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Would Your Sons Pass the Marshmallow Test?

Going out hard in Round 1 of the Annual Cook Off.

In the 21st Century the notion of restraint and routine seem antiquated, yet they are precisely two of the key characteristics that students need to succeed. Some years ago, this was born out in a study conducted by Stanford University.

This study, known as the Marshmallow Test began firstly by looking at the capacity of very young children to delay gratification, knowing that they would be rewarded. Put simply, they were left in a room and given a marshmallow. They were reassured that if the marshmallow was left uneaten by the time of the test conductor’s return, they would receive two marshmallows. While some of the children were able to resist temptation knowing that they would be rewarded, most were not.

The Stanford study then aimed to follow these young people throughout their adult lives. Interestingly, the study found a clear correlation between those who had the discipline to demonstrate restraint as children, and their future success as adults.

While there are obviously exceptions to this rule, it is worth considering how we are encouraging young people to build their discipline towards restraint in a world of immediate gratification. My grandmother’s generation had no use for terms like ‘credit’. If you couldn’t afford something you saved for it until you could. One of my first jobs was as a sales assistant on the Lay-by counter. These days, most retailers have done away with progressive payments.

As educators, we experience the challenge of the ‘now’ culture on a daily basis. Its most obvious manifestation is the inclination for short cuts. For example, just the other day one of my students asked if he could photograph notes from the board rather than write them down. He was not alone in his declaration that writing would take longer. Part of the job of the teacher in a 21st century classroom is knowing when tools of technology help and when they hinder. Needless to say, the young man concerned and his class mates, were versed in a lecture on the necessity of writing. They haven’t been foolish enough to ask that question again!

In the battle to build the discipline of restraint in young people, can I suggest a few strategies for parents.
1. If your son is young enough, try your own marshmallow test.
2. Introduce your sons early to the notion of ‘investment’ – for many, this works well in a financial context.
3. Model the behaviour of restraint in your own household
4. Provide opportunities for your son to build patience or delayed gratification
5. Ensure your son has an established routine. Routines are sometimes hard in busy families, but they are important for boys because they establish discipline and familiar ways of working.

  • a. Homework before dinner
  • b. Homework in a set place
  • c. Computer / internet / screen free time
  • d. Surrendering the phone during study time
  • e. Using the Pomodoro method – timed 20 minute study periods
  • f. Building in breaks during study time
  • g. Writing ‘to do’ lists for tasks, ticking off steps once completed

6. Come up with a family challenge. Develop goals and strategies for completion. Ensure strategies are immediate, medium and long term. For example, a family might have as a goal attendance at the State of Origin in 2018. Tickets are expensive. You have a year to save for them. How much do you need? How are you each individually, going to contribute? Monitor the progress.

Learning News

In other matters, it was a pleasure to begin the Semester well, with an intentional learning focus which included a very well attended Study Skills evening for parents, Study Skills sessions for students and presenting the Academic Awards for Achievement and Approach to Learning. Well done to the following Award winners:

Junior School Academic Excellence Awards
Bronze – Connor Clifford, Jasper Dittmar, Thomas Slack
Silver – James (Jamie) Collins, Christopher Davis-Taylor, Harrison Folliott, Henry Hill, Darcy Leblang, Francis Lentz, Benjamin McGraw, Henry Oghanna, Lachlan Roberts, Joseph Romer, James Scanlan, Peter Ullman, George White
Gold – Jack Alford, Jack Arnold, Hugo Hart, Sam Kearney, Francis Kemp, Xavier Kits, Henry Robertson, Trent Semiao, Elliot Smart, Thomas White

Middle School Academic Excellence Awards
Silver – Reily Allan, Xavier Cuolahan, Rory Game, Gabriel Lentz, Marco Lindner, Jeremy Raymond, Lachlan Shanahan, Atticus Solomon, Benjamin (Ben) Webster, Jeremiah (Jem) Woolcock
Gold – Miles Bojorge, Thomas (Tom) Carr, Archibald (Archie) Forbes, William (Billy) Godbolt, Jack Hewson, Thomas Kearney, Joshua Patch

Senior School Academic Excellence Awards
Bronze – Macsen (Mac) Martin, Craig (Alec) Robinson, Matthew Rosolen
Silver – Finn Lentz, Quentijn Whitfield
Gold – Sebastian La Rosa

Junior School Approach to Learning
Zachary Allan, Joshua Bassett, Francis Lentz, Benjamin McGraw, Thomas McIntyre, Alexander Prain, Michael Robinson, William (Will) Rutherford, James Scanlan, Luke Taylor

Middle School Approach to Learning
Ryan Mayer, Alexander (Alex) Sherratt, Atticus Solomon, Benjamin (Ben) Webster, Daniel Woodrow

Senior School Approach to Learning
Finn Lentz, Macsen (Mac) Martin, Jared Schutte

Junior School Honours Awards

Front: Ethan Casey, Hugh Bradshaw, Guinness McBurnie, Back: Oscar Plant, Ethan Draheim, Michael Neumann

Middle School Honours Awards

Front: Mitchell Bradshaw, Joshua Rivalland, Sam Pandy, Owen Griffin Back: Euan McArdle, Samuel Carr, Charlie Neumann, , Thomas Perissinotto, Zach McArdle

Senior School Honours Awards

Front: Patrick Robinson, Philip Gerridzen, Hamish Killen Back: Alastair Bradford, Carter Reid, Timothy Bennett

Kath Little, Dean of Learning
littlek@atc.qld.edu.au