Are Your Child’s Grades Linked to His/Her Sense of Control? What We Can Learn From the Marshmallow Experiment


The Japanese have a saying “What is learned in the cradle, is carried to the grave.” This means that the personality and behavior children develop during their childhood will stay with them forever. This concept is not only something that we feel based on experience but actually proven through research.

An experiment was performed at Stanford University for more than 50 years. In this article, we will introduce the contents of this experiment and the answers scientists have come up with.

子どもの自制心は成績にも影響する? マシュマロ実験で分かったこと

【An Experiment for Children Testing Their Sense of Control】 Are your child’s future grades linked to whether he/she can stop him/herself from eating the marshmallow?

The procedures for this experiment are very simple.
The researcher places one marshmallow in front of each child in the room and leaves the room.
Before leaving, the researcher explains the following 3 RULES to each child.

RULE #1: There is one marshmallow for each child and the one in front of you is yours.
RULE#2: You are not allowed to eat the marshmallow until the researcher comes back into
the room after 15 minutes.
RULE#3: If you do not eat the first marshmallow you will receive another marshmallow.

Let’s see what the results of these experiments were.

The experiment was performed with 186 4-year-olds.
2/3 of the children ate the marshmallow before the researcher came back into the room and 1/3 of the children were able to wait the 15 minutes for the research to return before they ate the marshmallow.

However, this experiment does not end here.
The researchers followed the participants until they turned 22 years old.
The data showed that even when they turned 22 years old, the children who did not eat the marshmallow right away when they were 4 years-old had more self-control than the participants who ate the marshmallow right away when they were 4 years-old.
The participants with higher self-control also had higher school grades.

The research continued until the participants turned 45 years old.
The data shows that the participants who did not eat the marshmallow right away still showed more self-control.

子どもの自制心は成績にも影響する? マシュマロ実験で分かったこと

How can we help our children develop self-control?

There is no reason to give up hope if your child was in the group that ate the marshmallow before the researcher returned to the room. Although it is hard to change one’s personality once you are an adult, children often change their personalities many times when they are young. If they develop self-control when they are young it will stay with them when they are adults.

How should we, as parents, help our children develop self-control?
Parents should set rules when playing games with their children and encourage children to play according to the rules. It is important that parents give penalties when their children do not follow the rules. When children follow the rules they are developing their self-control skills.

Children also follow in the footsteps of their parents and think of their parents as role models. Therefore, children whose parents break the rules often raise children who do the same. So it is important that we, as parents, make sure to live a life of self-control.

From the experiment results, we know that a child’s development of self-control is closely related to their overall development. Attending early childhood classes with your child and encouraging him/her to interact with children and adults of all ages will enable him/her to develop self-control from an early age.

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