"Yes," I responded, "at least."
"I don't like this," she pouted. "Why does it take so long? I wish we could get the money faster. This is boring."
Hugging my daughter, I assured her, “Don’t worry, it’ll come. You just have to be patient. Most things that are good and important don’t come instantly.”
“But, Mom,” she countered. “I need spending money now.”
As she left the room I wondered about the signals we send our children. Instant gratification commercials abound. Do it today! Get it now. Put it on credit. We see it on TV, hear it on the radio, read it in the mail and across billboards that clutter our highways. Even money services are advertised offering money “now” for whatever it is a person wants to buy.
The messages are implying everything is easy and what we want most in life is right there ready for us to take. All we have to do is reach out and grab it. Young couples often begin their married lives deep in debt because they believe they should have “today” what their parents spent the last thirty years obtaining. They buy a new car, new house and furniture, nice clothes and eat out often. It doesn’t occur to them that these “things” are best acquired over time, with patience, as they can afford it without going into horrible debt.
Credit cards make “instant gratification” very appealing. Most are extremely easy to get and offer varied credit limits. Once you have the credit card in hand, it’s easy to forget that unless you pay off the amount spent, at the end of the month, there is going to be a monumental interest rate applied to the balance. Often spending habits go well beyond the capability of being able to pay off the bill when it arrives. The solution to this is turning to another credit card. Many families have three or more cards at once. When one is “maxed out,” charging begins on another.
Our society has taught our children, status is measured in the amount of wealth displayed, making the need for instant gratification an even greater desire; which starts when children begin elementary school. They immediately begin a “competition” with their peers, trying to meet the standards with the right kinds of shoes, coats, book bags, jeans and even hair styles! Anything less causes even small children much distress and anxiety.
This desire is fueled each school year. As they grow into teens and meet others their age, they shop, party and dream together. The desire for the best things “right now” grows. It seems “unnatural” for them not to have all these things at the time they want them.
What seems saddest is, as parents, we’ve have done our best to see our children had more than we did. In doing this, we have inadvertently, watered the seed of “instant gratification,” causing it to grow. We wanted them to fit in and be “equal” with their friends.
How do we teach the young person the value of patience and work? When will he learn that life isn’t “instant gratification” but rather a process of small accumulations that eventually seem large over a space of years, perhaps even a lifetime? It takes work, effort, and dedication to goals. It requires waiting and growing. It isn’t necessary to see the results of everything they want now, just as my daughter couldn't expect to see immediate cash from her refund. It may be time, or long past time, we teach our children the value of patience and working for the “things” they desire.