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Friday, October 19, 2012

MMM Sermons: Continue in Patience

by Saint Mark (bio)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call them "talks," but most (non)Christians call them sermons. This is a series of sermons that many Latter-day Saints love and believe. I hope these sermons promote and perfect your faith as they do mine. Read previous MMM Sermons or watch this specific sermon.

It probably was not President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's intention that I take his sermon so much to heart and experiment on my own children with marshmallows ... but I did. And I had some surprising results.

In April 2010 General Conference, President Uchtdorf used a scientist's experiment to illustrate the import of patience:
In the 1960s, a professor at Stanford University began a modest experiment testing the willpower of four-year-old children. He placed before them a large marshmallow and then told them they could eat it right away or, if they waited for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows.

He then left the children alone and watched what happened behind a two-way mirror. Some of the children ate the marshmallow immediately; some could wait only a few minutes before giving in to temptation. Only 30 percent were able to wait.

It was a mildly interesting experiment, and the professor moved on to other areas of research, for, in his own words, “there are only so many things you can do with kids trying not to eat marshmallows.” But as time went on, he kept track of the children and began to notice an interesting correlation: the children who could not wait struggled later in life and had more behavioral problems, while those who waited tended to be more positive and better motivated, have higher grades and incomes, and have healthier relationships.

What started as a simple experiment with children and marshmallows became a landmark study suggesting that the ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life.
Surprisingly, when I used the same experiment on my children, they exceeded my hypothesis. I had assumed that because they were five and three they each would eat the marshmallow after a few seconds when alone in a room with just the marshmallow and them. However, I tweaked the experiment a little. Because I wanted to foster patience, I only had them sit in the room for one minute. I told them that if they didn't eat the marshmallow, I would give them another so they would have two. I also had my oldest do it first so as to model what my youngest should do in this activity. After they both completed the activity once successfully, I added another minute and then finally the entire five minutes. I increased the reward each time, and amazingly they successfully withstood the temptation of the fluffy, white treat. This was a simple family home evening lesson, but it was rewarding to see my A.D.D. boys temper their appetites. I thought they would react like Cookie Monsters, but instead they acted like men of Christ-in-training. Now, the challenge is for me to become as patient as them.

How have you tried to foster patience in your children? In yourself?

Other MMM Posts

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