Self Control is an essential trait, the earlier we learn it, the better. A study shows that kids with self control grow up with to become high achievers academically, are more responsible and have better social skills.
In the late 60’s, Walter Mischel of Columbia University came up with a game known as the marshmallow game which he used to test self control in kids.
He worked individually with four-year-olds. In a laboratory setting, he put one marshmallow in front of each child and told the children they could eat that one marshmallow, but if they wanted two marshmallows, they would have to wait longer. Those who chose to wait for two had to wait up until 15 minutes.
Only 30% of children were able to exercise the self-control to wait for two marshmallows.
Mischel followed these children over time and found that those who waited for two marshmallows (demonstrated impulse control), had higher SAT scores when they were in high school and were more goal-oriented in academics and other pursuits, got along better with others and were more effective problem solvers. Apparently being able to delay gratification to achieve a greater goal is an important life skill. You may want to ask…
The answer is yes, here are three ways you can reinforce this skill;
- While they wait for those 15 minutes, build their imagination. For example you can ask a child what they think of balloons in the sky, or if they were to have a new pet, what they wanted it to look like etc.
2. While they wait, teach them to distract themselves. Mischel found that those kids who could wait for those 15 long minutes distracted themselves with singing, scribbling or just talking to themselves while looking away from the marshmallow.
3. Acknowledge their feelings while they wait and keep reminding them about how you tend to achieve more through delayed gratification. Something like “Good job Hannah. I know you are really tempted to munch down this marshmallow but why have just one when you can have two? You just have wait, just a little.”
If they do not pass the test the first time, do not worry. Just keep reinforcing those skills and testing again. And you will definitely be proud of the responsible adults your little angels will grow up to be.
Do you have other effective methods of teaching self control to kids? Share your thoughts in the comments section, let myself and others learn from you.