Growth Spurts: It’s So Tempting…
By Carrie Bevell Partridge
Have you seen video clips of the marshmallow test? You know, the one where they put a big marshmallow on a plate in front of a kid and tell him that if he can wait 15 minutes without eating that marshmallow, then he will get to eat that one plus a second marshmallow at the end of the 15 minutes. Then the tester leaves the room, and we see how well the child handles the idea of delayed gratification.
Some of the kids in those testing rooms handle the test beautifully and with ease. Others, however, moan and groan and are filled with angst in facing this torturous task. Others just stuff the delicious marshmallow into their mouths as soon as the tester makes his exit, and they don’t seem to give it another thought.
Is this a mean test? I don’t think so. After all, our children are faced with temptations every day of their lives, and it is important that we teach them how to handle it.
For example, when my kids were toddlers, they thought it was funny to throw their sippy cups and food bowls and other such items on the floor to see if I would pick them up. We could’ve invested in some sort of strap that prevented the cup from hitting the floor or a bowl that had a suction cup on the bottom of it, but my husband and I didn’t really feel like that was teaching our children to make a good choice. It just kept them from getting to choose at all.
Similarly, we could’ve put anything that was breakable or was not a toy out of reach of our young children, but that would have just put off their need to learn that not everything is okay for them to touch. We could’ve refrained from ever walking down a toy aisle so as to avoid any “Can I have its?” or potential tantrums, but we decided instead to let our children face the hard truth of not getting everything they want all the time. We could’ve chosen not to put any presents under the tree until Christmas morning, but we wanted to teach our children the art–and reward!–of waiting patiently and expectantly. We could’ve put all cookies or candy or other treats out of sight at all times, but instead we chose to teach our children to ask permission before eating them. (I should probably instate this one for myself, come to think of it.)
As my children have gotten older, they’ve continued to face temptations, and as we all know, this will continue for the rest of their lives. None of us can escape temptation. Sadly, some temptations can be very inviting and incredibly hard to resist, and many can lead to serious self-destruction.
As much as I would love to completely shield my children from ever having to face such hard things, I know that that is neither possible nor helpful to them. Instead, I believe we all need to invest in spending time teaching our children how to both recognize and resist temptation when faced with it. And the earlier we start, the better. Would it be easier to simply remove all temptation from our little ones rather than deal with their free will? Absolutely. But if we want them to be prepared to face “real life” with confidence in their decision-making, we must take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small the temptation or how young the child.
What do you say, parents? Shall we keep the marshmallows hidden, or shall we take the time to prepare our children for the test, then put the marshmallow on the plate and leave the room?