Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How do you teach someone to pass 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.

Back in January I posted about a similar study which found the same basic results. 

I think one of the most important things we do as parents is to teach our children to pass the marshmellow test of life.  As my brother-in-law says: "No limits in childhood = lots of limits as an adult..."

In the comments Fatcat asked:  "How do you teach such a thing?"   

I wrote a few idea in the comments:

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.

Do you have any additional ideas on how to teach children to have self-control?


Queen of Carrots said...

Free, imaginative play. It's been shown to dramatically increase children's self-control. It gives them the chance to set goals and work towards them on their own terms in a situation they control. Every mammal naturally plays when young--and they naturally play at what they will need to do to succeed as adults. Young humans naturally play at vision, goal-setting, and achieving those goals both through individual effort and teamwork. (Let's play castle! OK, let's build it over here . . . )

Henry Cate said...

Thanks for the suggestion! It makes sense.