Waiting for the second marshmallow

A series of recent tidbits have been rattling about in my brain and I think I have finally found the thread that connects them all. So bear with me and see what you think.

It all started with a New York Times article about the change in 18-year olds on college campuses, how they are truly unprepared for the realities of independent thinking and decision making and that it is a crisis of parental coddling country-wide. This stance was further supported in a story in Psychology Today and how the phenomenon is one of addiction to the pattern of thought and behavior, rather than a chemical.

Which leads into the recent re-report of “The Marshmallow Test” on CBS news in which the longitudinal study of 4-year olds and the ability to wait for a greater reward (the second marshmallow) has been proven to generate more successful and self-determined adults. Hmmmmm.

Next, I heard an NPR radio interview about the observers of violent video games having higher traumatic responses to the experience than those playing it:


It can actually be more intense to watch the game than to play it

Which finally crystalized into my hurting myself in fits of laughter (and possibly sadness) by the following video:

But after all is said and done, the common thread I have identified is one of a crisis of immediate gratification. It is the basis of all addiction and it unfortunately is not only ascribed to by 4-year olds desiring a marshmallow (or iPod or DS game) but by their parents too. All too often I hear parents complain about their children’s behavior issues yet in the same breath give in to a perceived societal norm, “well, how can we say no, all the other kids are doing/using it too”.

The crisis cannot be shrugged off or ignored any more. Kids are failing, employers and professors are saying no to them and they are returning home, defeated, to the very place where these mores were instilled. Since when was waiting for a long term reward associated with being bad? I remember a story about the things in life that are truly worthwhile – love, education, long-term friendship – all taking a lot of time and that bad things – the call in the night, the accident – were immediate and swift. Can we shift our society to remember that the word no is good? I have heard from education professionals that even grading has taken a hit for the worse, that rather than kids, and parents, waiting for quarterly grades to measure progress, they are considering bi-weekly grading. Where and when will it end?

Kids no longer know how to play without electronics, to make believe. I mean, “Tag” is fun! Look at sites like Streetplay.com, not just for nostalgia but for a blueprint of how to get back on track. Letting kids figure it out for themselves has great value. College freshmen are texting their parents about every little bump and bruise. Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

How are you demonstrating the value in waiting for the second marshmallow?

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One Response to Waiting for the second marshmallow

  1. Pingback: Me Want It But Me Wait | MFT3: The Blog

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