I have come across this nifty study called the Marshmallow Experiment. Funnily, I have found it a few times via a few different routes. To summarize, a proctor leaves a child in a room with a marshmallow. The child is told that if s/he doesn't eat the marshmallow until the proctor is back then the child will receive 2 marshmallows to eat. However, the child can choose to eat just the one immediately. Only 30% of the children were able to delay gratification. Age was a correlating factor. However, many years later it was discovered that those same 30% who were able to delay gratification had become very successful in life and even have higher SAT scores.
Its such a simple and easy study. Almost no materials are needed. The core of the study is that children who were able to delay gratification had a variety of other tools to distract themselves, keep busy or stay focused on the ultimate prize of two marshmallows. This same phenomena occurs through out life; stay in and study rather than going out on a Friday night. At work you keep your focus on long-term goals rather than short term fun. Even in your personal life one would interact with people focusing on a long-term relationship rather than hurting or upsetting someone in the short term.
Therefore I have decided to Marshmallow-train my children. I absolutely want to teach them these skills. You are saying that there are lots of other ways to teach these attributes. I agree, but none are as yummy as marshmallows.
Today was our first experiment. The children were writing their Valentines. I explained the situation. I placed a marshmallow in front of William (5), Connor (7), Alexander (3), and Lainy Ann (nearly 9). Eleanor toddled over, hand stretched out, and asked for her marshmallow too. I gave her one. I set the timer and promptly forgot about it as I puttered about the house, putting Eleanor down for a nap, etc. I walked into the kitchen and noticed little Alexander was picking off bits of marshmallow from the bottom. He was being sneaky about it! He lied to me WITH MARSHMALLOW IN HIS MOUTH and said, "no, me no eating it". Yeah, right, buddy. HaHa!
The timer beeped and I doled out the marshmallows. William had resisted. Connor has resisted. Lainy Ann resisted. Alexander nibbled the entire bottom of his marshmallow. I did not get mad. I told him it was fine. He could finish that one but he would not get two marshmallows. Crocodile Tears. Wails. He was so mad and so upset with himself. He kept crying "but it is so hard [to wait]". I started to feel like a bad mom for playing this game. But after a bit of consoling he understood. He is looking forward to playing tomorrow.
When I emerged from the bedroom Lainy Ann was in tears. She had lost her marshmallow! TEARS! She had earned two marshmallows, ate one and promptly lost the 2nd. WAILS, "I worked so hard waiting for it. I can't believe its gone." I shouldn't laugh, but its funny.
I wonder what tomorrow's game will bring. I am still trying to decide if I should make them sit quietly with the marshmallow . . . . . hmmmm . . .