“Mama, why do I sweat?”
“Pappa, can you tell me a story?”
The next time they have a doubt, they’ll directly just… Google it, without even bothering to ask.
Children today are used to getting things done in an instant. Heavily relying on their smartphones or the internet for even the most menial of tasks, they look for the easiest ways to do things. There’s nothing wrong with doing things the easy way, but is it smart?
Let’s talk about something called The Marshmallow Theory.
Back in 1972, a professor at Stanford University conducted an experiment on children known as the famous “Marshmallow Experiment“. In this, a child was made to sit in front of a marshmallow which he shouldn’t eat for 15 minutes, and if he successfully controlled his urges to eat it, he would be rewarded with one more marshmallow.
This experiment tested a child’s patience and their urge for instant gratification. As expected, a few children ate the marshmallow as soon as they were left alone. Some others waited around for a few minutes and then gave in. Yet, some of the kids waited the entire 15 minutes so that they got the second marshmallow. The kids in this last group mostly found ways to distract themselves when they were left alone. They talked to themselves, sang, played around with their legs. One of them even managed to go to sleep.
An interesting experiment, isn’t it? Well, it’s about to get better. Years later, researchers followed up on this same set of kids. The coolest part? Kids in the last group that waited for the second marshmallow were found to have higher scores in exams, better social skills, better health and in general, did better in life.
Thus, delayed gratification has been proven to be effective. As parents, here are some things you could do to imbibe in your kids, a love for delayed gratification.
1. Develop Kids’ Growth Mindset
Keeping in mind that it is easy to leave an impression on them, remind them frequently that their brains grow with them. Nurturing it by feeding it information and continuously honing it by picking up new skills ensures that the brain keeps growing.
This is the growth mindset. Being patient and consistent is key to developing it. This lays the foundation for overcoming instant gratification.
2. Talk About the importance of being Gritty
Every time a child is faced with a problem, they resort to furiously typing away on their phones until they find a solution, which happens in less than a few minutes.
What’s wrong with this approach? They miss out on reading articles and books, researching theories and forming an opinion by themselves. To circumvent this, propose discussions on random topics without involving the internet. Make it fun by validating their opinions and thereby, motivating them to have more such discussions.
In this way, they are actively involved in sharing and building their own database of knowledge, rather than skipping the entire process to arrive at the answer. Learning to overcome instant gratification makes your children grittier and in the long run, this helps them a lot more than wisdom gained over the internet.
3. Practice makes perfect, even today.
Online courses have become synonymous with education and upskilling, while the concept of self-study has faded away. Children should be made aware of this. To make it more effective, they need to involve all 5 of their senses in learning. This is called experiential learning. They should be encouraged to take it up by playing out in the open and by unleashing their innate curiosity.
Through consistent practice, this becomes an effortless task and they start to apply the power of their 5 senses in everything they do. This makes them smarter and boosts their self-confidence while facing problems.
4. Unnecessary Appreciation spoils kids.
Getting quick positive results makes children susceptible to instant gratification. This is further fueled when parents compliment their kids for every little thing they do. Moreover, it makes them fish for compliments every time and leaves them in confusion when they aren’t complimented.
Instead, praise the little details in the task. Appreciating and pointing out the effort that they put into something makes them understand where they need to focus to excel at performing something.
5. It’s okay to fail.
Today’s cutthroat competition has led us to believe that failure is unacceptable. A small setback leads to mental stress and depression in children.
Parents should show them, through personal stories and actions, that it is completely okay to fail. Making them understand that getting back up is what’s important gives them the confidence they need to take on challenging tasks.
6. Learning to take it step-by-step.
We have all noticed how Google quotes the rarest of diseases when you enter symptoms like a running nose. Children today are no different. They skip over to the end results.
To learn about the importance of sticking to the process rather than simply arriving at the solution, parents can reward the kids for achieving milestones in a task. This ensures that they stick to the process while realising by themselves that the journey is more important than the destination.
In today’s fast-paced world, avoiding instant gratification and settling for slower but more foundationally stronger growth may make your child feel like they are lagging behind at first but with time, they will go farther.