At Stanford University, a group of researchers studied the ability of four-year olds to wait for a treat. In the experiments, children were offered two marshmallows if they could hold out and overcome the oh-so-tempting one marshmallow that sat within reach. Guess how many children could delay gratification for the bigger, better outcome? Watch:
The second part of the research study is important if you’re raising children. The four-year olds who had the self-discipline to wait for the bigger reward did far better as they grew up than those who gobbled up the first marshmallow the minute the researcher left the room. Measures of ‘success in life’ are many, and the kids who could wait scored highest. I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to do well in life!
It doesn’t come naturally for young children to wait (as any parent who is interrupted constantly by a child well knows!) I would suggest that parenting means we should create more Marshmallow Moments where we give our children the chance to practice. And fail. Or not.
Everybody knows practice makes perfect! If you Google ‘ways to teach patience to children’ there are hundreds of bloggers and pinterest ideas to get you started. First though, I’d suggest parents chat with one another about childhood experiences. We tend to project what we know, and parents often have very different experiences growing up. Did you mother make you wait to ask a question if she was on the phone? Did you learn to take turns playing card games with your siblings? Were family members constantly interrupting one another and not demonstrating the ability to wait?
I hope you enjoyed the energy and the excitement of the children featured in the video clip. Think about how you and your child would fair if you were to take the Marshmallow Test today.
Gayle Schrier Smith, MD
and your Partners In Pediatrics