When we picture our girls all grown up, successful, and conquering the world- one characteristic we certainly know they will need to possess is self-discipline. For most of us though, it doesn’t come naturally. It is nurtured and reinforced throughout our lives.
Psychologist Walter Mischel was interested in the connection between success and self-discipline and developed the now iconic Marshmallow Test. His 1960’s study featured a group of preschoolers who he challenged with this choice. I’m going to leave the room. You have a choice you can eat this marshmallow now, or wait and when I return you will get two marshmallows. As you can imagine, some kids were able to patiently wait and were rewarded with a bonus marshmallow. Other kids dove right in and enjoyed what was right in front of them.
But Mischel revealed later that some kids were given strategies to help them delay their gratification. For instance, they were told to “close their eyes” while others were not. As it turns out, the kids who were most successful in self-discipline were given strategies to help them wait.
Since we want our girls to grow in self-discipline, it matters that we give them strategies now to help them learn how to wait. Need a few ideas to get you going? Why not try these:
Find value in the process: Our girls are really good at what they see right in front of them. They may not understand that waiting is actually developing a spirit of endurance deep within them. Every time she waits or practices self-discipline, she grows in her ability to wait the next time. Since the process is often hard to see while you are in it, help her find value in looking back at where she has come from. It will encourage her to see the process has already begun and she is able to take another step in growing even more in endurance.
Set realistic expectations: We need to tell our girls the truth that waiting is not always easy, convenient, or fun. Sometimes knowing what to expect or that what she is feeling is normal, will help her to keep going. Growing in self-discipline involves growing in the understanding that even when we don’t see immediate results it is worth it because the long-term pay off will be so much better.
Dream with her: One way to help our girls “close their eyes” to the now and wait for what they want most is to dream with them! Help her to picture what she wants to be true after this season of waiting. What will she feel when she arrives at her destination or when she achieves her long sought after goal? For example, maybe your daughter has had her heart set on attending a special camp. But in order to get to go to that camp, she is going to need to do extra chores to help pay for it. Remind her daily, “Camp is the dream” and it will make the extra chores not so burdensome. This works for all ages and stages of girls. Get creative! Make a dream journal, poster, or Pinterest Board that will help her keep her eyes on the prize. Encourage her not to exchange what she wants most, for what she wants now.
Even moms need a reminder to find value in the process, set realistic expectations, and to dream! It helps to have other moms around us to help us keep going especially on the days it would be easier to quit. We know this because we are moms too and we realize the power of community! Do you need a daily pep-talk, encouraging resources, and a group of moms to cheer you on? Join our Facebook group! We are all doing our best to raise girls with courage and confidence. Find out more here!