Mom Lessons: Delayed Gratification…A Lost Art?

I began this post some months ago…and it is coming soon.  Have patience dear readers…I promise it is coming.

Okay, on March 20 I began and here I am on July 4th finishing up! If that ain’t delayed gratification I don’t know what is. Perhaps I can share the reason it took me so long, as I often say, not as an excuse, but merely as an explanation.  It is difficult to approach some topics (modesty, promiscuity, moderation) without sounding like a fuddy duddy, square, school marm.  But after much thought I realized that telling folks that delaying gratification is often a good thing to do is not going to be popular on any level. So I said to myself, “Self, grab that chocolate bar and get to writing!”  Seriously, I have no chocolate bar in hand but now you know my weakness.  In my recent career switch into the world of nursing, I noticed that there were many warnings about work place drug abuse. As I count and enter the narcotics, it never occurs to me to be tempted to abuse these drugs…but I often am glad that the med dispense unit does not contain my drug of choice, chocolate,  or I am sure the pharmacy would be tracking me down.

Stay Calm

But I digress….delayed gratification truly is a lost art. And who is it that tells us that we need to have what we want NOW? Advertisers, who stand to make money via the gratification of our desires.  But they cannot take all the blame. No, long before we are watching TV we can be a rather demanding lot.  And who might be the ones to put a curb on the gratification monster? Why good old mom and dad of course.  Mom is mostly at bat as she is often the primary care giver (but not always). So what does this look like?

Imagine an everyday scene in a home with a baby. The baby is fussing and wanting something. Maybe they are even old enough to be asking for it, in their own little language (one that mom and dad probably understand).  So what do you do? This is such a simple little tip that most readers will probably send me a big DUH in the comments section. However sometimes we parents respond before we have time to think.  I beg you, resist the urge to yell, “I’m coming, I’m coming!” in a voice that confirms the little one’s take that the woobie, i-cream, poon, or whatever must be in their hot little hands immediately or heads will roll. Trust me, this will take some practice and some resisting of natural urges, but calmly walk, don’t run, and say in a normal voice, “Did you need your spoon? Here you go.”  Be matter of fact, even if you feel stressed inside. Your baby learns about the big wide world from you, and if you present a demeanor that says “all is well” they pick up on that. Babies are not impervious to your tone, your language, and your general way of acting. Like little sponges they are absorbing cues and notions about how things should be.  So that is a small but good beginning on delaying gratification. But what else?

Learning to Wait

So you have decided not to run in a panic at each little utterance of things gone missing. Great! Now let’s move on to learning how to wait.  Waiting is out of fashion. Maybe that is because we used to have to do a lot more of it back in the day (I am allowed to use this expression because I am not a twenty something).  We had to wait for our parents to pick us up without cell phones, we waited for buses, again without cell phones, and we waited for Christmas or our birthday to get a gift or go out to dinner. These days we may still have to wait at times. When our computers run slow, we grouse and our stomachs may churn. My favorite is the sigh I get when getting off an elevator by the college kid waiting to get on. I always want to give them a short mini-lecture about the laws of physics or etiquette (their choice) in a Sheldon Cooper style. Of course I say nothing, but I want to ask “Did my use of the elevator upset you in some way dearie?”

The thing is, waiting is a part of life and waiting for something you want often adds to the joy of actually receiving it.  Saving up for a car or an outfit or a vacation is still necessary. Throwing down the plastic may get you your stuff quicker but there is often a price to pay, especially if you do not have any actual money.  Parents, even if you have money to burn, I beg you, resist the urge to buy things your kid wants just because he wants them and to buy them RIGHT NOW!  They will not truly appreciate the value of something if it is always instantly given to them.

I know a lot of kids so don’t assume I am talking about yours. This one group of kids does not get a lot of stuff that they want. Oh they are well fed, and taken care of in the necessity dept. but in this family wants and needs are not one and the same. And they do get some of their wants, so please do not overreact and call DFACS. However what I notice about this group of kids is that they are delighted when they do get something and so appreciative. It is sweet to see it. I know another group of kids who get everything they wish for, and once one of them asked me to buy him/her something when we were out at a mall.  I was taken aback, but said to them in my most friendly but no way voice, ” I don’t ever buy kids things when they ask me to.”  The thing is, even if I did buy something for them, I knew it would not be appreciated–this group was bored!  Getting everything you want when you want it does not end up helping one cope with life.

The same goes for waiting for someone or for something to happen. It is sometimes necessary to wait, and to do so without raising one’s pulse and blood pressure.  I did some research on the physiological aspects of impatience and not surprisingly, found that it has an impact on one’s health. See this article if you like reading scholarly journals, (or if you are too impatient, just take my word for it.) Learning how to wait without whining, fussing, complaining, or having a hand-held device still seems to be a good life skill.

One of my favorite movies Captains Courageous” is a great story of the un-spoiling if you will of a spoiled rich kid played by Freddie Bartholomew, by the rough and tough but kind captain played masterfully by Spencer Tracy. Though made in 1937 it is a primer on how to bring about change in someone who is used to getting his way most of the time.

On the other hand some parents seem to think it is ok to exasperate their children by making them wait all the time for everything, and this is not at all my suggestion.  Somewhere between waiting all the time and never waiting is the perfect balance.  And now I must away–I have guests waiting (after all it is the 4th of July.)

About allthingslizard

I have done just about everything I have always wanted to do: worked as a campus minister, became a teacher, married a nice man named Joe (36 years now), adopted three wonderful kids and watched them reach adulthood, lived overseas, earned my Ph.D., and recently became an RN. However the only thing I have not yet done is to write about my life's journey, even though I have written a lot of personal poems, mom notes to my kids, academic papers, and thousands of letters. I have a lot to write about because all those things I have done were accomplished on smooth roads with beautiful vistas, as well as on scary, twisted, hurricane alleys. Maybe you will find something here that you can relate to. And yes, I know that a preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with.
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