My son, Samuel, has 3 children. The middle child, Kira, will be 6 years old this fall. When she was 4 years old he did the famous marshmallow experiment from the 1960s with her. Here is how it goes:
Four-year-olds were put in a room with just a chair and a table. They could choose a marshmallow, a cookie or a pretzel stick. Most chose the gooey, fluffy marshmallow. Then they were told they could eat one marshmallow immediately, or, if they waited until the researcher left and returned again, they could have two gooey, fluffy marshmallows. Some popped the marshmallows in their mouths before the researcher even left the room, but some waited.
The children were tracked for years by the researchers, who found those children who wrestled with the temptation and found a way to resist that temptation grew up better adjusted, had less behavioral problems, and scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT test. The ability to delay gratification seems to be an invaluable attribute. Teaching a child to wait for a worthwhile goal is possibly as important as potty training to the success of that individual. According to Walter Mischel, the Stanford professor of psychology in charge of the marshmallow experiment, “Such mundane routines of childhood–such as not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning–are really sly exercises in cognitive training: we are teaching ourselves how to think so that we can outsmart our desires” (Jonah Lehrer, “Don’t” New Yorker, May 19, 2009)
How do we resist? What kind of strategizing works to help us delay gratification. Lorilee Craker in her book Money Secrets of the Amish (Lorilee says the Amish are masters at gratification delay.) gives us a list:
- calculate the value of your frittering
- calculate how many hours you must work for the “thing” you want and ask yourself if it is worth it
- permit small luxuries along the way
- have a goal
I am proud to tell you that my grand-daughter has some skills in this area. She waited till her Dad returned in order to get two marshmallows. The Bible is full of references to building firmly and securely. In order to do so, one must build with solid materials and the cost of those materials is not cheap. You don’t get them by frittering. Way to go, Kira!
God bless you, everyone,