When I was a kid, I was occasionally accused of being impatient. I’ve always thought impatience goes hand in hand with childhood.
You are, after all, a pent-up ball of energy and the world is a playground to be explored and explored right this second. Now I am a father, I find myself wondering if we are raising an exceptionally impatient generation.
With smart phones and streaming media, us adults are quite accustomed to getting what we need when we need it. Why wait to go into town to do your shopping when Amazon Prime, not to mention other retailers, will deliver to your door later the same day?
As adults, we have the skills and knowledge to switch off when we have to. We enjoy the occasional quiet walk in the countryside and short breaks without WiFi because we both need and want to switch off.
When we are switched on, which is, let’s face it 99% of the time, our kids see us living at one million miles an hour. It must have an impact on them.
If I think to my on childhood, today’s technology seemed like something from a sci-fi film. As for next day delivery, it was unheard of: you had to allow 28 days for parcels to arrive.
Shops closed early on Wednesdays and I clearly recall my uncle closing for an hour every day so he could return home for lunch. Life was lived at a different pace and that’s a change that’s happened over the past 30 years.
There have been a couple of incidents at home recently that have made me wonder if Mrs Adams and I need to encourage greater patience in our kids. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea, there are no major problems, but I do wonder if someone standing on the sidelines, watching me with my children would say: “Adams, relax, make your kids wait. It’d be good for them.”
The first instance occurred when an older relative came to stay. After a day out, we all bundled through the front door in the usual chaotic fashion. The kids had various demands, none of them outrageous: food, drink, games, favourite toys etc.
Mrs Adams and I were running around the house trying to meet all these demands at once. The older relative, meanwhile, was sat in our kitchen watching this all going on somewhat agog, until he eventually piped up and told me to clam down.
I’m not going to tell you he was correct to intervene in this way. It was, after all, easy for him to say this as a spectator.
Even so, it did get me thinking about whether he had a point. Regardless, this was a common scenario to me: mum and dad rushing round trying to keep young children happy.
The other occasion happened a few days ago. It was nearing the end of the day and Izzy, our four-year-old, was tired and wanted to watch a film. She kept changing her mind about what she wanted to watch and when various DVDs (yes, we still have a few) couldn’t be found or turned out to be scratched and wouldn’t play, the result was a tantrum.
Although we limit screen time, the kid is simply used to getting what she wants because television and films are usually streamed. When told she couldn’t have what she wanted, she got upset.
There was another similar experience when I took Izzy along to her sister’s gymnastics lesson. I don’t usually allow such things, but in a rare move, I allowed Izzy to bring an iPad to keep her entertained during the session.
There was a children’s app she wanted to use that required WiFi. I explained she wouldn’t be able to use it as there would be no WiFi (with my online safety hat on, this is something she is only allowed to do with a grown-up in the room). The result was a meltdown.
Interestingly, we have never had this with her older sister. She is just old enough to have experienced and tolerated the harsh world of DVDs and the monstrosity that was terrestrial television with its rigid viewing timetable.
Maybe my two girls are very different and one simply is more impatient. It may also be that the advance of technology means they are too used to getting what they want immediately.
I love my technology and I love my gadgets. Nonetheless, I am concerned an unintended consequence of the wired / wireless, streaming-media, same-day delivery world we live in is having a negative impact on our kids.
Does this sound familiar to you? Are we raising a generation of impatient children? Have you taken steps to encourage your children to be more patient? If so, what did you do?