7 Signs You May Be Micromanaging Your Teens

May 31, 2014

happy familyFor most parents, raising children well is a high priority. We long to be the best parents possible, and we want to make the very best decisions regarding the particular children the Lord has entrusted to us. There is no one-size-fits-all way to parent, but is it possible to do too much for our children once they are old enough to do for themselves?

What used to be called helicopter parenting, the constant hovering of parents over their child, obsessing over both small and large details of the child’s daily life, is now called overparenting. Since doing my own research on parenting over the past eight years, I’ve come to use the term micromanaging to best describe what it is that we parents often end up doing, especially home-educating parents, when we do things for our teens that may be best left for them to work through on their own.

Often we fear that if we don’t do everything just right, if we don’t hover and observe our teenagers diligently, if we don’t ensure that they have multiple activities, the best curriculum, the best books, and the best of everything that money can buy, we are not doing enough, and we risk failing them.

If we insist on being meticulously involved in every aspect of our teens’ lives, we may actually be demotivating our kids and inadvertently causing them to be dependent on us when they should be flexing their muscles and growing more and more independent.

Don’t we want to raise strong and courageous young adults who shine their lights boldly?

Strength comes from personal exercise, courage from taking calculated risks, knowing God goes before AND walks alongside. Independence doesn’t come overnight; it is a process of letting go. For most of us moms, letting go doesn’t come naturally.

Have you ever been in a job where you were micromanaged? I worked in a customer service environment for several years, and even though my fellow employees and I proved to be intelligent and competent at our jobs, we still were monitored minute by minute by a little box on our desks. Lunch and break times, number of calls taken per hour, actual product sales, potty breaks, average daily handle time of calls—all of these things and many more were tracked and recorded. Middle management dictated how our conversations with customers should flow, down to the minutest of details.

The result of such micromanagement was a revolving door of quality employees because they were not trusted to use the skills and abilities for which they were hired to meet the needs of the customers who were calling in with problems. Employees were not given credit for being trustworthy without being overseen every second of their work day. The result was unnecessary stress, burnout, and high turnover.

Simply put, micromanagement kills motivation. Micromanagement eventually kills the motivation of even the most motivated! If you’ve ever been micromanaged as an adult, you know this well.

In the home education realm, micromanagement leads to burnout for both parents and students. Perhaps it’s time to become underwhelmed again! The first step is to realize there is a problem.

In the event that you think you may be a micromanager, here are 7 signs to look for:

1. You have to repeat yourself over and over. Teens will rise to meet our expectations. We are the parents; we get to set the expectations. I expect my teens to help keep the house clean and in order. I expect that we will talk kindly to each other. I expect that they will do their work—be it school work or work around the house—with excellence, and I expect them to do it without me telling them over and over.

These expectations were set when they were young children, but if you haven’t set standards in the past, you still have the right AND the authority to do so now. The catch is that we as parents have to model the behavior that we expect our children to exhibit. Yeah, I know. That is the hard part.

Oftentimes parents unconsciously set low expectations because they are afraid they will stress their children, or they are afraid that their children may not be capable of performing at a higher level. Sadly, some parents do not respect their position as parents and don’t feel they may rightfully expect their children to do what they are asked to do with a cheerful attitude.

Respectfully submit the expectations to your kids via a family meeting, preferably with Dad laying out the rules, emphasizing that you expect them to follow through without repeated reminders. Ask them what they think should happen if the expectations aren’t met. Get the kids’ input on setting consequences. Make sure the consequences are as clear as the expectations, and be sure to follow through with them. When the expectations are met, follow through with a sincere word of thanks! It may take a little bit of reminding at first, but gently ease back on those reminders. Eventually, no reminders should be necessary.

2. You help your teen without being asked. While it is always nice to do things for our teens, be careful of overdoing things for them. “Oh, Mom will do it if I don’t,” is the outcome of overdoing. Teens are growing into adulthood; they won’t wake up one day and suddenly be responsible adults. Having definite responsibilities in the home with the expectation of excellence is preparing them for responsible independence down the road. Helping with your student with her biology project by going out and finding leaves for her collection is a general no-no.

