Cookie, cookie, cookie

WOULD you like one biscuit now or two later?

A simple question but the answer says a lot about your child. And their future success and happiness, apparently.

The concept of self-control over personal desires and frustrations plus a willingness to accept delayed gratification has been the subject of much-publicised research lately. And the news is good… for those who can accomplish it.

But for the impulsive kids, with a relative inability to think about the long-term, is a life burdened with financial problems, alcohol or drug dependence and even single parenthood (gasp – anyone else bothered that that was part of a negative outcome?).

The research on 1000 New Zealand children was led by Duke University psychologists Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, while a second study in Montreal by Dr Donald Taylor found the same results.

Good thing the Cookie Monster and Prairie Dawn weren’t among the subjects. (But who couldn’t see CM had a dependency issue?). And PD may be a virtuous, cookie-saving sentinel but I can also imagine she is a tightly wound, highly strung, anally retentive, perfectionist riddled with stomach ulcers.

I like to think my kids can delay gratification, but it’s more mum-control than self-control. And it’s not delayed gratification so much as rewards for picking up toys.

But don’t start locking the medicine cabinet if your kid chooses the first cookie.

Self-control can be taught. “What?!” I hear you exclaim. “Teach me, teach me now!”

*Arching brow and waggling finger at you…

Self-control can be taught through decision-making, role-playing and learning the consequences of actions.

It doesn’t expand any further, so I’ll leave it up to the imaginative mums reading to put their own spin on that, but the good doctor from Montreal said it was as simple as letting kids see their own improvements over time.

“To encourage students to appreciate the accomplishment of a goal the teacher can introduce a simple exercise. Before a lesson have the children demonstrate their ability, for example adding numbers.

“After the lesson or lessons, have the children repeat the task of adding numbers so they can see, in a concrete manner, their improvement,” Dr Taylor said in his findings.

But what of the kids – and let’s face it, this will be the majority – that want the first biscuit now AND the two later? Are they destined to be street bums or entrepreneurs?

And more importantly, what example do mums make when they can deny the first biscuit – even the two biscuits later – so long as there’s an entire block of Fruit’n’Nut or tub of Hokey-Pokey at the end of the day?

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: March 2011 Aussie Mummy Bloggers Blog Carnival | Mm is for me's blog
  2. Ash
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 04:45:46

    Its a bit like that marshmallow experiment! I think I might be in danger of picking the one cookie now if I was given the choice! Oh dear! I could wait if I had too, I guess, hmmmm 🙂

    Reply

  3. DanniiBeauty
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 09:56:52

    Popping over from the AMB blog carnival. Great post! It definitely is great to teach children self control and have them see that they can improve and it can be achieved.

    Reply

    • petajo
      Mar 08, 2011 @ 02:38:14

      I get quite delighted when the promise of something after a nap or the following day, is incentive enough to get Son off to sleep without too much fuss. Though I don’t know how much self-control would be used when there are biscuits in the house! Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  4. Glowless
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 15:06:08

    The Cookie Monster and I have a lot in common and it’s got nothing to do with blue fur. Needless to say, I’m not a skinny minnie 😛

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Only if you’re a genius « PetaJo

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