Five-year old Luke seems to have a knack for delaying gratification. It wasn’t a trait that I went looking for; it was actually something that I noticed just in passing. Driving in the car, we’ll often stop for some TimBits at a drive-through along the way. Unlike Dad, Luke is able to slowly eat one almost immediately, but save the other one for later in the trip. Grocery shopping excursions will often include a trip to the bulk section where Luke will seek out the Gummi Bears, and I will grab a handful of wine gums. Mine are almost gone by the time we get home, but Luke will have almost an entire complement still remaining. I’m a “handful of popcorn” kind of guy, Luke eats one kernel at a time. A couple of weeks ago, while watching Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories (for the tenth time), Luke turned to me and said, “Daddy, where did you learn to eat popcorn?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you take so much at a time. Try to take one at a time.”
“One at a time? I don’t think I could do that.”
“Try, Daddy, try!”
So, I’ve been making a concerted effort to try my hand at delaying gratification, with mixed success. Although its been a full week since I’ve had any alcohol, or a single cup of coffee, the wine gums are proving to be a bit more of a challenge!
In his 2009 New Yorker article, Don’t: the Secret of Self Control, Jonah Lehrer looks at Walter Mischel’s oft-referenced research at the Bing Nursery School at Stanford University. You know—the one about the kids, marshmallows and future success! In the article, Mischel references some of the mental games that he teaches kids in order to be more successful at delaying gratification. Although I just came across the article this morning, I’ve found that, in picking up the “Try, Daddy, try” gauntlet tossed down by my five-year old son, mental games are going to be necessary.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I tried taking a few wine gums placing the remaining ones in the compartment between the driver and front passenger seat. Too accessible! The next trip, I placed the extras in the glove box—and that worked a little better. But then I encountered an unusually long set of traffic lights. Yesterday, I took a few of the tantalizing treats and left the bag in the trunk of the car, along with the other groceries, for the short drive home. Now that worked…out of sight, out of mind.
I haven’t asked Luke what strategies he uses. Perhaps that’s my next step.
But I have started thinking a lot about the idea of delayed gratification in my own life. But more on that in my next post.
I would love to know about you. Are you an “eat-the-marshmallow” type, or are you able to exercise high levels of self-control? Are there some areas of your life where you’re better at delayed gratification? Do you consciously use strategies? Do you like wine gums?
Next post: How giving up coffee and alcohol for a month is going to get me that Sonos speaker that I’ve been craving!