One of the real reasons for the demise of plastic modelling.
Instant gratification behind teen anxiety epidemic, but parents can help
At a school in Perth, a group of teen girls is sitting in a circle, practising breathing techniques. One. Two. Three. Four.
"I've only got a couple of minutes with them,'' a school counsellor tells me later. Why? Because if this cohort can't learn to slow-breathe in two minutes, they'll consider they've failed.
Failed breathing? It seems risible, but this is a telling example of how the curse of instant gratification is colouring our teens' lives.
In an instant we all can — and expect to — do our banking, book a holiday online, or check a medical diagnosis. Success needs to be now. We don't have time to wait, or waste. And nowhere has instant gratification found a more welcome home than in the teenage world of touchscreen and WiFi, of devices and apps, of television on demand, music in the pocket, and 24/7 connectivity.
The Perth example is one of dozens I've encountered since writing Being 14, which charts the challenges faced by teen girls, and how the rest of us might help them. Often we — their parents — are feeding on the same diet of instant gratification: sprinting through the doors at Boxing Day sales, or cursing the slow driver in front of us.
Tell the story of the photograph
Schools are helping our teen girls navigate this anxiety by offering yoga and meditation and lessons in mindfulness. But the disease of instant gratification starts being cured at home, where hard work, failing and then succeeding and setting goals are talked about and role-modelled.
Professor Ian Frazer co-invented the science behind the cervical cancer vaccine, which saves millions of women's lives. But success came after a decade of failed experiments. Ask your teen daughters: what would have happen if he'd given up after one year? Or even nine?
Or tell them how photographs were taken when you were their age. Remember? Firstly, we needed to adjust the focus because that was not automatic. And then we would snap a photo and put the camera away.
Why, they ask? Because we had to wait to take another 11, or 23 or 35 photos, before we could develop them. Then, when the film was full, we'd open the door (that's right) of the camera and remove it.
I've relayed this story — given to me by a teen psychologist — in dozens of schools now, and it's the next line that's the clincher. We'd then take the film to the pharmacy to be developed.
It's only a story, but it's a reminder that memories are built up over time, and not everything needs to be uploaded in an instant.
But when we returned for the photographs, a week or so later, we'd carry two things: money to pay for them (which meant we thought about those we were taking) and a delightful sense of anticipation.
Instant gratification has stolen that feeling from so many of our children. We need to help gift it back.