Have you ever heard of the marshmallow test? It was a study done oh way-back-when about self control and deferred gratification. The gist of how it works is you put a kid in a room, alone, with a marshmallow. You tell them they are welcome to eat the marshmallow but that if they wait for you to come back in fifteen minutes then they can have a second marshmallow as well. If they don't want to wait, that's fine, but they just get the one. Then, years later, they followed up with those kids when they were adults. The ones who successfully deferred gratification during the test were found to be more successful in their careers and report a higher quality of life and happiness.
There has been a lot of talk lately about parenting philosophies in the United States and whether or not our more laid-back (or laissez-faire for you fancy pants) attitudes on moral training and child-centric family models are capable of teaching such important skills as self control and deferred gratification. This is a very important issue in our family. In fact, I would say about 80% of my brain power each day goes to disassembling every one of my kids' attitudes, skills, and behaviors and then trying to determine a response or consequence that will teach them patience and high regard for others. (<-- this is also why I laugh when people mistakenly believe being a "SAHM" is not a mentally challenging or rewarding career)
My children are not self-sacrificing prodigies by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they probably look like outright booger boxes to a good number of people, so this is not me bragging about my parenting skills or goals. I'm just trying to emphasize how important this philosophy is in my day-to-day life. One thing I really struggle with is modeling this behavior for my kids. Because one thing is for certain, explaining in words that sometimes we just have to wait for the things we want gets you absolutely nowhere with a pre-schooler (and even less with an infant, go figure)! For kids to believe something, they have to see it, and they have to see it repeatedly.
God has really been poking me in the eyes about this one. Sure, I can get all frazzled when I tell my kids for the third time "I ALREADY SAID YES YOU CAN HAVE DESSERT PLEASE JUST LET ME GO PEE!" or I can be dismayed when, despite explaining the process of getting a shot in the arm and promising faithfully to get ice-cream if they behave, my kids still choose to be that purple-in-the-face, screaming monster you hear in the pediatricians office -- but how often do I stop to think about how I am the exact same way?
I am the one who when she sees something she wants, buys it immediately, and then grumbles until the next paycheck because she can't go do anything fun. I am the one who knows about an exciting trip coming soon and instead of waiting for the right season to plan for and enjoy the adventure chooses to obsessively check weather conditions, make lists for packing, stress about the price of flight tickets, wonder if it would be better to drive, worry about if the kids are going to be grumpy while we travel, and generally stress about it so much that I give myself an ulcer and become a pain in the assymptote to my family members. I am the one who can't hear the answer "no," from anybody. I am the toddler with only one marshmallow.
For the first time in my entire life I have lost my patience with my lack of patience! (Cue inspirational music) I want to have a higher quality of life and happiness. I want to "count it ALL joy." I want two marshmallows!