3. You step in before your teen makes a mistake. When a young child is ready for the training wheels to come off his bike, chances are good he doesn’t think he is going to fall. Chances are good he will take a tumble or two as he learns to balance on two wheels. Allowing our children to make mistakes or take a tumble is necessary in order for them to learn how to strike a balance in their own lives. Natural consequences are sometimes the best teachers.

Of course we wouldn’t let our young child ride out into traffic, so use your judgment when making the decision of when to step in and when to allow natural consequences to teach your teen. Often we don’t want our teen to look bad or be embarrassed because we may look bad or be embarrassed, so we make sure a crisis is averted which means the behavior that caused the crisis is apt to be repeated.

4. You make excuses for your teen. When a young child doesn’t get a nap, he is likely to be grumpy, right? However, when a teenager is grumpy from not getting enough sleep, he has to learn what acceptable behavior is when one is grumpy, because in the real world, lack of sleep is going to be an issue from time to time.

“Well, James didn’t get enough rest, y’all,” is not the proper response from Mom when James has just been ugly to his siblings. If you have a tendency to make excuses for your young adult, he will be in for a rude awakening when out in the real world. Being honest with our teens about their crummy attitudes or behaviors is often easier than being honest with ourselves about our teen’s shortcomings. It’s our job to assist them in overcoming their weaknesses while at home, and making excuses just prolongs and feeds the behavior.

5. You run your teen’s daily schedule of activities. This is often fueled by a parent’s need for control. No surprise there. A 17 year old should be able to set his own schedule and order his day so that he accomplishes what needs to be accomplished; a 13 year old may need a little help to get started. School work is one of those things that teens should be able to accomplish independently. While some assistance may be needed from time to time, relying on Mom to tell him when to do what subject, or needing Mom to make him get his work done is an indicator of immaturity.

What happens when parents continue to schedule their teens’ lives for them is they inadvertently prohibit them from developing the skill sets necessary to foster problem-solving and self-confidence down the road. If a student is college bound, knowing how to prioritize study time and free time is an important skill!

Many students drop out of college due to the inability to function without someone telling them what to do. Home-schooled students should be experts in this area due to the practice they had at home organizing themselves on a daily basis during the high school years.

6. Your teen has no privacy. A teenager deserves some privacy. Respecting our teens’ privacy is imperative to a healthy relationship with our young adults. If we have a suspicion regarding something that may be happening that should not be happening, then asking questions and delving deeper is warranted, but enabling our teens to earn privacy as they demonstrate responsible behavior is part of growing up.

Once they are out on their own, they will have complete privacy whether we like it or not. As we observe them developing godly morals and values when they are young, we can trust them to carry those values over into their personal lives bit by bit without our direct supervision.

7. Your teen is afraid to make a decision without you. The key word here is afraid. Of course a healthy relationship with our young adults includes them seeking out our opinions before making some types of decisions. However, by the time a student is in high school, he is capable of making daily decisions especially where school work is concerned.

My high schoolers all know my expectations for their school work—to master each day’s material—and I give them as much control over it as I possibly can. My job is simply to monitor their progress on a semi-regular basis. They have a formula they use that dictates what they should be doing each day, and if they want to work ahead, I am cool with that.

If something comes up and they don’t complete something as planned, I don’t have to stress because the onus is on them to ultimately finish their work. They know they are working for themselves, not for me. I don’t need another high school diploma, so I’m not doing their work with them or for them. I’m there if needed, but they are calling the shots within the parameters of excellence.

The best way to demotivate our children educationally is to micromanage them.

I could write a book on this topic. Wait. I did. It’s called The Self-Propelled Advantage, and if you need some direction in the area of raising motivated kiddos who work independently in all areas of life, especially academics, you’ll find practical how-to’s within its pages.

Attitude truly is everything, and when we are willing to let go and allow our teens freedom to succeed and yes—to occasionally fail—we give them the gift of a yes-I-can attitude. We help them develop confidence and independence. We raise young adults who are strong and courageous.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.

