Satisfaction vs Instant Gratification

Yesterday I did an orientation talk on “Montessori Basics and Benefits” at a Montessori school. The workshop was for new parents and the teachers. An interesting question was asked at the end of the workshop.

“In your talk today you mentioned about the child getting satisfaction from anything. How do we differentiate satisfaction and instant gratification? Because, you said satisfaction is missing from today’s children. But don’t you think that instant gratification is increasing?”

This question made me eager to write about satisfaction and instant gratification. The whole purpose of the Montessori method is to help the child unfold his or her full potential. This unfolding is referred to as “ Normalization”. The crowning characteristic of a normalized child is satisfaction and joy. Normalization according to Dr. Montessori happens when obstacles to the child’s development have been removed and the child is unfolding his or her potential in harmony with the mysterious plan laid out for the child by nature.

Instant gratification will not help the process of normalization. In real life, instant gratification cannot be got in most of the areas. If they are so tuned in to instant gratification then it is going to be difficult for them to adapt to real life.

“If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” This is a quote from the new English version of the book “Tao Te Ching” by Stephen Mitchell.

Knowing how much is enough is the secret. That is satisfaction. In real life also, the child will have to learn to be satisfied in order to be a “Happy Human.” If not it could lead to suffering.

There is a very fine line that separates Satisfaction and Instant Gratification and let us try and understand the differences.

Satisfaction is a feeling of contentment. Instant gratification wants more. When I say satisfaction, I mean, the feeling a person gets, when a job is well done or is just content with what they have. The feeling of ‘lack’ is not there. But there is nothing wrong in wishing for things. To know that it will be great to have ‘it’ but ‘it’s’ not going to complete me – I am already complete – that is satisfaction.

Satisfaction is a kind of peace within with ‘what is’. It is usually felt after the child has worked hard for something.

For example, in the Montessori environment, we see some children pick up work like the “Chowki(table) Cleaning.” A Montessorian knows how long this work takes. When a child laboriously works on this activity, cleans the chowki and puts his work away in full concentration, it ends by giving the child a feeling of satisfaction. There is a smile on his face, and it is followed by peace and calm. This satisfaction is what a normalized child feels. He may want to do the work again another day but for now he is satisfied.

Instant gratification on the other hand is got when things appear immediately as soon as it is desired. This usually can be associated with objects. Instant gratification cannot wait, focus is not very intense and so concentration is low. Quality of the activity done will not be the child’s best. It gives momentary joy and soon will need more. If not given, it may lead to tantrums. If the tantrum ends with the adult fulfilling the instant gratification need, then the child learns, “I can get what I want by throwing a tantrum.” This is the building of the pain body, according to Eckhart Tolle, author of “The New Earth”.

For example, a child wants to buy something and immediately the parents buy it for him. The child wants to play with a toy which another child is playing with and he wants it now. So he grabs it and his behavior is not corrected by the adults around.

The Montessori environment provides opportunities to learn satisfaction in the following ways:

  • Wait for their turn.
  • Finish a job that is picked up.
  • Have boundaries. Remind the child when you see him crossing it.
  • Presentations are shown with utmost detail and grace. The child imitates the adult and reaches a state of satisfaction.

The child picks up a purposeful activity, works on it with concentration and moves toward normalization.

In order to develop satisfaction in children it becomes extremely important to:

  • Let them do their work on their own (Homework, school work etc.).
  • Teach them to wait for things to happen.
  • Sincerely appreciate them so they can appreciate others and situations in life.
  • Develop a deep gratitude in them for every small thing they have or achieve. (Thank You!!!! a word that is a must in the vocabulary of the child and adults around)

I hope the article has explained the differences between Satisfaction and Instant Gratification. I hope this will help you to create opportunities to develop satisfaction in children.