This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

How Can You Help Children Appreciate Delayed Gratification?

Where's the excitement?

What does this have to do with my kids? For years I have watched my own elementary-age children receive birthday and Christmas presents, waiting for the moment when I see the excitement in their eyes that I felt when I got that long-awaited bike. But it hasn't happened.

It's not that they haven't scored some great gifts. They have received most of the items on their lists without fail. In fact, I suspect the problem may be that they have gotten too many great presents.

Like me, my wife grew up envying friends who got everything they wanted. So when we had our children, she wanted to give them all of the things we saw our rich childhood friends receive. We've done our best to get them nearly everything they've ever put on a wish list, hoping we'll witness the elation we would have felt in getting that kind of stuff at their age.

No such luck. Sure, they'll usually crack a fleeting smile upon opening a present - but then it's calmly on to the next gift. Often they won't even ask to open some of the toys they received when the party is over. The pleasure centers in their brains appear to be overloaded by getting all of this stuff, and now, like the longtime addict who needs epic amounts of opiates to feel the slightest high, they're hardly swayed by routine offerings.

Thankfully, this hasn't resulted in spoiled attitudes on the kids' part. They always kindly thank the gift-givers and I think they understand that they have it pretty sweet in the material-goods department. But because they have never felt the sting of prolonged want, it doesn't seem that they can feel the highs associated with getting a long-awaited gift.

(Note: So no one misunderstands, we've not endangered our financial standing by purchasing any of these gifts. My family remains part of the working class, so our presents consist mainly of reasonably priced dolls and scooters - as opposed to ponies and private concerts by teen pop stars.)

So lately I have taken a stand: Let's not buy the frivolous gifts they won't remember. Let's not indulge the requests they make on a whim. Let's stop giving them the instant gratification I suspect has hurt their capacity to appreciate a delayed reward.

Trouble is, it may be too late. Scientists say that much of the brain's structure is formed by age 5, which may mean that my kids will forever be unimpressed by new BMX bikes and the like. Still, that won't stop me from trying to help them achieve at least some of the excitement I got on Christmas morning in 1987.

2 of 3

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,804.71 -238.19 -1.40%
S&P 500 1,946.16 -26.13 -1.32%
NASDAQ 4,422.0850 -71.3050 -1.59%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs