Not too long ago I read a small piece on the cookiemag.com blog Momswire about patience for prosperity and it got me thinking. The idea behind the experiment was to test if kids would react to receiving a reward instantly or would receiving a larger reward be enough of a benefit for them to show some restraint (i.e., get a bigger reward if they waited longer for it). Well it had me thinking about how my kids might react in a similar situation.
It was a nice day, everyone was happy and it was time for that inevitable after school snack. Sounded like an ideal situation to conduct a little experiment of my own. Sitting together at the dining room table, I offered my kids a quarter piece of a large chocolate muffin. (Note 1: these are those jumbo muffins you see in the store. Note 2: I usually offer my kids fruit or vegetables as an after school snack. Really.) I placed the muffin piece in front of them with the instructions that they could eat this now if they wanted, BUT if they waited ten minutes they could have a second piece.. Well no surpirse, they all jumped at the chance to sit and wait to get two muffin pieces.
I left them to sit and ogle their untouchable muffin pieces and went into the kitchen to turn on the timer. Like all moms, we think we know our kids so well. I had my theories on how this experiment would end:
7YO Daughter – If it means extra treats, this one could wait an eternity. Okay, kind of an exaggeration, but she can wait a long time. She has the ability to distract herself and focus on other things. Even when she gets a treat she savours and lingers over it forever. I didn’t see any problems here.
4YO Son – Unlike his older sister, this one has no patience. I’m actually surprised the muffin wasn’t gone before I explained the experiment. He’s mister instant gratification man. I didn’t think he would make it through the whole ten minutes.
2YO Daughter – In reality I didn’t expect my youngest to understand the concept of the whole experiment but if you have kids you know you need to include them all. There’s no way her muffin would be on the table when the timer went off.When it comes to treats, this one could wait.
1 2 3 GO
At first everything was fine. The three kids sat together encouraging each other to avoid eating, reminding the others about the bigger reward. I think if I had done the test with them individually, behaviour (and results) may have been different.
No surprise, with her siblings encouragement my 2YO hesitated, only briefly. My 4YO sat licking his muffin on the table, trying to be secretive (hard with an older sister monitoring your every move). I was actually surprised by the amount of restraint my son showed. The biggest surprise was with my 7YO. She sat patiently at the table, monitoring everyone else. But I think having that chocolate muffin staring at her was too much. The only way she could get through the last three minutes was to come into the kitchen and watch the timer count down. No Muffin in her line of sight.
BBUUUUZZZZZ Time’s Up
My 2YO was thrilled. In her mind the timer ringing meant she would get the other muffin piece (what’s that about not eating the first muffin? That was just a suggestion right?)
My 4YO in-hailed his muffin and was ready for his second.
My 7YO didn’t want to eat her muffin until she had the other piece in front of her. With two muffin pieces, she picked and nibbled for the next thirty minutes.
It was interesting to see my kids behaviour, most expected, some new. Of course everyday I pick my kids up from school now they ask if we are going to do another food experiment. Thanks Cookie Magaznie! Well at least I don’t have to worry about saving for their education. They will be able to support themselves through drug trials and other scientific experiments. How do you think your kids would react?