Life is frustration, among other things. Nobody gets everything they want and there are many things we simply have to wait for. We all need the ability to delay gratification. You begin a job and need to wait to prove yourself to ‘move up the ladder’. Most of us eat dinner before dessert. It’s hard to wait nine months before you get to see your beautiful baby and so on…we bide our time.
When a newborn is hungry, s/he gets fed quickly but, as time passes, the baby learns to delay a little. Just hearing a soothing voice that the bottle or something is coming can help. That’s the beginning of delaying need. Most young children prefer to skip dinner and go straight to the goodies but parents help children learn to be patient, an essential lesson in life.
In order to succeed in delaying gratification and tolerating frustration, children must learn that they are not the center of the universe and sometimes other things and people, come first. That reality is introduced quickly when there are siblings, also clamoring for attention. Day care and school are arenas where learning to wait one’s turn takes hold.
Parents who try to fulfill their child’s every wish, to avoid tantrums, set up a pattern. When children carry on and then get their way, they learn that is how to get what they want. Those who can’t tolerate frustration often become demanding and self-centered. Compromise is not in their vocabulary because they are unable to consider the needs of others. Their solution is to be demanding and manipulate to get their way. That entitled way of looking at the world will likely present problems in personal and professional relationships.
It’s hard for a parent to say “no”. We derive pleasure from seeing our children delight in our offerings. We want them to have everything and yet…we adults need to remember that “no” and frustration are gifts. The no is a healthy breeding ground for learning to be patient, have longer-term goals and to care about others and their needs. That is our lasting gift of their success in life.