Psychologist Dr. Walter Mischel performed a now famous study on delayed gratification in the 1960s. His test was simple. Children were brought one at a time into an empty room save for a table with marshmallows. The instructor told each child that he would be leaving the room for a few moments and the child could eat one marshmallow while he was away, but if he or she waited until he returned, the child could eat two marshmallows. Not surprisingly, many of the children chose not to wait and ate their marshmallow before the instructor returned. However, several children were able to delay their gratification and receive the two marshmallows. Dr. Mischel followed that group of children for about 50 years after the experiment, examining how the ability to delay gratification affected many aspects of their lives. He found that the children who were able to delay gratification had lower BMIs as adults, less addiction rates, higher SAT scores, and even a lower rate of divorce. Dr. Mischel also noted that the children who showed great self-control were “more able to sustain effort and deal with frustration” when pursuing their goals.
This study greatly illustrates the importance of teaching children how to have self-control and delay gratification. As parents, there are many simple ways we can teach and model to our children how to delay gratification. We will look at ways to do this in next week’s blog.