 


Help! I’m a Self-Learner, and I Can’t Figure This Out!

January 22, 2013

Questions curriculum questions picWith the advent of the Internet and search engines like Google, many of us have become self-learners simply because information is literally at the tips of our fingers.

It’s AWESOME, isn’t it?

Yes! It’s so awesome that my daughter Lilienne, who will be 11 on Saturday, deduced recently that school really wasn’t necessary once you learned to read because you can now look up everything you want to know on Google as you need to know it.

I concur with her….to a degree. Nowadays we have no excuse not to know the answer to a question (that actually has an answer) aside from lack of time to research or laziness or lack of motivation or something lame along those lines.

I’m not a Webhead, but I enjoy playing around with my websites and junk online. I can usually figure stuff out on my own with a little persistence, sometimes accompanied by tears and frustration. Recently I ran into a situation where I needed to figure out how to put an RSS feed both here and on my Author Page on Amazon.com.

Step one: I googled something about RSS feeds. Well, after going here and there ~ info specifically for wordpress blogs, etc. ~ I wasn’t getting it. (Perhaps a mental block because I was born about the time color television hit the American scene.) Google really wasn’t helpful. Not because I was lazy, but because I was kinda overwhelmed with the lingo.

What is a self-learner to do when stumped?

Step two: Ask someone else who might know the answer to the question at hand.

I asked my fabulous son-in-law, Brandon, but he couldn’t help me right that minute. I asked my daughter Lauren, who is a whiz at setting up Websites (www.beadboxbargains.com) but she had something else going on at the time, so she couldn’t help me either.

So I did what I do best: I moved onto another project and forgot all about it.

Until this week during a conference call with my publisher who asked me if I had put my RSS feed from this very blog up on my amazon.com author page. Heh heh. Oopsie. No, I hadn’t done that yet.

After the call, I mentioned to my husband that the RSS feed thing was driving me nuts, and I was fixin’ to cuss (not that I would actually ever DO that. no way. not me.)

Yesterday Tim came over to my desk (one of them, anyway. I have desks all over the house) and he told me how to add the widget and what to put in the URL. I knew how to do the widget thing, but the URL is what had stumped me.

Isn’t widget the cutest word EVER?

Tim had done a little research for me and figured out the missing piece to the whole thing! Wasn’t that nice of him? Yes. It was. Thank you, Tim. And now I will make him salisbury steak and smashed potatoes for dinner tonight. 🙂

So now I have an RSS feed!! AND I’m still a self-learner because I learned how to do the RSS feed thing. I know you think I’m not a self-learner because I had to ask around, right? I can read your doubting mind.

Self-learning simply requires knowing where to go to find out what it is that you don’t know.

I had to ask someone else ~ multiple people, in fact ~ before I found someone who was able to help me learn what I needed to learn. I now know how to set up an RSS feed.

Self-learners tend to think they shouldn’t ask for help; they should be able to figure things out on their own. That is not always true. Asking for assistance is a really good way to learn at times, although seeking out the answer yourself first is kind of the rule of thumb in our home school.

But if you’re stumped, don’t be too proud to ask for help.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


25 MORE Fabulous Parenting & Education Quotes!

January 5, 2013

Family and dogA couple days ago, I gave you a list of my absolute favorite quotes in the areas of parenting and education. To me, parenting and education naturally go hand in hand. One begets the other. But I digress.

Here are the next 25 on my list of fabulous quotes. I hope you might be inspired by one or two or more of ’em.

26. Education is Man’s going forward from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty.  ~ Kenneth G. Johnson

27. Education is [A process] which makes one rogue cleverer than another. ~ Oscar Wilde (1856-1900) British poet and dramatist.

 28. Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the ignorant by the incompetent.  ~ Josiah Stamp

29. Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.  ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

30. Education is what remains when we have forgotten all that we have been taught.  ~ George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English statesman and author.

31. Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance. ~ Will Durant (1885-1981) U.S. author and historian.

32. The chief wonder of education is that it does not ruin everybody concerned in it, teachers and taught. ~ Henry Brooks Adams (1828-1918) U.S. historian and writer: The Education of Henry Adams.

33. Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality. ~ Henry Fielding (1707-1754) English novelist, dramatist.

34. Education has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) British historian.

35. They say that we are better educated than our parents’ generation. What they mean is that we go to school longer. They are not the same thing. ~ Douglas Yates

36. Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. ~ Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English philosopher, mathematician and writer.

37. It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. I believe that one could even deprive a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness if one could force it with a whip to eat continuously whether it were hungry or not.  ~ Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U.S. physicist.

38. The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher.  ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

39. I’m sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life. ~ Petronius (d. circa 66 AD) The Satyricon.

40. True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success, the glorious inequality of talent, of genius. ~ Felix E. Schelling (1858-1945) American educator.

41. He was so learned that he could name a horse in nine languages; so ignorant that he bought a cow to ride on. ~ Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, author, scientist, inventor and philosopher.

42. A college degree does not lessen the length of your ears; it only conceals it. ~ Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American author, editor and printer.

43. I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. (Sound familiar?) ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer.

44. The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time. ~ Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) American journalist.

45. Education is not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. ~ William B. Yeats, poet

46. You can lade a man up to th’ university, but ye can’t make him think. ~ Finley Peter Dunne

47. Education: Being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information once you get it. ~ William Feather

48. An educated man is one who can entertain a new idea, entertain another person, and entertain himself. ~ Sydney Wood

…And, for all us homeschool moms who never learned all the classical composers and great artists and a gazillion other things, but knew enough to instill a love of them in our children, there’s this one:

49. Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master. ~ Leonardo da Vinci.

50. You are what you teach, and you teach what you are. ~ Joanne Calderwood

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


9 Maxims for Homeschool Happiness

December 28, 2012

Family Walking Through Snowy Woodland In light of the beginning of a brand-new year, I thought I would share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years that I think has been pivotal in the raising of my children.

So below you’ll find a compilation of my best tips for raising smart, motivated kids who learn and work with excellence (most of the time).

1. Develop good habits yourself. Be a good example of reading for pleasure. Let your children see you doing the things you want them to develop a love for doing such as

reading, writing, exercising, eating well, or whatever may be on your list.

2. Always remember that you are what you teach, and you teach what you are.

Ouch. I revisit this maxim frequently, especially when I see my bad habits showing up in my children. This is a variation of the first maxim.

3. Neatness counts. We are all more relaxed and focused when our homes are RELATIVELY neat, right? I am not talking about extremes here. I assure you that my house is not a showplace; we live and work here. I’m simply talking about being able to see the family room floor. Kids function better in order than they do in chaos.

Yeah, let’s move on. I get hives thinking about how organized my house is not.

4. Have expectations and enforce them. Expect honesty and trustworthiness every day. Expect cheerful obedience the first time you ask your child to do something. Sullen faces and attitudes do not belong in a happy home. You are the Mom (or Dad). You get to be the one in control of what behavior and attitudes are acceptable in your home.

5. Have a general routine. Find what works for YOUR FAMILY. Children need a sense of what is coming next. Our routine here is very laid back now that my baby is almost eleven and the other three girls are teens. It was much more regulated when we had a lot of young children.

6. Know where you are headed. A little planning is all you need for each quarter of your homeschool year. (Refer to The Self-Propelled Student Planners for help in this area if you need it. These planners have changed my life!)

7. Teach your children to enjoy the feeling of a job well done. Intrinsic motivation will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

8. Expect mastery learning every day, in every subject. Before long, students begin to expect it of themselves. That is a really cool thing and will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

9. Trust your instincts.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Perfect SAT Scorers & the X Factor (Part 3)

December 7, 2012

Business concepts in crossword,  featured words are: innovation,Here’s more in my series on MOTIVATION and Dr. Tom Fischgrund’s SAT Perfect Score study. In this study, Dr. F studied 160 perfect score kids and their families to find their commonalities and maybe some anomalies. He found much more in the realm of commonalities.

