The Marshmallow Test: why saying “no” is good

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This post is from 2 of our Experts on the blog that form the rational and thoughtful whole of Soho Parenting. To read more of their writing, head to ParenTalk.

Dr. Walter Mischel’s study of impulse control in the 1960′s and 1970′s using a marshmallow and the directive to wait-and-you-will-get-two has turned out to have incredible predictive ability and teaches an important lesson to parents. The ability to delay gratification at age four predicts higher SAT scores, school success, and successes in life such as relationships, employment and healthier weight.

Making children wait, helping to handle not getting what they want and delaying gratification has profound positive effects. So go ahead, just say no!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Jean Kunhardt, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, has graduate degrees in Early Childhood and Special Education from Bank Street College. In addition to leading parenting groups, she specializes in children’s sleep as well as working with couples and adults using a mind-body approach to psychotherapy. She and her sister, Sandra K. Baslie, are the granddaughters of Dorothy Kunhardt, creator of the beloved children’s book, Pat the Bunny. She is the proud mother of high school and college-aged children.
Lisa Spiegel has a Master’s in degree in developmental psychology from Columbia University and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. From her two decades of work with adults and children, she has developed an approach that draws on an eclectic range of disciplines, including psychotherapy, hypnosis, meditation, yoga, and EMDR. She also specializes in children’s sleep issues, as well as marriage counseling. She enjoys spending time with her high school and college age daughters.

For more than two decades Soho Parenting has offered realistic, insightful and practical guidance to strengthen parents and help create close and communicative families. They are Soho Parenting and blog at ParenTalk

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2 Comments

  1. Delaying gratification and “saying no” are not one-in-the-same. In fact, the experiment demonstrates what happens when a double reward is promised. Parents rarely have the ability to withhold something at home by promising a double helping later.

    Yes kids need structure, and saying no is a part of that overall process. But the experiment also demonstrates that personality type is as important as parental input. Some kids can delay gratification, and some kids can’t. I don’t see that as a parenting issue, actually.

  2. That is classic, I love it! delayed gratification, I think our whole society could learn a little more of that these days!

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