Recently I came across some psychology literature that caught my attention. The author, well-known psychiatrist Scott M. Peck, points out that one of the most important skills we can teach our children, and also practice more of ourselves, is delaying gratification. When we wait a few minutes/hours/days before indulging in a decadent dessert/buying a new pair of shoes/or becoming the first time owner of a new sports car we appreciate and enjoy the object of our desire much more, or, the other thing that happens is we lose interest in said item and decide not to splurge, which then tells us that it wasn’t actually all that important in the first place.

Research also shows that instilling this skill into our children as early as possible is imperative. In fact, it’s one of the most important skills we can teach them. Long term research has been done on children who were able to delay gratification from a young age and how that corresponds positively with their level of achievement and success as adults. Studies have shown that children, teenagers AND adults who are better at delaying gratification are not only more self-disciplined, they are also less impulsive and are more likely to be successful and satisfied with school, work and their relationships (Peck 1978).

In the Marshmallow Study (a hilarious little video to watch) we can see how even children who are quite young have learned (or not learned) how to delay gratification and practice self-discipline and self-control… sometimes by using whatever means necessary.

What are some of the Marshmallow’s in your life? What are some areas that you need exercise some self control and tell yourself “I can indulge now and enjoy for the moment, or if I wait a little while and slow things down a little bit, greater or longer lasting benefits or rewards are to come.”

So the moral of the story? You can have your cake, but just wait a few before you eat it too.