Ideas for Helping Your Child Invest in Their Future Self


For children, as with adults, life is a series of choices. Do I clean my room now or keep playing this fun video game? Do I eat this chocolate cake now or keep working on losing those 10 pounds? Finding a balance between enjoying your now self and investing in your future self can be a constant challenge. 

It takes strong willpower to say no to ten more minutes of texting friends or playing instead of going to bed. It also takes willpower to say no to ten more minutes of sleep when you are still tired and don’t want to get up for school (or work). This is because immediate gratification has a serious edge over some possible vague reward that may, or may not, show up in the future, and only if you work for it. In other words, when working from our evolutionary default setting, now will beat later every time! 

You can read the Original Article here. Below are some great ideas for helping your children invest in their future self.

  • Keep Now Temptations Out of Sight/Out of Reach: Studies have shown that keeping an immediate reward out of visual sight, or not easily available, can help children (and adults) make better future self choices. Look up the famous Marshmallow Test video and watch it with your child, noticing the different strategies children used to resist the marshmallow, including putting the confection out of visual sight. 

  • Break It Down: Big future goals happen one step at a time. So does cleaning your room. Break up those tasks into smaller accomplishments to move your self forward. Put away that pile of clothes. Read five pages. Then invite yourself to work on another pile or a few more pages. 

  • Spot Present-Future Self Themes: In books, shows, and movies, notice how a character is treating his or her future self. One story that can bring this dilemma to light is the story of Sinbad. While having to pass through a narrow strait, Sinbad and his crew must not be lured to the dangerous rocky shores by the songs of the Sirens. So he orders all his men to stuff their ears with wax so that they will keep rowing past, and to tie Sinbad to the mast so that when he hears the song he cannot steer the ship aground. Though you might want to mention that the men may have been wiser still by not tempting fate at all.

  • See the Future Reward: Focus on the reward they have waiting for them when they invest in their future self. I know this is not what you want to be doing right now, but do you think you will be happy when you get a better grade on that test because you studied?

  • Lead with the Future Reward: Science has shown that we are more motivated to avoid loss, so you could frame the future reward as something that is theirs to lose: I’m thinking that you’ll be bummed if you don’t do well on that test tomorrow because you didn’t study today. Or ask: What will be the consequences of not studying? 

  • Connect the Dots: Research shows that often people believe their future self will have less stress, more time-energy-willpower or just be better at making smart choices. That is because contemplating our future self does not include the actual feeling states of reward seeking, inertia, or anxiety. Have discussions to help your child connect the dots by asking them to remember that the rationale for indulging now and being better in the future (or being resistant to better choices now because they will be better later) will be the same rationale or resistance their future self will experience when they circle back to take on that task they are trying to avoid. And unfortunately, the loss of time from not doing the task sooner, will actually add even more stress in the future.

  • Befriend your future self: Compare your future self to a good friend. When you care about your future self like a friend, you want your friend to be happy. There has to be a give and take in a good friendship. You don’t put all the hard stuff on your friend while you have all the fun.

  • Meet your future self: Create a future memory. The more vivid the future feels the more your present self acts to support your future self. Talk about, or write to your future self. What are your hopes for your future you? What will you be like? Looking back on your present self, what will your future self thank you for if you were able to commit to it today?

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Posted on September 1, 2019 and filed under Children, Education, Guest Blogger, Issue 73, Parenting.