What happens to you when your mother was a psychology major

I distinctly remember reading about the marshmallow experiment in college. In Walter Mischel's famous experiment, children were led into a room empty except for a marshmallow on a plate. They were told that they could have that single marshmallow now or, if they waited, they could have two. The experimenter then left the room and the child's internal struggle began. Some ate the marshmallow right away, others found ways to resist the temptation and earn the promised, delayed, reward.

Mischel's long term study of these children found correlations in the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. So-called "low delayers" were more likely to have behavioral and drug problems in later life.

Clearly, we all want to raise our kids to Not Eat The Marshmallow.


So there Z and I were last week, baking gingerbread boys. As always, I promised that cooks get to sample ingredients as well as finished products. So she sampled flour (one would think she would get tired of this but ..... no.) and she sampled sugar. A sample of molasses almost shut down the whole project. But! We recovered and spent serious time cutting and decorating gingerbread big sisters, little sisters, mommies, daddies, stars, fish, hearts, houses etc. etc. HIDE SOME OF THE COOKIE CUTTERS NEXT TIME etc.

When they finally came out of the oven it was later than I thought, so close to dinner time that I realized Z would ruin her dinner with the huge gingerbread house-with-a-big-sister-sitting-on-the-roof (A classic Christmas cookie shape, right?) she was eyeing. So I gave her a choice: she could have a small heart now and no dessert after dinner or she could wait until after dinner and have the big house/big sister for dessert.

E chose this exact moment to explosively poop, inadvertently setting up the next, crucial part of the unintentional (I swear!) experiment. I ran upstairs with E to change her and left Z alone on her stool by the cookies.

I mean, which would you chose??
(Original cookies eaten already. Luckily there were several "big sister sitting on the house" cookies!)

When I came back down, Z had put the cookies away in the tin and announced to me from her perch on the arm of the leather chair that she would wait for dessert.

Of course, she wasn't totally alone in the room without any other distractions like the actual test subjects (and I'm resisting the temptation to repeat this experiment more.... experimentally).

Still, I'd call this a success! My child is brilliant and will excel at life! Or at least understand the vital, truly life-determining concept of MORE COOKIE.

Now if I could just get her to wipe her own bottom.....


Next up in applying my poorly-remembered Psychology studies to child rearing! The Milgram shock experiment!


Hillary said...

Clearly, Z is a genius.
Those cookies look yummy.

desperate housewife said...

This would be hard for me as an adult! Alone in the room with cookies... No one to judge me for eating them as breakfast...

grammalouie said...

This is an extraordinary story! And just further enforces what I have always known - that Z is an amazing and intelligent person who will succeed beyond all expectations. Not that I'm related or anything...

Grateful Twin Mom said...

I had to totally comment on this because I was thinking about the marshmallow experiment the other day. One of my colleagues sent me a link to to a new version of the test done by David Walsh at Stanford. (I included the link below). As a professor of community college students, I know all too well about the "ate the marshmallow" kids. Delayed gratification? What's that? I want it now, now, now--quicker than Veruca Salt!!!

I read the reviews for David Walsh's book, "No," and thought about doing the marshmallow test with my own kids. Since the twins are 7, I wondered if they were too old for the marshmallow test. I wonder if they are beyond teaching the word, "no." Then yesterday, I told them they could have a Christmas cookie now, or 2 after dinner. They both waited. Maybe they learned it at 3? I don't remember teaching patience and delayed gratification, but I know now that I can't stop saying "no." Check out Walsh's work and his interview on youtube.


KG said...

Ummm... didja count the cookies?

'Cause, dude, I SO would have eaten a cookie, gotten bonus points for putting them away (MASTERFUL redirection, Z!), AND gotten giant, mondo cookie for dessert.

Am I too cynical?

I was a notoriously picky eater and was often left alone to finish my dinner. It took only a few of these trips to realize no one was watching me! So I would sit alone for a while, eat a few bites in a show of good will, feed some to the dog and then wrap the rest up in my napkin, wait a few more minutes and trot into the kitchen for praise!

parkingathome said...

I don't doubt that all siblings would take the milgram experiment to the end while laughing evilly with each shock. Or maybe that's just my childhood i'm thinking of.

Michelle said...

She didn't eat one AND she put them away. Already a genius.

You would have found me in a cookie-induced coma.

Good Enough Mom said...

...um...yeah...today I made cookies and had 4 before dinner...maybe motherhood causes regression!

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