I’ve blogged at length about my philosophy of parenting and education that I call The Self-Propelled Advantage, and that philosophy holds mastery and the setting of standards to be important parts of a parental mindset that should be imparted to children at a young age.

The Perfect Score Student agrees.

All this talk about achieving mastery and setting standards may make you wonder which comes first, achieving mastery or setting standards.

The Perfect Score Study:

“…couldn’t answer this question, but it did find that, almost without exception, perfect score students are incredibly motivated to succeed—not just in academics, but also in life. Motivation is the key to high academic achievement and a perfect SAT score.

It’s the spark that drives students through their high school years, college, and beyond. It’s the dividing line that separates successful people from those who aren’t.”[1]

A person may be a talented athlete, an amazing musician or artist, but if he lacks motivation to pursue that in which he is gifted, he will not taste success. In order to have success in any area, one must possess motivation.

As a teacher, I’ve seen kids who had above-average ability in various areas, but the only ones who became truly successful were those who were motivated to pursue their passions. Young adults who are encouraged to stay on track and pursue their dreams will be much more motivated than those who lack a support system.

However, there are those who make it despite the odds because they still possess motivation. Those who lack motivation don’t get anywhere, no matter how strong a support system they have. Perhaps they will become motivated in time, but if they lack motivation, they just won’t make progress.

Dr. Fischgrund states,

“The missing x factor really is motivation. Perfect score students are incredibly self-motivated, but they also have parents who expected them to achieve from the start. By believing in their children, these parents infused their kids with a belief in themselves which led to strong self-esteem. This self-esteem enabled perfect score students to become their own motivators in high school and beyond.”[2]

I think it’s incredibly important to note that when perfect scorers were asked who they credited with motivating them, a whopping 90 percent said they motivated themselves. Only 69 percent of the control group of average students said they motivated themselves.

One perfect score student said, “I’m a self-motivated person. I understand that I determine my own future.” Another said, “I just approach every class with the desire to do my best. I have high standards and am driven.”[3]

Amen and amen.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the parents of the subjects in the Perfect Score Study. Interesting stuff coming up!

 

[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, pp. 65-66.   [2] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 66.   [3] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 65.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Motivation: Seeing the Big Marshmallow

December 1, 2012

marshmallow_treatpops_2This is, like, my fourth post on Motivation for students, primarily, but helpful for other species of humans as well. If you missed yesterday’s post on Motivation and Marshmallows, you may want to scroll down my blog here and catch that one first. This post concerning the Marshmallow Study will make a heckuva lot more sense if you take just a couple seconds and read it first. If you’re a rebel, feel free to skip the advice.

If you are interested in the application of the Marshmallow Study, as it’s been dubbed, to success in business and in your personal life, I recommend a book entitled, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life by Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer. This gem of a book looks at why intelligence and hard work don’t necessarily equal success, and how you can utilize delayed gratification in your daily life to reach your own goals.

Common sense dictates that if you are smart and work hard, you will be successful. Not necessarily, according to Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet.

After reading de Posada’s book, it became apparent to me that the real secret to success is seeing the big picture, which is an incredibly motivating thing to do. When we only see the little individual marshmallow instead of the benefits of waiting to eat it—doubling our reward—we miss out on half of the benefits. We lose opportunity as a result of our impatience and shortsightedness. It takes foresight and vision to hold out for the rewards that are ours when we keep our eyes on the big picture and finally reach our ultimate goals.

Incidentally, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! offers a “Five-Step Marshmallow Plan.” Following this simple plan really helped me focus and see what I needed to change and do in order to begin reaching my goals via delayed gratification.

Seeing the Big Picture

What motivates a student who thinks that he is at the mercy of his teachers and that he must do whatever those teachers tell him to do?

Very little motivates him when he has no control over his environment.

A home-educated student is also unlikely to be motivated day after day when he doesn’t see the big picture, when he doesn’t see a purpose in the work he is doing. A big part of motivation is understanding the why behind what we are doing. I will be much more intrinsically motivated when I see how what I am doing right now will benefit me in the long run. How will what I do today or what I am asked to do by my employer or by my teacher be moving me towards my goals?

