Although we now have many tools in our society that make life easier, or even more enjoyable, it is essential that we pay attention in order to ensure that these tools don’t take away the learning of or the important skills taught by delaying instant gratification.
Delayed gratification means waiting for what you want. This can be a tough lesson for our children. Whether it is the toy at the grocery store, the chocolate bar in the pantry, or the stuffed animal on the shelf at the toy store, having to wait to receive a desire is an important skill to develop. Delayed gratification contributes to teaching children patience, striving to achieve a goal,and learning how to control their emotions.
I am sure we have all been at the grocery store with our children when they point out the snack or the toy that they just ‘must’ have. How do we navigate this to avoid having to buy something on each trip to the grocery store? The first step is to be proactive. Have a chat with your kids about needs and wants at home. Explain that there is nothing wrong with ‘wants’, but outline ways in which they can get their ‘wants.’ Perhaps it is by choosing items for a Christmas list, a birthday list, or for the money in their piggy banks. We live in a consumer world that gives the appearance that everything we want is right at our finger tips and it’s important that we help our children navigate this ‘Now! Now! Now! Culture.’
When we value and believe in instant gratification we risk proving to our children that their success should also be instant. If they do not achieve success instantly, and have to be patient and work hard at a desire or to achieve a want, they can then begin to think that they are not good at it. We risk teaching that if they are not good at something, or if it isn’t moving fast enough for them, that they should move on. What we want to ensure is that we are helping them understand that often earning occurs as a result of hard work.
Not getting what a child wants or failures can be tough on a child. It is helpful to encourage your children to see failures as road signs to where they need to go. Adversity and scarcity, although they may not feel too great, breed character, creativity and resourcefulness. The ability to persevere through disappointment helps them to develop ‘grit.’ Children who are more ‘gritty’ have an easier time navigating the long game vs. the short game in the future. They have a stronger ability to persevere and they tend to be able to go deeperfor their intrinsic motivation to help them through the challenges that they face.
We all want the best for our children. We want to expose them to as much as we can and want them to be as happy as they can be. Raising a child in the 21st century has many perks. Our children get exposed to so much and so early in life. As parents, it’s up to us to decide on times of instant gratification and on times of delayed gratification. By being intentional about these decisions and putting thought into judgement calls to help our children navigate their needs and their wants, we help them to develop the tools to become more satisfied adults that can live and thrive in our ever changing society.
This article can be found in the Spring 2017 issue of the TCI Parent Magazine.