Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another study confirms the marshmellow test

Three years ago I wrote:

I first heard of the test from Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. The marshmellow test was conducted by Walter Mischel. He would test four year-old children to see if they could not eat a marshmellow that was one the table before them. The results of the test came out ten and twenty years later when they found that the children who had self control and resisted eating the marshmellow were successful in almost every facet of their lives.

My brother-in-law posted a link on Facebook to an article about a similar study. The study found:

The results were startling. In the fifth of children with the least self-control, 27% had multiple health problems. Compare that with the fifth of kids with the most self-control -- at just 11%. Among the bottom fifth, 32% had an annual income below approximately $15,000, while only 10% of the top fifth fell into that low-income bracket. Just 26% of the top-fifth's offspring were raised in single-parent homes, compared with 58% of those in the bottom fifth. And 43% of the bottom fifth had been convicted of a crime, far outstripping the top fifth's 13% rate

I like my brother-in-law's summary: "No limits in childhood = lots of limits as an adult..."

One of the most important things we do as parents is to help our children learn self-control.


Fatcat said...

How do you teach such a thing? Any ideas? I mean, my kids do have self control, but I'm not sure how we taught it to them?!

Henry Cate said...

I don't have a simple answer. I don't think it is an easy thing to teach. Here are a few ideas:

1) Model self control. If our children see us making plans and sticking to them, then they are more likely to recognize the value and be willing to wait.

2) Talk about it. Help children to see cause and effect. If children can understand that some investment now will pay dividends then they are more likely to work hard and study.

3) Help with baby steps. Maybe do something like the marshmellow test each day. Yesterday I told my girls that if they would work hard during the day we would watch a movie. They did, so we did.

Any other suggestions?