In a study mentioned by Daniel Goleman in his classic book Emotional Intelligence, researchers studied two sets of kids.

One group was able to delay gratification, the other satisfied their wants right away.

All of the kids had a choice about a tasty marshmallow set before them. When the experimenter left the room, they could eat the treat if they wanted, but if they waited until the researcher returned, they would get two. Some kids ate the marshmallow almost immediately while others waited. To be sure, waiting was hard and many stared longingly, and some sat on their hands. One kid even licked the table!

These students were studied throughout their high school years. One interesting finding was that, as a group, the kids who could wait had significantly lower incidents of drug use and delinquency. Another conclusion was that the ability to delay gratification out-ranked IQ as a predictor of high SAT scores.

Wise parents and teachers can take heart. When kids’ wants, whims, and demands are not simply given in to, they learn they can survive the struggle and that life will be the better for it. Teaching kids to wait is a good lesson for life.

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