The “Marshmallow Test” by Walter Mischel’s is one of the very popular studies in psychology synonymous with temptation, self control and impulse. In the 1960’s, Mischel conducted a test on nursery-school students, one at a time, by offering them a treat ( a cookie, a pretzel stick, or a marshmallow). The deal was that they could indulge in the treat right away, or wait 15 minutes until the experimenter returned. If they waited, they would be rewarded with an extra treat. Years later, the follow up on kids who took the test revealed interesting results. The children who waited the extra fifteen minutes ended up being more successful in their careers, relationships, health and life in general.
The test was an eye opener, emphasizing on the value of self control for all – young and old, in various spheres of life. But how do you pass on this very important lesson about self control to ensure your kids become financially responsible adults?
Here are some ways parents can teach their children financial self-control…
Achieving a goal together
Your kid has his eyes set on a new bicycle, great time to teach him a thing or two about self-control! Sit down with him and have a serious talk. Promise him that you will get the bike, under one condition – He must put a fixed sum, let’s say AED 100 from his allowances towards the cost of the bike. This can be a combined lesson of both how to save as well as self-control. When the child has a goal in mind, it’s easier to practice self discipline for something that matters to him.
[Related: A healthy savings culture starts at home]
Learning to wait
It requires a lot of practice and perseverance to up your kids’ self-control quotient, especially when it comes to finances. But before you start with the lessons, it’s important to prep yourself up first. Self-control cannot be taught if you give in to your child’s demands immediately. Teach them the importance of self-control by showing them how waiting can help them achieve bigger and better results, just as it shown in the Marshmallow Test.
Being responsive to your child’s needs fosters trust. When the baby wakes up hungry and crying, the parent comforts and feeds him. This way he learns to trust that food will come and allows him to soothe himself. This trust which is born at such a young age is what needs to be nurtured and replenished as he grows older. Not only will your child listen to what you have to say, he will also accept that he will indeed get the marshmallow eventually, so he doesn’t have to eat it right away. He’ll be able to exercise better self-control trusting that the outcome will be worth it.
[Related: Make saving fun for the little one]
Working hard and earning it
Just using the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” isn’t enough to teach your kids its value. Practical demonstration is critical for them to actually realize where money comes from. Allowances or rewards can be tied to a range of tasks or chores that tell them it needs to be earned and worked for. Alternately, if you are in favor of giving a flat amount each month, make sure to guide them along the way, let them pay for their own purchases at the supermarket and also set aside a little donation for the needy each month. Also, reward them when they achieve or exceed their savings goals to boost their morale.
Using rewards judiciously
Remember self-control is a virtue that you are helping your child develop but should come from within. You want your child to actually believe that waiting is good for him and not just push him to wait by offering a tempting incentive. This is why you must use rewards sparingly and not overdo them. For instance, a child should wait in a queue because it’s the right thing to do, not because he’ll get a marshmallow if he does.