Could teaching your kids to say ‘no’ to a piece of candy help them stay off drugs and do better in school?

According to a new study, the answer is yes.

Over 40 years ago Standford University researchers conducted a study on self control. They gave 4-year-olds the option to wait 15 minutes and get two pieces of candy or have one piece of candy immediately. Less than one in three kids passed the “marshmallow test.”

In following studies, researchers found that those who were able to delay gratification as preschoolers were “more likely to do well in school, avoid substance abuse, maintain a healthy weight, and perform better on the SAT than peers who couldn’t resist temptation.”

Experts found those who have a hard time delaying gratification are more sensitive to environmental cues, and therefore have a harder time controlling their behavior. As kids hit puberty they reach a point of development where they are more sensitive to social cues and environment than children or adults. This research suggests to experts that this could be the cause of self-control complaints made by many teachers and parents of teens.

So, what does this study mean for you and your students? Teaching self-control at an early age could help kids see the benefits of delaying gratification when it comes to making time to do their homework, staying at a job so they can advance in the company, and planning for big purchases like buying a car or a home.

“We are asking kids to make sacrifices in the course of their careers here,” said Mitch Brenner, an assistant principal who is developing lessons for a new “marshmallow test.” “You are putting in long hours, you are doing homework while you would rather be playing video games or watching TV, and that can have benefits down the road, but it can be tough, particularly for a kid. We want to give them exposure to that idea, motivate them and help get them thinking.”


“Study Reveals Brain Biology Behind Self-Control,” by Sarah D. Sparks. 20 September 2011. Education Week. 24 September 2011. <>

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One Response to “Could teaching your kids to say ‘no’ to a piece of candy help them stay off drugs and do better in school?”

  1. I think teaching your child to say NO is one of the most valuable tools we can give them. Doesn’t matter what it is to – as long as they understand that they have choices and their opinion matters.

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