Discipline is Not Instant Gratification

Discipline takes time. When you are correcting your child and trying to change behaviors, remember change takes time. Be patient through the process.

Child walking down the railroad tracks as parent watch

My favorite point in Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Leman is also the first great point of the book. Leman says that in parenting, we often desire and even expect instant gratification–we want the issues fixed immediately. He points out that parenthood is not a short-term investment, it is a long-term loan (page 14).


This point rang very true to me. I personally believe our modern society is far too accustomed to instant gratification in life. We have microwaves that can produce dinner in minutes. Often that simple task requires too much effort, so we turn to fast food restaurants. Even many sit-down restaurants have dinner out to you in minutes.

We have the Internet and 24 hour news channels. It doesn’t take much effort to find information. We have cell phones so we can get ahold of people anytime, anywhere. It is common custom for people to call someone at their home, and if they get the answering machine, they immediately dial the cell phone. If that isn’t answered, frustration follows.

Up until recently, loans and credit cards were far too easy to attain. We want what we want when we want it. We do not want to have to save up for things.

When my husband graduated from college, we noticed a common trend with people our age. They wanted to have things as nice as their parents do at the moment. People our age generally grew up during very prosperous economic times. By the time we left home, our parents had nice homes, nice cars, and nice furniture.

We wanted the same luxuries we had left! We didn’t want to start out with hand-me-down furniture and old clunker cars. My husband and I thought through what our parents had gone through to get where they were. They lived many years quite poor. They drove old cars. The lived in small apartments and homes. They saved their money up to buy nice things. They started earning larger salaries after working with the same company for over twenty years. They worked hard to have the nice things they had when we left home. We understood that we would have to do the same.

Discipline is a Slow Process

All of this is to point out that we live in a society that is accustomed to instant gratification, and we naturally want the same results when it comes to parenting. If our child is not behaving, we want to know what we need to do to fix it. It needs to be a simple fix requiring minimal effort on our part, and we had better see the results instantly!

Discipline results are not instant.

As I have thought this through, I have realized that this applies to all parenting concerns. If baby isn’t napping well, we want to know what to do and we want it fixed the first time we change things. Most parenting advice authors stress the need to give a certain fix several days before assuming it is not the answer, yet we won’t give something several naps, much less several days.

My feeling is that in general, Babywise parents are more willing to put time and effort into their parenting. We have had to work hard to get to the toddler years, and we know that hard work is necessary and that it pays off.

We still can fall into the trap of desiring instant gratification, though. We want instant nap fixes and instant behavior problem fixes.

Discipline 101: The basics of correcting children

When it comes to discipline, time and consistency are always key! The first day you start a new policy on behavior issues, don’t expect things to zip on up to where you want them to be. It will take time and consistency to have your child behaving as well as he can.

You might start enforcing “Yes Mommy” today with your little toddler. But he isn’t going to immediately respond with his “Yes, Mommy” every time. He isn’t going to be super pleased about it, either. After time and consistency, you will start to see the benefits from the work you have put in.

When you think about it, the best things in life are the things that require time and effort. The best food is food that is freshly made. A home-cooked meal tastes better and is more nutritious for you than a meal from McDonald’s (sorry McDonald’s, it is true).

You will enjoy wearing a shirt that is paid for better than one that is costing you 10% in interest each month. You appreciate the couch you spend 6 months saving for more than the one you bought on a whim and on credit.

Training your children follows the same principle. Time, consistency, and effort pay off rich rewards. In the years to come, you will be happier if you treat parenthood as an investment rather than a loan.

Remember, parenting is not instant gratification. 

Discipline Results are not Instant pinnable image

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9 thoughts on “Discipline is Not Instant Gratification”

  1. AMEN! I could go on and on about the first-time homebuyers I see on HGTV that are looking for beautiful 4 bedroom homes (for 2 people) in nice neighborhoods that look just like their parents house and are disappointed when their $150,000 budget can't buy them that. The instant gratification cultural norm is a pet peeve of mine :)But I will fully admit that I find myself falling into this trap with parenting. For me it often helps to either talk with my mother-in-law or some of the women on the babycenter.com Babywise board to keep my expectations in line. I tell people all the time when they complain about their 9 week old not sttn to "be patient" but I still need someone to remind me sometimes too. Thankfully Babywise parents tend to be more able to recognize the need for patience and consistency over time to reach goals. The entire first 2-4 months of your child's life are all for the goal of good sleep habtis. Babywise II recommends starting sign language at 5 months, even though most babies don't sign back until around 10 months. But when you're at a party rather than scream and kick against you, your child happily signs that strange mixed up baby sign of "down please" and you calmly set him down it's a great feeling. It's like "oh, this is what I was working so hard for, this moment is my reward".

  2. I love Dr. Leman's books, and this one is definitely on my to-read list! Glad to hear the book is worth the read.

  3. Would Dr. Leman's book apply to a 16 month old? What are good books regarding discipline for the age?My daughter will be 16 months next week and is starting to really test boundaries and throw fits when she does not get her way. She is also starting to hit and throw things when she gets frustrated or angry. Yikes!I am getting weary, I will admit. It seems that she doesn't "get" the correction. Often, she will laugh.Thanks, all!

  4. Thanks! I needed to hear this. After putting my boys (10 month old twins) in their cribs about 20 times each today for touching things they shouldn't, I was beginning to think if it was worth it. I'll just keep taking deep relaxing breaths and telling myself it will be worth it.

  5. Manda, I have to remind myself of it too 🙂 I agree that most BW parents recognize (or soon learn) the need for hard work. They see that the work pays off. It takes faith 🙂 Excellent points.

  6. Jessica, Check out One Becoming Pretoddlerwise and On Becoming Toddlerwise. I think you could get some good theory from this book, but it isn't going to be one of the most helpful books for a child that age. Something you might enjoy is Parenting With Love and Logic. There is a book review on it on this blog. There are also nearly 60 posts on this blog about discipline 🙂 good luck!

  7. It is worth it Kristi 🙂 There is a good chapter in On Becoming Pretoddlerwise that talks about this same concept. You would probably enjoy it.


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