To help your child have a more fulfilling and successful life, teach them to delay gratification. If you can train only one thing, this would be the best focus. While some might disagree with this assertion, objective proof of this assertion has roots in “The Marshmallow Experiment.” In 1960, two Stanford professors conducted the Marshmallow Experiment on a group of pre-school kids near the campus. Students were given a marshmallow and told they could have the marshmallow now, or have two if they wait until the researcher returned in fifteen minutes. In an interesting and unexpected result of the study years later, students who could delay gratification were later found to be more competent, have higher SAT scores, and be less likely to have participated in negative behaviors (drugs, crime, etc). The good news is that there are ways to help your child develop more self-control and delay gratification. Below are a few of the things you can do to help your child learn to delay gratification:
Create a Structured Environment
A follow up study conducted at the University of Rochester showed that the willpower exhibited by children is not all innate; you can aid in the exercise of willpower by creating a more predictable structured environment. Children who had been rewarded predictably for the exercise of good willpower were more likely have increased willpower over students who had not been predictably rewarded for the exercise of willpower. While the physical structured environment is important, it is actually even more about having a predictable system of rewards and consequences in place.
Teach Them to Do the Hard Part First
Train your child to do the things you don’t want to do first. It will in fact leave more time for the things they want to do later. When a child avoids something hard and/or unpleasant, it takes longer to complete and they receive less enjoyment from the things they do want to do. Start training this early by teaching them to complete their homework before they play. Assuming they are not a fan of vegetables, you can teach them to eat them first at dinner. They will leave the meal with a better taste in their mouth.
Remove the Temptations
A big part of growing willpower is working in an environment free of temptations. Anyone trying to eat healthier will be more successful if there are no cookies in the cupboard. The same principal can be applied to the temptation facing a student/child. The distractions that tempt are different for each child, but in general students are not going to focus and finish homework as quickly if the family television is on in the background. Boys may struggle to focus if a gaming system is nearby, while it may be impossible for girls to give undivided attention to homework when social media is within grasp.
Finally, studies have shown it is possible to increase your willpower, giving more ability to delay gratification. All is not lost if your child was not born with extreme amounts of willpower. Teaching them to delay gratifications is about growing willpower. Your ability to resist temptations is lowest when you are out of energy. You can help them develop willpower by making sure they get enough sleep, eat well and get exercise. Studies have also showed that those who regularly pray or mediate exhibit higher levels of willpower.
There are many ways you can help your child be more successful in life. Perhaps the best way is to help them develop more willpower and delay gratification. The above are a few of the strategies you can employ.
If you are interested in exploring a school partner to help your child develop more willpower, we would love to talk to you. Please contact us for more information.