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November 09, 2009


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Well my almost 5 year old would have waited. I don't know if he would have waited a whole 15 minutes, but he would have done anything for the second 'whatever', chocolate probably. My daughter would have scoffed the 'whatever' down, but then she is 2.75, so it's more difficult to judge.

What I have noticed recently with my 4.75 year old, is that he often 'chooses' to delay gratification, without it being imposed. The other day the little one, who has an extreemly sweet tooth for sweets/chocolates ( but strangely not for cakes, biscuits etc) asked for a sweet before a sleep and as I didn't want a fight before nap time, said 'ok'. I asked my almost 5 year old if he wanted one too and he said, 'no I'll have it when I wake up'. I was surprised as he never turns down a sweet and was sure he would forget about it later on. Instead, the first thing he asked for when he woke up was the sweet, which I was happy to give him, considering how patient he had been.

He often gets packs of sweets at kindergarten from kids who are celebrating birthdays and he and his sister are allowed to have one ( the others we put in a jar for later on). They then get to have another for a special treat, or as a reward etc. I have noticed that the other kids in his class, get to eat all the sweets in one go on their way home from kinder. My big boy has now started to point this out and says, 'you know, such and such is going to spoil his appetite eating all those lollies' Guess it wasn't such a bad idea to let him have 'just one' after all.

I am tempted to try this with my almost-4-year-old now. I think he will ask a lot of questions and whine about why he was to wait, but when it's time to wait, he will have internalized the rule to the point where he will wait till the time is up. Case in point, he waited a full week to eat a lollipop that we told him he couldn't have just before bed or after breakfast, so he waited till the weekend, till mid-morning. He carried that lollipop everywhere and showed it to everyone. We were amazed he refrained from gobbling.

Seems like the personality that internalizes rules helps towards focusing on goals, maybe?

Can't wait to read more posts about this! There was also that NY times article a month or two ago about how teaching the rights kinds of play (I think it was dramatic play) can foster self-control. Can you say more about why that's the case? Is this kind of dramatic play something parents can do with their kids at home?

@Paola: I love your observations about your oldest. Just today, when I gave both my boys one gummy bear each, one gobbled it down IMMEDIATELY (the one I'm always claiming is my clone) and the other proclaimed that he would wait until we were upstairs playing a game until he would indulge (funny that it was actually Omega-3 vitamins... I am a cruel and withholding mother ;-) I really DO think that so much of this has to do with some basic personality style that you come equipped with from birth. That doesn't mean we can't foster some self-control, but there seem to be definite individual differences almost from birth, from my perspective.

@fahmi: TRY IT!!! I'm dying to do with my kids too. The problem, though, is that when parents do these tasks it's not so well "controlled" because they have a history with us (that they don't have with an experimenter) and there are so many more dynamics involved than just strict delaying gratifications (like, for example, power issues with mom; attention seeking, jealousy of siblings, etc.)

@Bonnie: Do you have the link to the NYT article? I get the damn paper, but I can't tell you when the last time I read more than a headline...

@Bonnie: Is this the article you were referring to?

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