The difficulty kids have with goal setting is their short life experience. Without knowing enough about cause and effect, kids focus on having fun right now. Spending any amount of effort on a reward they may or may not get in the future is just not something they do.
In the famous 1972 “Stanford marshmallow experiment”, psychologist Walter Mischel put kids in an empty room and put a treat next to them. He told them they could eat their treat, but if they waited 15 minutes, he would give them another. Of 600 children, a third waited long enough for their reward, some snatched the treat and ate it as soon as he left the room and most of the kids did their best to avoid eating the treat by distracting themselves (moving, playing with their hair, etc).
Mischel’s original conclusion was that older kids can wait longer and deferred gratification is related to age. However, years later, he followed up with some of the children in his experiment and discovered that those who waited longer were also more successful in life.
In 1988, Mischel found that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent”. In 1990, he found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores.
This is where we (parents) come in. If we teach our kids to set goals and achieve them, their life will be so much better. So how do we do it?
Read more about goal setting and kids…