Saying no to instant gratification

January 06, 2017 17:34
Encourage your children not to open gifts until a week later. This could also extend the festive mood. Photo: Bloomberg

The Christmas season is when most parents play Santa to their children.

It's easy to find people making a long list and matching items at checkout counters in department stores.

I had the experience of watching a man virtually buy up the store. Maybe he had so many children or maybe it has been a tradition to give something to every member of his extended family.

I was reminded of what all this pampering could do to a child.

If a child is used to taking extravagant gifts, I would not be very optimistic about his or her future.

Children of this era are the so-called “microwave generation” who want the best and latest of everything instantly.

You get the idea about the analogy to the microwave oven.

Immediate gratification is not doing much good to our children.

According to findings from the "marshmallow experiment", children who could defer gratification -- survive the wait for bigger rewards by refraining from eating the marshmallow available right in front of them -- achieved better in terms of academic results, social life and emotional management in later life.

They were found to be more capable of exercising self-control.

If we satisfy our children whenever they ask for something, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn and practise self-control.

They would be more likely to become selfish, lacking in care and respect for other people when they grow up.

Parents could take the following advice:

1. Encourage your children not to open gifts until a week later. This could also extend the festive mood.

2. Teach your children the concept of “it is more blessed to give than to receive” and take action by encouraging them to give away some of their presents to charity.

3. Some toys, such as iPad tablets, are more addictive than others. Parents can set up rules for when and how long their children can play with them.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 5

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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