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field news from the What Marshmallows Can Tell Us about Self-Control A 40-year-old child development experiment is being reexamined and applied to current educational practice. In 1968, Walter Mischel of Stanford University put 653 4-yearolds, one at a time, in a lab room with a one-way mirror, a bell, a researcher, and a plate ‘with a treat on it, Sometimes the plate held cookies or pretzels, but most often it held marshmallows. “The researcher told each child she ‘was going to leave the room to run an errand. Ifthe child could wait for the researcher fo return, he could have two marshmallows. If he couldn't wait, he would ring the bell and the researcher ‘would return immediately. The rang the bell, the child could eat one marsh- ‘mallow, but not have two. The burning choice forthe preschoolers was Walt and hhave two marshmallows or give in to ‘temptation and eat one immediately? The difference between preschool- ers who could walt (known as high delayers) and those who rang for the researcher (known as low delayers) was dramatic. Those who could delay 20 TEACHING YOUNG CHILDREN gratification (about one-third) waited Up to 15 minutes for the researcher to retum. Low delayers, who represented the majority tested, could only wait for three minutes (or les) on average. Some of the children couldn’t even watt to ring the bell; within seconds of the researcher leaving, they downed the marshmallove. While the initial experiment is an interesting study in children’s behav. for, Mischel's follow-up studies of these children provided crucial insights on the importance of self-control. The two groups of children developed differ- cently. At age 17, low delayers tended to have behavior problems in school and ‘at home. In contrast, the high delayers were better able to control themselves and were more popular, dependable, and able to keep their academic goals on track, The differences between the groups remained even in their 30'. As a group, low delayers had lower self-esteem, problems with interpersonal relation- ships, and higher drug use. High delayers were both better educated ‘and adjusted (Lehrer 2009). Looking VoL 4 No2 Cre at these data years later, psychologist Daniel Goleman argued that the high delayers exhibited what he defined as emotional intelligence. In Goleman’s view, emotional intelligence, of EQ, is a better predictor of life success than is 1 (Goleman 1997). In a new book, Mind Inthe Making, Ellen Galinsky identi- fies seven essential life skis that every child needs; number one on her list is focus and self-control (20106). Today, educators’ interest in the Marshmallow Testis piqued again thanks to current brain research, We now know that the emotional center ‘of the brain takes 15 or 16 years to mature (Goleman 2007). According to Goleman, this means that "emotional intelligence can be taught, not only in ‘the home, but perhaps more impor- tantly in the school” (Recker 2009) Mischel notes of his own findings that they do not mean “a youngster who at age 4 didn’t wait a long time is in any way doomed, Far, far from it!” (Galin- sky 2010b, 66). The preschool years are ‘a time for learning al kinds of skills, including when and how to use self- contro. ‘What does this mean for you? Because young children can learn selfcontrol strategies, preschool teach- ers are in an ideal position to support development ofthese needed skills. By teaching preschoolers the techniques of secontro, researchers found that it was the “equivalent to having an extra month of prekindergarten in their gains in literacy skils, and an extra 2.8 ‘months in vocabulary skis" Galinsky 20104, 2) The footage ofthe children in the Marshmallow Test provides valuable Insight into Tearning how to teach self control. (You can se similar footage on NAEYC's website, which features Ellen Galinsky’ work in tis area at woe. naeyc.orglevent/nurturinglifetong- learners) The children who were low Aelayers sniff fondle, and even lick the marshmallows. They seem obsessed with the treat and can think of nothing else. In contrast, high delayers use strat- ees to help them delay gratification. (One child pretends the marshmallow {sa coud rather than a tempting teat. Other children distance themselves from the marshmallow by siting on their hhands, singing songs aloud, or covering thelr eyes with their hands. According to Mischel, “If you're thinking about ‘the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you're going to eat it.The key is toavold thinking about it in the frst place” (Lehrer 2009) Researchers and educators have devised a number of games that teach children to focus on the task at hand «and resist distractions. One game that has proven exceptionally help- ful isthe Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task. (A similar idea is described in the October/November 2010 issue of TYC in the game Simon Doesn't Say [se p. 32]) The premise ofthe game is that children do the opposite of what Simon tells them to do. I Simon says touch your head, children are to touch their toes. Doing such tasks requires children to focus, follow directions, be flex- {ble, and avoid automatically doing news from the f ‘online (in English and Spanish) at what Simon says. These skill inked __* Add an element of the unexpected. to self-control, are the ones that high ‘Many games require preschoolers delayers showed while waiting for the to follow a leader's actions. Teach marshmallows, Activities and materi- children to play a clapping game in Families can also help children learn self-control. Sign and make copies cof the Message ina Backpack on page 23 to send home, Its also avaliable als to help preschoolers lear focus and __which they have to respond differ self-control include: ently to your clap. Ifyou clap once, they clap twice. Ifyou clap twice, they * Change the rules of any familiar ‘game. A game of Hokey Pokey in eee which you put your left arm im when _* Play silly, but intentional, word the caller says “put your right arm. games, For example, have children in," will make children focus and say the word joke with you 15 times work against their matural tendency in a row. Now ask them “What's the to do what the song usually asks. Any white of an egg called?” How many time children resist the temptation can résist responding yolk after hav- to goon “automatic pilot,” they are Ing Just focused on the word joke (Gal- gaining skill in self-control. Insky 2010b)? Tt takes true concentra ton and flexible thinking to respond “the white.” FOR THE PRESCHOOL PROFESSIONAL NaEYC.ORG/TYC news from the f + Provide puzzles, connecting blocks, lotto games, and other learning ma- terials that require children to focus ‘and use flexible thinking to succeed. + Help children learn when to talk and when to listen by providing a special prop, In some classrooms, a special stick Is passed from one child to nother, Holding the stick means that it is your tum to talk, Ifyou don't hhave the stick itis your turn to listen. Teachers implementing the Tools of the Mind curriculum (Bodrova and Leong 2006) use simple line draw. Ings of an ear and a mouth to remind children of when to speak and when. to listen. Teachers report that after a few months, children don’t need the concrete reminder anymore, + Encourage childten to eat nutritious foods, get plenty of exercise, take breaks, and get enough sleep. Young children learn appropriate (and inap- propriate) behaviors by watching ‘and listening to adults, so you should ‘model healthy habits. If you reduce your own stress by staying fit and healthy, you are more likely to model patience, flexibility, and focus, Giving children opportunities to practice focusing their attention, think- ing flexibly, and resisting temptation ‘builds their self-control. Armed with this life skill, children will hopefully have the same rewards in life that ‘came to the high delayers of 1968. Two marshmallows can definitely be worth the wait 2 ACHING YOUNG CHILDREN REFERENCES Bodtova E. &... Leong 2008, Tol of ho ‘mind: The Vgtsian approach fo eet chicrood Saucon 2nd 0 Upper Sa River, Ni renca CGinky €. 20108, Closing te anioverent hip iiminaintematirg omlericeicosing sehievement see Galinsky €, 20108 Minin he making: Th sovan ‘Goleman, . 1997, Ematonaineliganc: Why mater mare fan 1 New Yrke Santas Books, CQoteman, 0.2007. Free wont The marshmalon teat feviied ip dniagotman 720070624) ‘ree. wontthe-marstmalon test ousted Letar, J (May 18,2000), OONTI The acrt of ‘st contcl. The Now Yorke wan newyoert cond "reporting? 2600108710805 8a Recher, NK. 2008, Emotional tigen Bactatondne 4 asp vous No2 Help Your Preschooler G ain \When asked about school readiness skills, many teachers say children who succeed in kindergarten know when and how to control their impulses. They can follow through when Self-Contro] ‘=sccccnc These skills are linked to self-control. Children can develop them at preschool and at home, Here are a few ways to help children learn self-control Change the rules of a game to Do activities together that require Work with your child to complete _ make it an opposite game. For ex- following directions. For example, _ a puzzle that has a few more ‘ample, instead of playing the familar _put together a model, play follow the _ppleces than he or she is used to. Set version of Simon Says, play Simon leader, or cook or bake: “I'm going to _up the puzzle in a place where you can Doesn’t Say. Explain the new rule in read the recipe aloud, Listen carefully so work on it for several days, if needed. words and actions: “Do the opposite of _we will both know what todo. ll ad__ Celebrate together when one of you What Simon asks you todo. IfSimon _ them again as we do each step.” pts the last piece in place. Says "Touch your head,’ you should touch your tes." Be sure to demon Help children understand how Plant some easy-to-grow mari- Jong they willhave to walt for gold seeds na pot ar in a garden, saat how ths wos Keep dectons something and suggest actvt-. Check ogeter everyday un he testo do while they walt Say to plants pop up. Overtime, watch the Finish wnat you are doing, then yourdhl “Grammy dnd rampy Plant grow lees ad ower fecpond to requests for attention. are coming over xfer nner, Would forexompleifyoucre on he phone | youll to draw some pce to give ‘and your child asks for something (and them?" or "As soon as I put your sister Ws not an emergency), let her know you to bed, I will read you some stories. You need to take time to complete your Con- can choose three books for us to read versation. This is a good way to let your together.” child practice waiting for a short time, ‘A message from your child's teacher | TEACHING YOUNG CHILOREN. NAEYCORG/TYC 25