7 responses to “The Marshmallow Experiment: Does Your Child Know How to Wait?”

  1. Gail

    I teach this topic in class a lot and some years ago supervised a group of students who did a senior research project on delay of gratification and collectivism/individualism (e.g., one marshmallow for you now or two for everyone in class later), although unfortunately I don’t remember the outcome. Research suggests that few preschool children can delay gratification more than a few hours, but by age 8 kids can typically wait a day or two and by adolescence much longer, although as you’ve noticed with your boys, there are individual differences based on characteristics of temperament. A big challenge for the little ones is knowing what to do to redirect their attention away from the truck (or marshmallow) while they wait. Often, teaching them effective waiting strategies helps — crossing dates off a calendar, for example.

  2. Sandra

    I read about this in Lise Eliot’s What’s Going On In There? when my six-year-old was a baby. I loved it then, and I love it now. In fact I was so, ahem, curious about my own kid that I tried the experiment on her when she turned four. (She passed.) Now I’m wondering about my second child, now four … Haha. I do a lot of what you do, and in addition I try to make it noticeable when I delay gratification myself. Ideally, they’ll pick up on it.

  3. Meagan Francis

    My three-year-old is going through an extremely impatient phase–doesn’t matter what it is. Waiting for a cup of water? “I’m so THIRSTY I’m DYING of THIRSTY!” Waiting to go to the store? “I’m DYING I’m so BORED I need to GO SOMEWHEA!”

    Besides being patient and waiting this phase out, I’ve taken to building in small waits, whether I need to or not, just to flex his “waiting” muscle. So just because I’m in the kitchen that doesn’t mean I’ll get to his snack immediately–especially not if he’s being demanding or bossy. I’ll just remind him that he needs to wait a few minutes, and get it for him in a reasonable amount of time.

    Though I do also try to keep in mind that it’s probably pretty frustrating to have to rely on other people to help you do all the things we take for granted–from leaving the house to using the bathroom–so I try not to be TOO much of a hard-ass about it.

  4. Susan

    There was some follow-up study that showed kids were more likely to defer gratification if they saw a role model doing the same. If memory serves, the role models demonstrated ways to distract themselves from the treat, and the kids picked up on their methods.

  5. KrisBelucci

    Hi, good post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

  6. Confessions of a Mean Mommy » Blog Archive » The McDonald’s Conundrum: Do You Do Fast Food?

    […] with an hour to kill in between. Because I try to space out treats to give them more impact (see my post on the power of delayed gratification, I figured a trip to a fast-food joint, Chicken McNuggets and a Happy Meal would pack a punch (and […]

  7. Confessions of a Mean Mommy » Blog Archive » Spoiled Rotten?

    […] Rufus Griscom, in the radio chat today (and I’ve been going on so much here that Brian Lehrer’s long moved on from that segment, but check it out if you can), mentioned the famous marshmallow experiment, about how kids who could successfully delay gratification ended up all-around better adults. […]