Instant gratification

This is gonna be short.

Came home at night to find my things shifted, moved, tampered and messed up. Ballpoint pen ink on my leather sleeve for the iPad and the Macbook is left with a dead screen from repeated attempts to log in. I knew who the culprit was and it isn’t someone easy to deal with. It was my niece.

At that instant, I was infuriated and I was almost going to text my brother (her dad) and made these acts of mischief known, for which I knew she was going to get punished for. In the end, however, I didn’t.

First, I saw the time. It was 8:10p.m. in the evening, supposedly a time when most office workers are on their way home or would have been already at home. Not for my brother; he was still in office. I hesistated. Even when I am not a father at the moment, common sense tells me that when a person is already running overtime at work and certainly not in the best mood, the last thing you want to do is to add to his stress and frustration with issues back home.

Second, does this issue really warrant a punishment of a 6-year old girl? I mean, kids are bound to get into some form of trouble in one way or another and at some point in time. The problem is where do we match the points between the respective ages and inappropriate behaviors that a child should have known not to commit. I tried to go back in time when I was her age in order to rationalize the actions that she did. But I simply couldn’t retrieve the mental processes at that age. Moreover, even if I did, I am pretty sure my 6-year old experience and hers would be vastly different.

I realized that it was a pure moment of anger and a motivation to unleash this pent-up emotion. To put it in another way, it is to seek instant gratification when you see others or yourself deserving the treatment that they or you ought to get — pretty much like the mashmallow test. Given my obsession with my own properties, holding my anger in was by no means easy since these are all observable damages. But the bigger issue is what am I going to do about it? Finally, I decided to leave it for the time being and probably speak to my niece when I get the chance to.

Beyond this whole episode, I reflected on the issue of instant gratification again. In this current day and age, where everything is instant or desired to be as quick as possible, have we actually loss the ability to wait for something better, or to put in little but consistent effort towards something, e.g. saving, picking up a skill and building a relationship? The marshmallow test was a classic example in predicting future achievements/successes of children. Is it time for adults to retake this experiment again? I am afraid the results wouldn’t look too good.

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