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Many of us know about the marshmallow test, the famous test invented 50 years ago to identify which children had self control.  Five-year-olds were given a marshmallow and told that if they could resist eating it for 15 minutes, they could get 2 marshmallows instead of just one. 

The results had real predictive value. Those children who waited coped better with stress and were generally more successful than the ones who didn’t wait.  

We often equated the test with destiny. However, those analyzing the results neglected to consider our ability to intervene and teach self control to those kids who weren’t able to rely gratification for 15 minutes. The test could be used to demonstrate to parents which child could benefit from exercises to increase his self control. 

In her Op-Ed for the New York Times, Pamela Druckerman interviews the author of the Marshmallow test, psychology professor, Walter Mischel.  He discovered the technique used by the successful students was DISTRACTION.  Instead of fixating on the marshmallow, they concentrated on something else. Learning to distract oneself is something we can all teach our children.

In this day of instant gratification, the ability to teach our children self control is a tool that will help them reach their goals and have less distress coping with frustration. Powerful yet simple!