her every need. When she was hungry, you fed her immediately. When she needed a cuddle, you were right there to caress and rock her. When she was eager to socialize, you indulged your baby with smiles, coos, and your best form of “parentese.”
At that early stage of parenthood, you knew all about the myth of spoiling Baby with your attentiveness. But now that your child is nearing the end of her second year, it’s OK to expect her to wait for the appropriate time and place to engage in certain activities. Developmentally, she has the capacity to hold out for your attention. Here’s what we know.
What the Research Shows
- In the first setting, researchers demonstrated how an unusual telephone worked, and instructed each child to refrain from touching the phone until he returned to the room.
- In the next experiment, the researcher hid a raisin under a cup and told the children, “Wait until I tell you to you find the raisin.”
- In the last situation, the experimenter produced a brightly wrapped package and said, “Look what I have found! It’s a present, and it’s for you. I wonder what it could be?” Then he explained that the child’s mother needed to complete some paperwork before she could open the package. The researcher presented a tray of toys for the child to play with in the meantime.
In each trial, the toddlers were only expected to wait two and a half minutes before touching the phone, finding and eating the raisin, or opening the present. Some, of course, couldn’t wait that long.
What’s it all mean? The results suggest that children in the mid- to late-toddlerhood age range show at least modest ability to delay gratification: Researchers found that their abilities to wait not only increased with age but also related to higher-level cognitive and language abilities. That is, older children with developmentally normal thinking and speaking skills had a greater ability to delay their own gratification than younger, less skilled children.
Week 90 Brain Booster
While it takes maturity to gracefully wait for what we want, it’s important for parents to know that children who can manage to delay their gratification have better long-term outcomes—so this is certainly a skill to encourage. In your everyday interactions with your toddler, don’t feel that you need to attend to your child’s wants and needs immediately. You can say, “I’ll get you an apple in one minute, once I’m finished writing this email.” Just be sure that in one minute you proceed as promised. When going to the park, say, “We’re leaving in five minutes, I’ll set the timer.” When your child cries for a new toy, say, “I know that you really want that truck right now. I’m not buying it today. Maybe Grandma will give it to you for your birthday.”
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