Parents Are Putting Their Own Spins on the Marshmallow Test to Gauge Kids' Willpower

As the pandemic is testing the world's patience, parents are testing their kids on a much smaller scale by putting fruit snacks or candy in front of them and seeing how well they'll accept delayed gratification.

Little girl eating chocolate buttons
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

We're a little more than three months into contending with a global pandemic, and it's easy to feel like you're jumping out of your skin to resume daily life as it was before. Having the willpower to embrace delayed gratification isn't something even adults do very well with. It might be hard to imagine kids having more patience, but as it turns out, many of them do. It's a theory regular parents and celebs have been testing with the Fruit Snack Challenge.

What's the Fruit Snack Challenge?

The challenge is a modern update on an experiment done at Stanford University in the 1960s called the Marshmallow Test. Designed to study the science of self-control in children, psychologist Walter Mischel gave 4-year-olds the option of eating one marshmallow immediately or they were asked to wait 15 minutes, until a researcher returned to the room, and told they would be given two. Time reported that some follow-up studies showed that the preschoolers who waited were significantly less likely to have problems with behavior, drug addiction, or obesity by the time they were in high school, compared with kids who chose the first option.

Now, famous moms from Gabrielle Union to Kylie Jenner to parents on social media are running a similar experiment on their kids, replacing marshmallows with fruit snacks or candy or a cookie, and capturing it on video.

Check their posts out.

1. Union's daughter Kaavia Devoured the goodies STAT.

2. Jenner's baby Stormi was as patient as could be.

3. This little girl was frustrated but kept her cool.

4. This sweet boy was totally laid back.

5. This funny toddler couldn't resist the cookie.

6. This little boy groaned but held off on the M&Ms.

No matter the results, the cuteness is clearly off the charts. That said, parents can't really draw any long-term conclusions from their child's behavior here, as follow-up study results have contradicted the original Marshmallow Test. A 2018 study concluded that the ability to delay gratification is shaped in large part by a child’s social and economic background—and that background influences kids' long-term success.

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