top of page

Would Your Child Eat the Marshmallow?

….. or would they wait?

I recently had a mother ask me what self-control was and how it is developed in kids. Great question!

When a child is first born they have very little control over how they react to their feelings and emotions. For good reason! When they are hungry they cry. When they are cold or wet they cry. It is a normal and needed behavior for survival of the human species.

But as they grow older they need to develop a skill called “self-regulation”. This is the ability to not only moderate their response to things like frustration and anger but also to calm themselves down after an emotional outburst. Just ask any educator and they will tell you two of the top skills lacking in children entering school are self-regulating skills and social fluidity.

Most parents do not realize until it is too late of a second element of self-control and self-regulation that is just as crucial but often overlooked for your child’s success in life – delayed gratification.

In the 1970’s a Stanford University psychology professor, Walter Mischel started conducting the famous “Marshmallow Experiment”. The researchers would place a marshmallow in front of a child and tell them they could eat the marshmallow now but if they waited they would get two instead. The researcher would leave the room and they would time how long it took for the child to eat the treat. A few children ate the marshmallow right away. Other would try their best but would end up eating the marshmallow later. While others were able to wait for the second marshmallow. In follow-up studies, they found that children who were able to wait longer tended to have better life outcomes as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index and other life measures.

So would your child have eaten the first marshmallow?

Make them wait: You can teach your child the valuable skill of “delayed gratification”. Like many behaviors and attitudes it is just about practice. In today’s world our children get almost everything they want immediately. Everything comes too fast and too easy for them. If they have a question or need anything all they have to do is ask Siri or Google. If they are hungry we just turn into the nearest drive-thru. If they need to be entertained or are bored we hand them our smartphone.

Okay, so what do you do? First, just start by noticing. Notice when you feed that need for immediate gratification too quickly. Notice when they do have to wait. Take every chance you can to teach your child delayed gratification by making them wait for everything even if only for a few seconds.

Easy Parenting Tip: Here is an easy way to get started: Whenever your child wants to ask you something or interrupt you just say “Can you wait just one minute?” Then at first, get back to them a few seconds later and say “Thank you for waiting. What do you want?” The more you do this and the better they get just lengthen the time they have to wait. Get in the habit of intentionally making them wait for everything (even if it just for a few seconds!)

If you would like to learn more or see the whole report just go to the “Free Parenting Report” button near the top of our new website!

‘Till next time!

Yours for Rock Solid Kids,


53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page