I enjoy psychology. It is fascinating how we humans are designed. I have a degree in education, and I loved taking the classes in child psych as well. One of the experiments I remember learning
about in class was the Mischel marshmallow experiment done at Stanford University back in 1972. I have linked back to Wikipedia so you can read more, but I’ll give you the quick overview. A marshmallow was given to each child. The child was told that they could eat the one marshmallow, but if they were able to wait 15 minutes they would receive an additional marshmallow. They left these children alone for 15 minutes and observed their behavior. They then followed these children and measured their success years later. They found the ones that had self-control or strategic devises in resisting temptation were more successful down the road. You can read more in the Wikipedia article, as they consider the correlation implied in these studies. It is interesting that kids that exhibited more self control and willingness to delay gratification had greater successes later in life. It is also interesting to note that a lot of the kids that were successful in waiting also had distraction techniques they were able to use to keep their mind more free from temptation.
I decided it would be fun to try the Mischel experiment on my own kids. I started with Kenzie one day while Abigail was not around. I decided to video tape it. I used a cookie rather than a marshmallow. I was doing the experiment from memory and only set the timer for five minutes. I video taped the whole thing. As a parent, I found it fun to watch her. Really, she just stares off in space for most of it and then at about 4 minutes in starts singing and then starts saying “Beep, beep,” over and over. I think she is pretending to be the timer going off. It is a five minute video, so you might not find it as fun, but I will embed the YouTube video for anyone who is interested. I can tell you she was able to go the five minutes without eating. I was surprised because she does have a harder time with delayed gratification. After Abby did her experiment, Kenzie said she wanted to try again. She didn’t last a minute and said, “I only really wanted one cookie this time.”
Abigail did the experiment a different day. I had read more on the experiment and so did the entire 15 minutes with her. She also was able to make it. I talked about self control after the experiment was over. Before, I said the simple instructions about having one cookie now or two in 15 minutes. She was a bit more aware of the camera at the beginning and was hamming it up a little. About half way through the video she starts to try and recall the book, “The Best Nest,” from memory. This must have been her distraction technique. Yes, that is a cut up coffee filter ring on her head. What a goof. My phone ran out of space, so this video cuts short at about 10 minutes.
More Self Control Activities for our Character Development Series