Instant Gratification

By Georgie Bright Kunkel

Occasionally I tap into Dr. Phil’s taking on the extremely disturbed segment of society and I cannot believe the family disorientation that exists. Even though in my school counseling career I was confronted with some fairly serious family problems I could not imagine a 24 year old son who was holding his parents hostage while his brother feared for his own life. Here was certainly a case of extreme behavior brought on by parents who did not know how to set limits and require their children to learn restraint.

Television has exacerbated the problem of children insisting on instant gratification. How can younger people begin to sort out the enticements that break into programming four times an hour? Although cigarettes are no longer marketed on TV, sugar certainly has not been outlawed. Breakfast cereal laced with it is being touted as healthy for youngsters. In an attempt to curb the hype to drink caffeine we now are trying to limit the size of such marketed drinks. What a helpless attempt that is. I sometimes feel like my early life was really pristine compared to the complicated and sugar laced lives of young people today. I never tasted Coca Cola until I was twelve and then didn’t really like it. Yes, I know you have heard me brag about not having drunk liquor, not ever. As for smoking, I detested my brother’s smoking since I was super sensitive to my environment even in my younger years. When people react to my complaining about my environment I come back with, “I am a barometer of what is cluttering up the air.”

I must admit that I was a little spoiled when I had my babysitter all to myself until I went off to school. Close attention to a young child’s needs before school age is beneficial if a child learns boundaries as well. It is only when a child’s every whim is catered to that the trouble starts. As I found when teaching and then counseling students there is no substitute for a balance between catering to a child’s needs and teaching a child responsibility so that each child can have successful interactions with the outside world. A parent once warned me that her child threw tantrums at home. I let the parent know that in the school environment her child did not have temper tantrums. Then I helped the parent with ways to deal with this situation in the home environment. Human beings are flexible and soon learn what behavior is acceptable and in what environment they can express certain behaviors.

This is why parents must go out of their way to provide an environment for preschool children that helps them learn to give and take. The farm family of the past raised many children who all had farm chores early in life. They learned in the community of the large family a lot about community interaction.

Home chores of today provide limited opportunity to gain skill training. No more Walton family lifestyle these days.

In our society the individual is given more freedom than in many other cultures. But no matter how free society seems to be, people have always had to balance their individual needs with the needs of the greater community. Instant gratification is certainly not to be expected, no matter where you grow up.

We individuals learn many coping skills to get what we want out of life. People who demand what society denies them are the ones who most often fill our jails. Providing access to parenting skills and early childhood education could save the huge cost of wasted lives and criminal incarceration later in life. The choice seems very clear.

Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at HYPERLINK "mailto:gnkunkel@comcast.net" gnkunkel@comcast.net or 206-935-8663.

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