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Private and For Parents Only: Stop Delaying Your Gratification Today

The July 4thHoliday “oohs and aahs” got delayed this year due some inclement weather, and it reminded me that some times delayed gratification is not as sweet as being in the moment and savoring the emotions that are sparked by good vibes from years past.

Let me clarify. This goes for the parents and not the kids. Research shows that delayed gratification has many benefits, including: teaching impulse control, increased gratitude in life, teaching the benefit of hard work and more. For these very reasons, my husband and I have spoken to the kids and preached the importance of delaying the “I want it now syndrome. “

As a parent, you know those are some the tough lessons in life. When a child is little, he might have a tantrum if he does not get what he wants right then. When he hits the elementary school years, it might be that he has earned the $10 to buy a toy, but has not saved enough to pay the tax and therefore can’t “afford” it yet. In high school years, she might complain that her friends have this or that, but you, as a parent, have decided your child will not do X until she is a certain age. In college and beyond, it may be that she wants to buy a new pair of shoes, but she now has to pay for gas, rent and utilities (yes, child, almost adult, you have to pay the city for clean water and electricity – it does not come free!).

As adults, we get accustomed to delay what gives us a sense of fun, adventure and pleasure. We look forward to a night out with the guys, but then a wee one gets sick and you are on duty; looks like you will have to skip guy night and wait till next quarter. Your book club meets once a month, but your high school student delayed his big project and now is in a panic over how to get it done; you skip your book club to help him work through the details. You plan to take a husband-wife vacation and budgeted money, and then your 18-year-old hits the garage with his car and causes, $2,900 in damage – the exact amount you had saved. The vacation is delayed and the money goes to pay for the repairs.

In other words, we get used to delaying gratification. For the most part, we are too old to throw a lay-on-the-ground tantrum. We are too experienced to claim that we don’t know about the tax that will be added to the base price. We also know that accidents happen, yet there is a consequence for every action.

As I watched the July 5th – no, not a typo but a weather delay -- fireworks show in our neighborhood, I was reminded that the delay was not as fun! We had a party on the 4thand the kids were ready but we asked them to wait until it got dark. Ominous clouds moved in, then came fast winds and the rain, which meant the fireworks the dads purchased in previous days that filled a table and then some would have to wait one more day.

In my mind, I had moved on to the next thing we had to do, but the kids wanted to officially end the 2018 July holiday with a bang. We got the chair setup and did the show; although, I have to say the excitement of the holiday had already dissipated for me. I had mentally moved on to packing for vacation, and the moms got more worried about firework safety as some friends had experienced a tragic fire on the 4th, at this point, we think, related to fireworks.

Then it hit me that as adults, we need to embrace the spontaneity in life. There are times it is not possible, as in when Mother Nature throws a curve ball on July 4th. There are also times that we need to embrace our rebellious inner child. This is lesson my health coach recently shared with me during one of our coaching session on personal nourishment. I love the idea of creating a list of things that are legal, and at the same time would be done for intentional FUN and Laughter. The sample list included everything from prank call your mom and go through the express lane at the grocery story with more than 10 items to getting intimate outside with your spouse (worded more politely in case young eyes are reading.)

I love the idea of have a “Naughty Menu” list. It is not something to rely on everyday, but every once in a while it is good to do something spontaneous without a plan. It is not about what the kids need to eat, making chores fun, packing lunch again, vacuuming the stairs, getting kids off to school, getting to work on time, meeting deadline, managing projects, etc. It is about pure fun, in the moment, doing something fun and a little rebellious – not illegal or morally or ethically wrong.

Somehow, missing the “oohs and aahs” on July 4th, made me realize that as a parent and adult, every once in a while, I need to live in the moment, do something spontaneous, and laugh more. There will be plenty of time to practice the discipline of delaying something you want. The kids will see that you are human, AND you many reconnect with that inner child again and find joy in being you, in addition to being someone’s mom or dad.

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