Like any human endeavor, childrearing has certain fundamentals that must be respected to be effective. As we review parenting today, it is hard to recognize universal fundamentals that are being practiced from home to home. As a single important example, take the quality of “delayed gratification.”
Since the fulfillment of our unique potential is a lifetime task, the higher our expectations, the stronger character we will need to handle that tension. So we need to teach our children the ability to delay gratification, since it will take a lifetime to express their unique potential.
The crucial importance of teaching children delayed gratification was resoundingly confirmed by “the marshmallow test,” conducted by Stanford University in the 1960s. A group of four-year-olds was given the choice of one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows later—if they would wait until the researcher conducting the experiment finished an “errand.”
Dr. Daniel Goleman writes about this remarkable experiment in his book Emotional Intelligence.