Delayed gratification simply means that pleasure, satisfaction or enjoyment is anticipated.
We wait for it.
Sometimes we choose to wait. For example: I’m going to load my dishwasher, wipe the counters, sweep the floor and THEN sit down with a hot cup of coffee and some serious Pinterest. Or a glass of wine and an episode of Foyle’s War. Or whatever you define as recreation.
Sometimes delayed gratification is inherent in the choices we make. For example: Pregnancy.
Sometimes waiting is imposed upon us. For example: You custom order a new sports car. It is due to arrive today and in the parking lot of the car dealership, someone steals your new car. And you have to wait to get your new new car. Or you have to wait until they find the person who stole your car and make him or her give it back.
In any case, delayed gratification is an opportunity for growth. We know that it’s a good thing not to get everything you want the second you want it. Delayed gratification develops patience. We want our children to be patient. Especially when they aren’t.
There exists, however, some Deep Irony about delayed gratification. We want our kids to behave RIGHT NOW. We do not want to wait for them to behave better some other time, like when they’re older. Our intense desire to want them to behave causes us to demand a level of conduct from them that they may not be able to attain at this moment.
The person we want them to become is incompatible with the person we see standing or flailing on the floor or throwing things before us. And that usually affects our own conduct. And we are usually seeking to be instantly gratified in our desire to make them STOP. Stop…STOP…STOP IT. Stopitstopitstopitstopit.
Raising children can and should be the ultimate challenge of delayed gratification. Raising children will be easier if we can remember daily that raising children will NOT EVER BE instantly gratifying. At all. Not even a little bit instant.
Children are not born being the people that they will become. We have to socialize them. We have to teach them. We have to set the standard and model what we want from them. And we have to respect the process. And we have to be kind. Because when we are kind we are choosing to practice the delayed gratification of teaching another to be kind. Even when they don’t deserve it. Even when we don’t feel like it. Especially when we don’t feel like it.
And the delay (process, season, anticipation) is long.
And the gratification (pleasure, satisfaction, enjoyment) will be astonishing.