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The Marshmallow Test – Are you too soft?

Most parents have heard of the famous “marshmallow test,” conducted by Stanford University professor Walter Mischel and published in 1972.

What was the Marshmallow Test?

Children were given a marshmallow and if they did not eat the marshmallow for 10 minutes, they were given another.  The experiment was intended to measure how well children could delay immediate gratification to receive something even better in the future. 

The preschoolers who did not immediately indulge in the sugary snack were found to have done better academically, and had healthier relationships, and had superior health 30 years later.

What Did The Test Reveal?

This experiment highlighted the importance of delayed gratification in children as a skill for future success.  More recently, these tests have been replicated, and — brace yourselves parents — your behavior affects how well your child can delay gratification. 

The Value of Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification has less to do with a child’s personality and is more dependent on the reliability of the adults around them. 

Who cares if the marshmallow is soft.  Are you too soft? 

Kids resist temptation better when their parents are consistent and keep the promises they make. This is true regardless of socio-economics.   Children who do not believe their parents to keep a promise will be less likely to wait.  Also, the inverse is true.  Kids who know that they will get more regardless of whether they wait are also destined to fail the patience game.

The good news is that delayed gratification can be fostered, but you have to be a consistent teacher.  If you make a promise to a child that they will earn a reward upon completion of certain behavior — please deliver.  If you threaten they will not receive the reward for the opposite behavior, again, please deliver.


RELATED ARTICLE: Successful Alternatives to Behavior Charts


As moms and co-founders of My First Nest Egg, we have several jobs, but none as important as raising our children. 

We wanted a tool to help us teach our kids delayed gratification in a way that is fun for them, easy for us, and based in science.  So we developed the patent-pending puzzle system as part of the My First Nest Egg app. 

The Earn section of our app enables parents and children to set a goal, break the goal into pieces and then watch the goal become a reality once piece at a time.

The puzzle pieces are small wins while teaching overall delayed gratification while they work towards the overall goal.  More importantly, it helps us as parents track where our children are in the process and sets up a redemption system to ensure that we keep our promises.