There is a famous marshmallow test where children are offered a marshmallow now or they can wait a few minutes and receive more marshmallows. The test has also been conducted using art supplies. The study showed that the children who had a greater level of trust with the facilitator/teacher waited for the bigger reward. They new that the facilitator/teacher would follow through and “keep their promise”. 

There’s more…delaying gratification is difficult because it is not fun. Waiting on their high school diploma means years of “boring” classes because instant gratification is no there. Intelligence and grades is not what makes someone successful. It is determination, persistence, or grit. It requires the determination to stick with something and understand that gratification is delayed (diploma). 

Motivation is another key factor in success. Steinburg says “no amount of smarts  will make up for the unwillingness to keep pounding the pavement, even in the face of rejections. 

Self-regulation is at the heart of determination. Traits of self-regulation: control of emotions (doesn’t fly off the handle) and compromise. You might be thinking that some adults have not mastered self-regulation. Rather than genetic pre-disposition, we inherit plasticity (how susceptible are we to the influence of the environment). Steinberd end the chapter with “ and the most important environmental contributor to self-regulation is the family”. 

Kim Willis


Reference: Age of Opportunity, Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.