Pulling Weeds: Rooting Out the Need for Instant Gratification in Your Child

No matter what our age, we all, to some degree, enjoy the feeling of instant gratification. It certainly has its place—who doesn’t like to get immediate feedback on a job well done? But most things in life don’t show results, or provide that key gratification, without the investment of a lot of time and effort. There’s a process that needs to be followed to get from point A to B, and that process can’t be rushed. When we’re young, however, our wiring is primed for instant gratification. Think about it: a baby cries because it wants immediate attention, whether it’s food to eat or the need for a clean nappy. And the baby wants it NOW! We all start out in life with instant gratification as our MO. None of us are born with patience or the ability to persevere; those traits must be learned, valued, and nurtured.

Grandfather teaching grandson small

This can be tough for any child, but it’s especially challenging for many dyslexics. When kids are already struggling mightily with basic tasks like reading, writing, sequencing, etc., there is not a lot of bandwidth in the patience and perseverance departments left for anything else, not even for the things they really like to do.

When I was a child, I loved to build things. I especially loved airplanes and I remember clapping eyes on mesmerizing photos of adventurous-looking planes on the box tops at the hobby store, visions of being a pint-sized pilot lighting up my brain. Flushed with the adrenaline of that vision, I rushed to buy a small balsa wood airplane model. I couldn’t wait to put it together and fly it.

The problem was that all I could see was the finished product, and that’s where my brain stopped. I could imagine playing with my new airplane (it looked SO cool on that box cover—wait ‘til my friends saw this!), but the process of successfully building the model, which can take many days, didn’t enter into that imagery. Instead, I was impatient with the necessary construction steps and tried to hurry things along. “Who had time to study plans and read directions, and reading is too hard anyway. I already have to do too much reading in school!” I reasoned. No, I would attack the endeavor in a slapdash, improvisational fashion, spending many hours trying to put it together, not waiting even a few minutes for the glue to dry, let alone overnight (as recommended). I wanted it to be done now! The result? The finished product (if you could call it finished) didn’t look much like an airplane, (more like a sad glob of Pick-up-Sticks) and it definitely couldn’t fly. All I had accomplished in my impatience and frustration was to create a prime candidate for file 13, aka the trash can.

This was disheartening, to say the least, and after a second failed attempt to build another balsa wood airplane, I didn’t bother with models again until many years later when I was an adult. I’ll get to that in a minute.

What I needed, that I didn’t have at the time, was a mentor that could help me learn patience and perseverance in doing fun projects. I needed someone to show me how to start out with something simpler where I could have seen the results sooner, and then gradually help me to build up to making something more complicated.

Some years back I decided to tackle model building again, but this time with a focus on the process and taking the time to understand and follow the plans correctly. Since that time, I have built several vintage balsa wood airplanes and have even moved on to more complex models with hardwood and metal. One of my early projects (second actually) was a 1930’s Catalina PBY-5a boat plane. I have it hanging from my office ceiling with several other models. I love the look of the balsa wood and chose not to cover the model structure with paper so as to be able to enjoy seeing the framework. —See below for information about the Catalina PBY Boat Plane. (I can’t help it. I told you I loved models.)

model airplane series

As a parent, it’s important to model patience and perseverance for your child. This can be very difficult at times, but tomorrow’s adults will have no reason to discard instant gratification in favor of perseverance if today’s adults don’t display those traits and teach them the value of loving the process, not just the end result. Take the time to work with them on little projects as they prepare tenaciously for the big projects of adult life.

Here are some ways parents can help their children to learn patience and the benefits of delayed gratification.

  1. Kids are often most drawn to projects that are above their current skill level. When beginners at any task try to start at the top, as it were, frustration and feelings of failure are inevitable. Parents can validate the child’s excitement over the project they’re drawn to, and then offer to work towards that project with some warm-up projects to build skills together.
  2. Teaching moments are all around us: when the child does a task that took more than one or two steps, reinforce their confidence by recognizing each step they took to completion, and point out how the same type of approach will work with their long-term project. Share examples with your child of times when you had to work for an extended period of time to accomplish what you desired, and that it was hard, but you really wanted to accomplish that goal, so you kept your eyes on the prize.

Supplementary Material: A Brief History Of The Catalina PBY-5

In Navy terms, PB stood for “Patrol Bomber.” The last letter was the manufacturer of the aircraft. PBY was built by Consolidated. We know them today as General Dynamics. So the PBY Catalina was, therefore, a patrol bomber, built by Consolidated, and named after Catalina Island.

The PBY-5 design goes back to the early 1930s. The Navy wanted a long-range flying boat that could patrol vast areas of the ocean. The main benefit of a flying boat, especially in the 1930s, was that it did not require a runway.

PBY_Catalina_landing small

A flying boat, unlike a floatplane, has a hull like a boat, that’s built into the fuselage, so the bottom looks like a boat and the top looks like an airplane.

A floatplane generally started out as a regular airplane with its landing gear replaced by floats.

Later versions of the PBY-5 were actually amphibious, where the landing gear was retractable and it could take off and land from runways or water.

During its early history, the Catalina did anti-submarine combat, bombing, minesweeping, reconnaissance, transport, and search and rescue.

US Catalinas continued to be used for search and rescue well into the 1950s and some countries used them as late as the 1960s.

3 US Navy Catalina PBY-5A in flight in the southwest Pacific Dec 1943
Three US Navy PBY-5A Catalina aircraft VP-52 in flight in the southwest Pacific, December 1943.