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Learning to Wait
Photo: Lucian Coman
As I finished playing my guitar for a group of small children, I invited one little girl to come forward and strum my instrument. Immediately ten other children stepped forward begging to try it out as well. I firmly and kindly said, “No.” I even smiled as I looked at them. Most of them completely ignored my request and pushed forward to grab the guitar pick from the little girl who came forward.

Before war broke out, I decisively said, “Please sit down.” One little boy was extremely persistent. He refused to accept my request and tried again to grab my instrument. I asked him to sit down. He plopped down at my feet and promptly started to cry. I did not feel sorry for him for crying, but I did feel bad that he was demonstrating the lack of a social skill that would hamper his joy for the rest of his life.

Psychologists call this skill “delayed gratification” (or impulse control or will power). Here is the basic idea: when children learn to postpone some pleasing experience and focus on a longer term goal, they will be socially more stable and cognitively sharper. Social scientists have even performed long-term experiments with children (giving children marshmallows and asking them to wait 15 minutes before eating them and they would get a second one) that show those who delayed gratification performed scholastically better and coped better with stress years later on SAT tests.

Waiting Rooms

The Bible tells us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). God knows that waiting is a character quality, not just for children, but for adults as well. Life is full of opportunities to sit in “waiting rooms.” What can help us grow in this personal quality? The psychologists tell us it comes with having a “future-oriented goal” in mind. For the Christian, that’s a no-brainer. Our goal is to be in God’s kingdom, to enjoy the company of angels and meet Christ personally. Eternal life is a worthy goal that comes by waiting in faith.

Parents can teach their children to wait by their own examples. They can encourage their children to exercise the “wait” muscle and then reward them accordingly. Unfortunately, for the little boy who just couldn’t wait to play my guitar, his mother’s example helped him in the wrong direction. She was recently charged for drug abuse and stealing. She is on her way to prison. I pray my little friend (her son) will learn that waiting is a better pathway. I want to help him know the art of delayed gratification.

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By Curtis Rittenour. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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