April 20, 2012

Chaplain's Corner

Pretty much just marshmallows

Chaplain Aaron Klaves
452 AMW Chapel Staff

Back in the 1970’s a team of psychologists from Stanford University conducted an experiment on a group of young children. Don’t worry, it was nothing bad, in fact it was named the Marshmallow Test.

The team would bring children, around four-years old or so, one at a time into a room and sit them down at a table with a psychologist who had a bag of marshmallows. The psychologist would then ask the child questions or have him or her do simple tasks. Every question answered correctly or task performed well, earned the child a marshmallow.

However, the real test began when the researcher would put another marshmallow on the table for the next question, and then all of a sudden a knock at the door would be heard. The psychologist would jump up, trot to the door; talk with someone in the hallway for a few moments. Then, he would hurry back to the table and tell the kid, “Look, I’ve got to take care of something real quick; I’ll be back in just a bit. Now, I am going to take my bag of marshmallows with me but I am leaving that marshmallow on the table. If you don’t eat it while I’m away, when I return I’ll give you two more; but, if you eat the marshmallow, you won’t get anymore.” The psychologist would then leave the room.

Thomas Paine once wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I would imagine that the Marshmallow Test has to be the ultimate soul test for any 4-year-old child. After all, it demonstrates battles we face every day; impulse versus restraint, desire versus control and instant gratification versus delay—some of the very factors that define our patience… a lot like our children who also test and define our patience, right?

As a parent, have you ever wondered, “What’s the matter with this kid? Why doesn’t he/she get it?” But remember, while we grown-ups have big things on our minds like paying the bills, juggling at least two careers (military and civilian), planning for the future, etc., most children are not able to comprehend those things.

Small children’s minds (and even some older ones) are not physiologically equipped to handle big things; they are just not there yet. In fact, while you are pondering the tough issues, your children are probably preoccupied with things such as the Marshmallow Test story…wondering if they are really, really good and can hang in there, will they get two more marshmallows. Something to think about the next time that military child of yours tries your patience. God bless!

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