Last December, I worked as a Father Christmas; an opportunity to meet many delightful children – and a few not quite so delightful.
After a little chat about how good, or not, they had been in the preceding twelve months, I would give them a present. In order to minimise the amount of wrapping-paper being strewn around the premises, I would tell them, “This is not a Christmas present, it is a pre-Christmas present. That means you can open it as soon as you get home. Isn’t that great?” Most of the time, it worked very well.
Just occasionally, something surprising would happen. A child would say words to the effect of, “I won’t open it when I get home – I’ll wait until Christmas Day>”
I expect you are familiar with the term ‘delayed gratification’. This is the concept of waiting for a treat or, as I discovered from checking for a definition:
Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification, is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. A growing body of literature has linked the ability to delay gratification to a host of positive outcomes, including academic success, physical health, psychological health, and social competence.
So these few children who were able, voluntarily, to delay their own gratification would seem to have bright futures ahead of them! And I wonder whether we should be encouraging our children and grandchildren to practice delaying gratification and to thus benefit from the potential positive outcomes.
We live in a world where we demand everything now; we expect to push a button or make a call and have our every whim attended to. Perhaps it is time to indulge in a little ‘not now, in a while” instead.