The advances in today’s world have certainly improved many things. Innovation has far outpaced any other generation, but these fast and frequent changes come at a price. What are all the available technology and on-demand services really teaching our children? Even those in their 30s will tell you that just two decades ago, instant gratification was still just a dream. Today, kids have unlimited information, entertainment, and technology at their fingertips nearly 24 hours a day. This might sound like a good thing, but all this access can create negative habits and attitudes, including a lack of patience.
The Cost of Instant Gratification
Impatient children can be bothersome, but impatient adults can struggle with basic things like managing money, choosing occupations, and discipline. Children who are not taught patience, according to studies, have a higher likelihood of getting into debt, being overweight, or binging and spending excessively on alcohol and tobacco products.
Patience goes hand in hand with future thinking and seeing the big picture. If we let our children run amok in the world of instant gratification, they may not be inclined to think ahead when making important decisions. This could result in lower earnings and less career success. In fact, research has shown that impatient children are more likely to grow up and become unemployed adults or seek public assistance than children who are taught (and practice) patience.
Are We Raising Criminals?
Economic theory tells us that individuals make decisions about committing crimes based on what immediate benefits they gain versus the potential risk of punishment. Those who were not taught patience as children will be more likely to consider the immediate reward greater than the risk of getting caught. What’s more is that since impatient children focus on the “now”, many of these criminals are far less likely to even think about getting caught. If they do, it certainly won’t deter most of them. Again, their focus is on the instant reward, which will almost always be worth the risk for these impulsive-minded people.
This isn’t to say that all impatient children will grow up to become criminals. It’s simply an exploration into the correlation between the two elements, and it provides insight as to how the criminal mind develops. In addition, it can provide supporting evidence for the value of patience, despite the growing availability of on-demand services, goods, and personal gratification.
Patience Teaches More Than the Ability to Wait
When it’s done right, teaching patience also teaches children a lot of other valuable personal habits and behaviors. They learn to appreciate waiting, and to enjoy working towards goals. They also tend to be better decision makers as adults because they allow themselves the time to think about their options and make an informed choice.
Patience also teaches resiliency-- a trait that our children need now more than ever. With all of the turmoil in politics and the economy, today’s world can be tough despite all of its advancements. If you want to raise children who become strong adults that can handle whatever life throws at them, patience needs to be on your list of life lessons.
Persistence, determination, and sacrifice are important values for a well-rounded and successful adult life. Even if someone isn’t seeking financial success, it can be hard to be successful at anything without patience. Earning a living takes a lot of hard work and determination. Don’t forget about relationships, either. They require an immense amount of patience and commitment.
Patience teaches kids to value themselves, others, and their time. It teaches them to have empathy for others and appreciate people and things. It helps children learn healthy boundaries and develop an understanding that their immediate wants and needs might encroach on others, and gives them the tools to handle those situations. There are so many valuable lessons and personality traits that come with teaching kids how to wait, and quite frankly, their futures depend on it.
Perpetual Impatience is Already Reality
For today’s young adults, it isn’t enough to have a 24-hour store in town that has almost everything. With companies like Amazon and Walmart competing with same-day delivery services (and making a killing on the convenience fees), people expect to be able to get what they need right now. Fast food restaurants are implementing self-serve kiosks and vending machines, just in case the typical five-minute wait is too long. Theme parks are making millions selling “fast passes” that give guests front-of-the-line access for a fee.
When will it stop?
Probably never. In fact, instant gratification efforts will likely only continue to grow across all industries, because it’s good for business. A recent study showed that many people couldn’t even wait longer than TWO SECONDS for a video to load. What’s going to happen when they have to wait five years to earn their promotion at work? Or when they have to sit through a two-hour conference for training? Forget the fact that companies are making millions off of this demand for instant gratification. If we don’t get back to teaching patience, we’re setting our children up for failure in all areas of their lives.
The Bottom Line
Most parents and educators already understand the value of patience, even if only in the short term. Children who are taught patience are less likely to act out or get in fights. They also tend to do better in school, and go on to seek out college degrees or more challenging careers where they have to work hard and earn their way.
Sometimes, the adults are the ones who could serve to lead by example. While trying to instill patience in our children, we are yelling at the slow driver in front of us, sighing in an exasperated fashion when the WiFi is running slow, and cursing Amazon when an item isn’t available for two-day shipping. Before we start talking to kids about patience, perhaps we could stand to work on it a little for ourselves. After all, the best way to teach children anything is to be the example that they need to see.