Saturday, September 25, 2010

Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is one of the things we endeavour to pound into teach our children. 

In my ever-to-be-humble-opinion there are way too many people walking around the planet (or at least this continent) that wait for nothing.  The product of I-want-it-I-must-have-it thinking is that decisions are not carefully considered. Critical questions are not answered.

Like can I afford this?
Is this the right choice for now AND the new few years?
Is there a better choice I can make?

Now I would have much less of a problem with instant decision making if it were primarily about helping others like making a snap decision to work at a homeless shelter or visit patients at a hospice.  Most often it's about acquiring stuff.

New $400 boots are purchased because wearing last year's $400 boots is untenable, even if the $400 is charged to a credit card and won't be paid for till the next year and the actual cost, allowing for interest, will be $700.

A 10 day cruise is booked even if it has to go on the line of credit.  Just because it sounded good.

A new car is purchased without consider the possibility of car pooling and the need for sufficient seat belts. But it was a convertable!

So a house is purchased not thinking about the reduction in salary during maternity leave or a desire to have one or both parents on a reduced work schedule. Because the house, you know, had a triple garage and Wolf appliances! 

Husband and I are thoughtful in most of our decisions. Whether it is where to live, what activities to put our kids in or where and when to vacation, we have endless discussions about what will be a good fit. Cost, timing and suitability to our family are the three major variables.

So we are trying to teach our kids to be thoughtful in their decisions.

A couple weeks ago Jackson told us he wanted to buy a new Wii video game.  With his own money.  With a price tag of $60, it was a significant chunk of his savings.  While most parents might take a less interventionist approach and let their kids spend their own money how they want, and live with the consequences, I am not most parents.

First step was to break the news to the J Boy that at 9:10 pm on a Friday night there were virtually no stores open and even if there were we were not going to be going to buy it now. If anyone is going out that late on a Friday, it`s going to be bringing Mommy back a mini Blizzard from Dairy Queen.

Jackson accepted the reality and told us we had until noon the next day to make it happen.  When we reminded him of how well ultimatums have worked in the past, he graciously extended his deadline by 36 hours.

I changed tacts and told him that we needed to have a conversation about it. So I conducted a probing interview: Wasn't he saving up for something else?  Was he willing to part with that amount of money and defer his 'big' purchase? Why did he want this game? What about other games he has talked about?
Has he talked to anyone that owns this game? Has he tried it himself? How much does it cost? Can you get it used? Is the price about to drop when a new game in the series is released?

He provided thoughtful answers to many of my questions. He had tried the game. He had read reviews on line.  There was another game he was thinking of, but that was definitely second on his list.

I commended him for the work he had done.  Then I told him, we needed to do research on where to buy the game and when to buy the game.  And that might take us a few days, which would also give him time to see if he might change his mind.  I told him I was thinking of the following weekend as the time to buy his game.

He went nuclear.

But when the mushroom cloud settled, he said a surprising thing to me. "Mommy, I changed my mind about what game I want to get."

I could not have scripted it more carefully myself.  I think he made my point. And I hope when it comes time to buy his first car, choose his university, decide upon his career path, he will remember that.

He did wait a week, and went with his original choice of games. All week, he told me how he was weighing the options, he interviewed friends who had the game to get their impressions. I was pretty darned proud.

Disclaimer: all this talk about instant gratification does not apply to the navy purse I saw and bought impulsively last Thursday. It was a REALLY good deal and I really, really wanted it.

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