One of the breakthrough studies, pointing at self-control as at one of the most critical human skills, was so-called Stanford Marshmallow Experiment with its follow-ups briefly described yesterday. Let me remind that researchers left little children alone in a room with a marshmallow and promised that if they abstain from eating the marshmallow for 15 minutes, they would have two marshmallow instead. Some kids ate marshmallow, some waited for all 15 minutes. In their further lives, abstainers proved much more successful than indulgers did.
Here comes the question any passionate parent should ask. Why did some kids exercise better willpower than others did?
In October 2012 the journal Cognition published study conducted at the University of Rochester. “Being able to delay gratification—in this case to wait 15 difficult minutes to earn a second marshmallow—not only reflects a child’s capacity for self-control, it also reflects their belief about the practicality of waiting,” noted Celeste Kidd, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences and lead author on the study. “Delaying gratification is only the rational choice if the child believes a second marshmallow is likely to be delivered after a reasonably short delay.”
The Rochester team assigned 28 three- to five-year-olds to two groups, in both of which the children were given used crayons and a quarter-inch sticker, and told that if they could wait, the researcher would return shortly with new crayons and stickers for their project.
After than moment experience for two groups was different.
After 2.5 minutes, the researcher told the children in the first group that they was unable to get new crayons. “But, kids”, said the researcher, “please wait and I will bring you a number of great stickers”. After the same 2.5 minutes, the researcher returned empty-handed again, thus having disappointed kids’ hopes twice.
The second group’s experience was much more positive: the researcher stuck to her words, having delivered a rotating tray full of art supplies and a number of die-cut stickers. Kids were happy.
The marshmallow test followed repeating the Stanford experiment. And, as you can probably tell, children from two different groups were behaving very differently.
Only one out of 14 children in the disappointed group was able to wait the full 15 minutes to get extra marshmallow: the rest tried but failed to resist the temptation. Among children of the second group (promises to whom were never broken by the researchers), 9 out of 14 waited the full 15 minutes.
The psychological mechanism involved is obvious. Children of the first (deceived) group reasonably did not trust researchers and invested much less energy in exercising self-control than kids from the second group did. The point I am making here is not that marshmallow test is a bad predictor of future success.It is child discipline.
The point is that the willpower of a child discipline depends not only on his innate abilities (if it does at all), but also on his environment.
A child growing up in a reliable environment, experiencing people around sticking to their words, is able to delay her gratification because she knows she will get it if she does her part of the job.
If a child does not trust his parents or teachers, he will see no reason to invest in self-control. By not training his willpower muscle, he will have fewer chances to develop it and will suffer all negative consequences of poor self-regulation in his life.
Think about that every time you are giving any promises to or threatening your child. Failing to stick to your word may seem a good idea for a very particular moment, but it always makes sense to keep in mind its long-term ramifications.SO must be you maintenance your child discipline.