Child psychologists want to kill us with marshmallows
they claim it's only a test...
I hate the marshmallow test.
Do you know the one I’m talking about?
It’s the one where they stick a kid in a room with a marshmallow and tell them if they don’t eat the ‘candy’ for thirty minutes, they get a second marshmallow.
They say that the kids who can delay gratification all grow up to be doctors and lawyers and presidents and astronauts and make their parents so very very proud.
They either die in a ditch somewhere with a mind full of chemicals. Or, they are employed in either digging the ditchs or pulling dead scumbags with minds full of chemicals out of ditches.
Two marshmallows or ditchwork. The options are pretty clear.
Parenting is tough. Either you’ve got the perfect kid with restraint, great manners, student of the week, two marshmallows and a future scholarship to Harvard, or you’re one of those people.
Me? I’m already one of those people. If they pulled that marshmallow bullshit on me, I’d eat it right away.
Yeah, I’d give up on having a second marshmallow.
Even as a kid, I would have been smarter than those damn psychologists.
Sure. There was at least a second marshmallow. That was certain. And, I was almost certain that I wasn’t the only kid there.
In these labs, these marshmallow test labs, where they perform the marshmallow test?
They are brimming with marshmallows. Every second one made sweeter with a little bit of the most delicious of Protestant sugar: Delayed gratification.
Me? I wouldn’t delay gratification for just one. I’d eat my first then watch the lab techs, I’d figure out where they kept the other marshmallows, make a plan and rob the place blind.
I was too smart for delayed gratification.
But people, teachers especially, love discussing the ecstatic joys of delaying gratification.
Delaying gratification has been linked to character and our projected future. What it really does is that it speaks to our ability to tolerate excitement and or distress.
And this ability?
This isn’t something you’re either born with or not.
It’s something that can be developed and learned at any time in our lives.
Imagine any vice, large or small that you want to improve on. Imagine that you want to live a healthier life but there are always potato chips around.
No matter what you do, nor how hard you try, you never manage to refrain from eating those delicious potato chips.
Rather than stop eating the chips for the night, notice when you go searching for them. Once you find them set timer for ten minutes. Once the ten minutes are up, pick up the chips and put them down on a table and a counter. Take out a bowl. Run the timer. Wait ten minutes.
Pour the chips in the bowl. Run the timer. Wait ten minutes. Take the bowl of chips to where you are going to eat them. Run the timer. Wait ten minutes.
And every time you do this?
Notice what’s going on in your body. Notice your breath, your pulse, your pours, your mouth, tongue, throat and stomach. Notice the sensations and feelings and energy as you anticipate the chips.
And each time you delay that gratification, you’ve made a choice and you’ve built that muscle a little bit more.
Timers are great tools for breaking habits and stopping addictions. Instead of stopping forever, stop for ten minutes and watch yourself. Build your tolerance for excitement and distress.
You can do it, one marshmallow or potato chip at time.