Delayed Gratification

Do you want one marshmallow or two?


That was the question posed to a group of four year olds by Walter Mischel of Stanford University.

The study has become known as the “marshmallow experiment” and it shows that through the power of delayed gratification you can achieve some amazing results.

The study on delayed gratification revealed how important self-discipline actually is. It is equally important for older kids, teens and even adults.

The Delayed Gratification Study

In the 1960′s Walter and his team wanted to understand the power of delayed gratification. So they found a group of hungry four year olds who loved marshmallows. They were given a marshmallow and promised another one if they could wait about 20 minutes before they ate the first one.

The children who could wait would be demonstrating the ability to delay gratification and control their impulses.


About one-third of the children were able to use self-discipline and will power to delay their gratification.

Some of the things that were observed after the study was done relate to other unintended consequences:

The Children Who Delayed Gratification Were:

  • More positive
  • Self-Motivated
  • Persisted in the face of difficulties
  • And able to routinely use the power of delayed gratification in the pursuit of their goals

The above habits have been linked to success. They lead to more thriving marriages, greater career satisfaction, higher incomes, and better health.


The Children Who Couldn’t Delay Gratification Were:

  • More troubled
  • Stubborn
  • Indecisive
  • Mistrustful
  • Lacked self-confidence
  • Still couldn’t delay gratification


These habits can lead to many undesirable outcomes some of which can be low job satisfaction, result in lower income, poor health and pretty much a general frustration with life.



From Marshmallows to Money

Learning the concept of “delayed gratification” is an important step in learning how to make good choices with money. When your child is old enough you can substitute real money for marshmallows.

This is one of the benefits in giving an allowance to a child or allowing your youngster to earn money by doing chores, getting a paper route or some other way that meets with your personal family values.


Richard Rainford

Money Smarts 4 Kids

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