Sometimes it can be hard to refrain from giving our kids whatever they want. We want them to be happy, of course. But they will be happier in the long run if we focus on teaching them to savor the things they already have.
Ice Cream for Dessert
When I was a kid, my siblings and I used to have ice cream for dessert. Sometimes we would have cookies or popcorn for variety, but it was ice cream that we really loved. Of course, letting us have ice cream for dessert every night was probably not the most health-conscious decision my parents could have made, but I have to say that it made our childhood a little more fun. Every day, we would choose which ice cream flavor to have, whether to eat it in a cone or a bowl, and what kind of topping we preferred. Then we would happily wolf down our treat as fast as we could.
Once, though, when I was probably about 10 or 11, our grandpa came to visit. Grandpa always had a unique perspective on things, and his comments and jokes made us look at the world just a little differently. On this particular occasion, his lighthearted remark changed my outlook on life in a way that stays with me to this day. My sister and I were making bets as to who could finish their ice cream first. With a smile, Grandpa said, “Why would you want to finish first? If you eat slowly, it will last longer. You should have a competition to see who can finish last.” Even now, I always try to savor my ice cream, but of course this is about more than just dessert.
The Perils of Wanting More
Too often, kids want to scramble for more. Whether it’s more ice cream, more toys, more activities, more video games, or more friends, we are young when we first develop this habit of wanting quantity instead of quality. This habit persists into our adult years, and we end up constantly scrambling for more, always wanting to move on to the next thing. We never develop the skill of appreciating what we have, because we are so busy wanting something else. If we learn to recognize this pattern and change it, we can raise our kids a little differently, giving them the tool of savoring their proverbial dessert, which could ultimately lead to a happier life for them.
Teaching Kids to Enjoy What They Have
Of course, telling kids to eat their ice cream slowly probably won’t work for everyone. Parents can use different techniques to help their children develop the habit of appreciating what they have. For example, even if you are in a position, as a parent, to give your kids what they want and ask for, consider delaying gratification for a while. If you tell your kids that they can’t have the latest, greatest toy right away, they will have no choice but to learn to appreciate the toys they already have. When they do finally get that toy they asked for, they might find that they prefer the old one. And if they don’t, they will be all the more grateful and appreciative of the new toy.
Enjoying What We Have as Adults
What my grandpa taught me that day was really that if you take the opportunity to enjoy what’s in front of you, the pleasure will last longer and be more rewarding than if you rush through life always trying to get the next treat. It’s a lesson that, I think, has made my adult life happier, as well. These days, when I want something, I wait as long as I can before I allow myself to have it. Then, when I finally get it, I make sure to treasure it as long as possible, because I know that, no matter what it is, it will be gone all too soon.