If we have no goals at all except to get through the day, chances are good that we will be unhappy. The human spirit thrives on challenge and success. Motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, is necessary for a well-balanced life.

I admit that I have worked simply for a paycheck before. Perhaps you have too. Because I could see the big picture—putting food on the table—I was willing to work for that extrinsic reward. Eventually, my situation changed. Remember me saying that motivation changes? It sure does. Now I am self-employed, and I’m very intrinsically motivated to work for the sake of helping others and not for monetary reward. In fact, I hate taking people’s money. If I could, I would give all of my products away.

The self-propelled student is motivated intrinsically by seeing the big picture, setting simple goals, and then moving closer and closer to those goals. By teaching our children to see the big picture, teaching them how to set goals, and helping to remove any obstacles that would prevent them from reaching those goals, we are giving them an edge. We are giving them the tools with which to master themselves, and as a result, they will hang in there not for immediate gratification, but for the purpose of reaching their goals. That is delayed gratification at its best.

Marshmallows and the SAT

Interestingly, another follow-up to the original Marshmallow Study was done in 1990, and it found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. Those who did not eat the marshmallow scored higher on the SAT than those who gobbled up their marshmallows. Isn’t that fascinating? I think so.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Motivation and Marshmallows

November 30, 2012

Pink and White marshmallowsMany moons ago, in 1972, a landmark study was done by Walter Mischel of Stanford University using marshmallows to assess the ability of preschool children, ages four to six, to delay gratification.

Children were placed in a room by a researcher, and each was given a marshmallow. The children were told that if they could wait until the researcher came back into the room before eating their marshmallow, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Then the researcher would leave the room for fifteen long minutes. (Remember how long fifteen minutes seemed to you when you were a preschooler?)

The results? Some of the children resisted eating the marshmallow—others didn’t. Out of the roughly six hundred children who participated in the study, only one-third were able to resist the call of the marshmallow and receive a second one as a reward.

While the original purpose of this study was to confirm a hypothesis about delayed gratification and age, this experiment has been repeated many, many times to prove or disprove various other hypotheses.

In fact, Mischel performed a similar experiment on the island of Trinidad using chocolate bars in order to see if ethnicity had any effect on delayed gratification. He found that while ethnicity did not, social and economic status did. Isn’t that fascinating?

But what fascinates me even more is a follow-up study that Mischel did on a group of the original “marshmallow children.”

Researchers interviewed them years later and discovered that those who were motivated to hold out for the second marshmallow, exhibiting self-control at a young age, had become more successful as adults than their counterparts who had given into temptation.

What does this study say about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

The kids who waited those fifteen long minutes weren’t thinking intrinsically, were they? I mean, they weren’t focused on the good feeling they were going to get from successfully waiting out the researcher. No, they were looking to the end goal which was two delicious treats instead of just one.

They were able to see the big picture which enabled them to demonstrate self-control.

They definitely liked marshmallows, right? It wasn’t that one-third of the children hated marshmallows. We can say they were motivated extrinsically—but one marshmallow wasn’t enough. One marshmallow just didn’t make sense when they could have two.

This study reveals that some children aren’t satisfied with what just anyone can have; they want more, and they will do what it takes to get more of what they want—in this case, marshmallows. They weren’t trying to make anyone happy by their choice. They were just doing what came naturally: “Well, if I can have two, why settle for one? This is easy! All I have to do is wait.”

The other, larger group of children apparently couldn’t see the big picture. They could only see what was before them: a fat, squishy, deliciously-tantalizing marshmallow, and the motivation to get twice as much out of the deal just wasn’t there. They gobbled up the first marshmallow (although some of the children played around with their marshmallow first, licking it a bit and holding it in their hands before giving in), and their reward was only one marshmallow.

Conclusion?

From this study, it was concluded that those who had the ability to wait for gratification became more successful adults, and I am assuming that by successful, the study means better jobs and all the trappings that go along with such things, which may not be everyone’s definition of success. A pretty impressive study and conclusion, nonetheless.

Danggit. Now I really want a marshmallow or two!

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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