I Want It Now!

Kids and instant gratification.

You don’t have to look far for a complaint about Generation Y, also known as the Net Generation. Among the most common I hear, besides kids being too entitled, is that today’s youth needs constant and instant gratification. It’s no wonder children lack the patience to wait things out.

Many youngsters are raised by parents who constantly buy on credit. If not careful, this can send the wrong message: Why wait to earn the money for something you want when you can just swipe a card and it’s yours? Credit cards have shown kids they can immediately have what they want with no real regard to the consequences— having to pay the bill.

Additionally, the Internet and search engines have played a role in this social phenomenon. Kids today have constant access to information on their smartphones, tablets and laptops without the need to go to adults. I call this the Google Reflex. Youngsters no longer take time to research, read or work through complex concepts.

There are several negative implications for this relatively exclusive generational personality trait. Short term, children who expect instant results and lack patience are unmotivated to work hard. Take the current high school drop-out rate for example. Today, close to a third of high school students don’t graduate. Long term, we are facing a world where the largest generation to date will struggle to hold down a job.

In an effort to be proactive in reversing the instant gratification mentality, we need to teach kids about the valuable life lessons in delayed gratification. I am by no means saying that there is anything wrong with credit cards, Google, successful retailers or giving our kids things they covet. The problem comes in when caregivers fail to set boundaries and have open dialogues with kids on the way the world works. The reality is that healthy, competent, successful adults don’t live with only the current moment in mind. It’s time we become proactive and teach children the value and reward in being patient.

Here are some simple yet effective ways to promote patience and teach kids the importance of working for results.

If your child wants a popular video game that is likely to quickly sell out, offer to buy the item. However, hold onto it until he earns the money to cover the cost. Knowing the game is there but just out of reach is an excellent motivating factor. This can be done with any desired purchase. When your little one finally earns the cash to pay for it, complete the transaction. This offers an opportunity for you and your son or daughter to feel proud about a job well done.

For a child who becomes impatient and complains about how long it takes for birthdays or holidays to arrive, have a chat with him on the importance and value in waiting. Leading up to the special occasion, offer a dollar for each day he doesn’t complain. This lesson is especially useful for younger children since it’s short term with a definite start and finish period.