In a world where it takes two minutes to heat a bowl of soup and less time to buy the latest music online, our children are never forced to learn how to wait and delay gratification. That can have long-term serious consequences for them, according to a Stanford University that began in the 1960s. Researchers offered hungry 4-year-olds a marshmallow but told them they could have two if they could wait while the researcher ran an errand. Only about one-third were able to wait the 15 or 20 minutes. When the kids grew up, researchers found stunning differences between the groups.
The “resisters”–those who waited for the two marshmallows–were more self-motivated, persistent and able to delay gratification. They had more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction, better health and more fulfilling lives.
The “grabbers”–the children who ate the first marshmallow–grew into adults who were stubborn, indecisive and lacked self-confidence. They had unsuccessful marriages, less income, poor health and frustrating lives.
One of my daughters is a grabber and other is a resister, proving that the ability to delay gratification is not inborn. One way I can teach my girls to delay gratification is by teaching them they have choices for their money and how to set goals for their money.
Celia Osenton, a parent education adviser, suggests the following to teach the power of wait when confronted with a child who wants something NOW:
Three-year-old asks for a cookie: “You can have one cookie now, or you can pick up your toys and have two cookies when you finish.”
Five-year-old wants to watch a favorite movie: “There isn’t time to watch all of it now, but if you wait until after supper, we can watch it together and I’ll make popcorn.”
Ten-year-old wants a new video game: “We can’t afford a game right now but if you save your allowance, I’ll split the cost of a new game with you.”
Fourteen-year-old wants a trendy new jacket: “I can understand how much you want the jacket, but it is not a necessary expense at the moment. You’ll have to earn extra money to buy it for yourself.”
Any age (including adults) opening presents: “Why don’t you try to guess what is inside before opening it?”
Teaching our children how to wait for things they want could mean the difference between raising a child who successfully launches–and ends up living on his own instead of back in his old room–and one who doesn’t.