Sunday, October 31, 2010

Marshmallow Experiment

Oct23_PresentsI think just about everyone heard of the famous Marshmallow Experiment and the theory of delayed gratification. I admit that I would have probably failed this experiment – I don’t think that I have very good self-control. My husband, on the other hand, can be amazing in his ability to wait, to focus and to see the task through. Anna’s birthday party and the ridiculous amount of presents she collected gave my husband an idea – he Oct23_Presents1 suggested to me that Anna should open them slowly – one or two a day. I laughed in his face and said, Yeah right. Hey, I wanted to rip into all those brightly wrapped boxes myself and to see what kind of toys she got! To my huge surprise Anna relatively easily agreed to this approach… as long as she could open the first two right away. It’s been a week after the party and unwrapping is still in progress with Anna hugely enjoying each Oct23_Playmobil present and actually having time to play and explore them. There were days when she didn’t open any of her presents – she was busy enough with the ones she already had. Thinking about her behavior, I realized that she always displayed an unusually high ability to wait for something (I am not talking about waiting to speak, however :)). I totally credit my husband for this trait of her character – both for the genes that he shared with her and also for character development that started in infancy. He spent first 2.5 years of Anna’s life as a full time stay-at-home father, and she started 2 mornings of preschool after that. He still takes care of her more than 50% of the time, and his “stamp” on our daughter is extremely obvious to everyone who knows our family. He is a very involved and a very loving father, but he is also extremely consistent in enforcing rules and dishing out much needed discipline. And one of the rules always was patience. We had some disagreements over years when he told me that I am too quick to accommodate every whim of our daughter while I felt often that he is too strict. I see now that he has always been very fair in every interaction with her. Patience is based on trust – on the ability of the child to know that whatever has been promised to her will be delivered, and he has never betrayed her trust. I am proud of my husband for being such a great dad and a good role model for our daughter.

Here is an interesting (but long!) article about Marshmallow experiment – the secret of self-control. And here is a question: How do you encourage patience and self-control in children?

17 comments:

Joyful Learner said...

We do it out of necessity (food allergies) and I'm AMAZED by JC's level of self-control when she can't eat something while everyone else is stuffing their face (including me). She's always been that way. Even when she was 1year old, I would tell her, "Wait here, don't cross over the doorway." and she would wait. I don't attribute it to my style of painting because I catered to her every cry. I always feel bad so I try to make situations easier for her but she has always impressed me with delayed gratification. But talking, that's another story!

Joyful Learner said...

Oops, parenting, not painting.
Darn, iphone.

Phyllis said...

My husband, too, does much more than 50% of the care of our children. It sounds like the two presents a day was a great idea. I have never heard of the marshmallow experiment. Can you tell me what it is?

Phyllis said...

I found it in the Wik. article! I guess I was too impatient to find the answer myself. :)

The girl who painted trees said...

We make Bear and J-jo wait for things a lot to practice delayed gratification. For instance, J-jo will be fussing for food and I will put him in his booster seat and make him wait there while I prepare food. We made Bear wait for Mass to end before giving her a snack and she has to endure the fact that J-jo gets to eat his snack in Mass. I love that she only opened two presents a day. We did something similar two Christmases ago with Bear's presents.

MaryAnne said...

Emma would ace the marshmallow experiment. That's cool that Anna is enjoying spreading out her gifts this way!

Infant Bibliophile said...

I've never heard of the Marshmallow experiment, but my husband has the patience of a saint too. Me, I'd rip into any present that showed up here no matter how early. Our son's Halloween bucket is sitting half unpacked on the shelf, so I think he has a bit of his daddy's patience.

Infant Bibliophile said...

@Joyful That totally describes our boy too, and I also attribute it to food allergies! He can be at a party where every person there is eating cake and cookies, and he's OK with me saying "sorry, I'll give you a lollipop when we get home."

Debbie said...

We have our moments here, but over all Selena displays patience and self-control. The times we see the thin line would be when she is tired. I think we just pretty much set our boundaries in this area, was definite on our expectations, and allowed time for it to fall into place.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Hmm, I remember reading about this somewhere else earlier this year but can't remember where. I asked my daughter at that time what she would do if she had the choice between one marshmallow right away or two later. She told me then that she would wait for more. But saying is different than doing. I'd be interested to see what would happen. She's kind of back and forth with patience. She has tremendous patience when it comes to drawing and can work on a picture for over a half an hour, but when we work on reading and words she is not so patient. Both my kids do well with patience in the stores when we shop, too, and in church. Patience and self-control is definitely something that can be taught, I think.

Autumn said...

I'm interested to read the article you posted. I printed it out to read later, because I don't have the patience to read long articles on my computer. :)

We actually do a lot of patience & self-control training with the boys. One way we train self-control is to teach the kids not to interrupt us when we talk. So, if we're sitting at the dinner table, they can put their hand on our arm and wait patiently for us to acknowledge them and then they can talk. You're right that patience is tied to trust...I believe our kids have learned to be patient because they trust that we will eventually acknowledge them and allow them to talk. They're not perfect at this, but they're getting there.

Another way we're teaching self-control is by having a family devotional time after breakfast for about 15 mins. The boys and I sit at their little table while Mark reads from the Bible or a Bible story book and they are expected to sit quietly and (relatively) still. We've been doing it for a few weeks and it's really been a good way to teach self-awareness of their bodies and self-control. People who say little boys aren't able to sit still for any length of time haven't tried very hard. :)

Our Homeschool Fun said...

Would you believe I just heard about the marshmallow experiment last week here:

http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=e419fb40e21cef00VgnVCM1000001f5e340aRCRD

Before this I had not.

Anna's level of patience is amazing to me and this is something that will be of such importance to her later in life. I am not one to ask about fostering patience. I am far too quick a lot of the time to give in to the "whims" of my children:-).

You have a very good husband for you and father for Anna. I know you've expressed to me before that he is your best friend just as Jamie is mine, and this is such a blessing.

Kylie said...

It is an interesting concept, the marshmallow experiment. I am fairly certain my son would do well, but my daughter not so....I wonder how my 2 year old will go.

You've been very blessed to have such a hands on husband/dad. :-)

Christy said...

I am very patient with some things and not patient at all with other things. I can't imagine that my children would agree to opening presents the way Anna did - they certainly don't have her patience.

I remember hearing about the marshmallow experiment, but I forgot about it until just now. I'll read that link.

Ticia said...

I have mixed views on what you guys did. See, my kids love to see the other kid open their presents and get to talk with them about the excitement of it all. That's to their mind one of the best parts of giving a present, seeing if the other kid likes it.

Now, that being said, we do the same thing after we've opened it of only letting them take one toy out of the box a day, or as they remember they have others to spread it out. So, that part I agree with.

But, I'm like Christy very patient and self-controlled with some things and not at all with others.

Mom and Kiddo said...

Interesting, my first instinct is that my son would NOT pass the marshmallow test. But again, he is patient with somethings and not with others. When I was a kid my mom gave us a present a day from out Xmas stash so we didn't have a ton of gifts at once. I do that now with my kids, it works great, plus a new novelty every day for a week keeps them out of my hair a little bit longer. :)

Kim said...

Your husband sounds amazing. We struggle with patience here - all of us. I'm pretty sure Crumpet would drive me crazy enough to give him all of his presents within 5 minutes...

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