“The Psychology of Time” – Useful For Financial Planning and Parenting

I found this Ted Talk so interesting because I believe it’s relevant to being a parent.

Transcript I:

Now lets tempt four-year-olds, giving them a treat. They can have one marshmallow now. But if they wait until the experimenter comes back, they can have two. Of course it pays, if you like marshmallows, to wait. What happens is two-thirds of the kids give in to temptation. They cannot wait. The others, of course, wait. They resist the temptation. They delay the now for later.

Walter Mischel, my colleague at Stanford, went back 14 years later, to try to discover what was different about those kids. There were enormous differences between kids who resisted and kids who yielded, in many ways. The kids who resisted scored 250 points higher on the SAT. That’s enormous. That’s like a whole set of different IQ points. They didn’t get in as much trouble. They were better students. They were self-confident and determined. And the key for me today, the key for you, is, they were future-focused rather than present-focused.

I try to instill in my child every day that if he or she waits, then better things will come in the future. I tell my son things like;

“if you help me clean up the living room now then you can have a cookie after, and it will taste so much better”. 

My toddler usually responds by whining and sometimes throwing a fit, which varies by how tired he is at the moment. He eventually gives in by throwing two trucks in a bucket and asking again for a cookie and the process starts all over again. The worst case scenario is he will run into the kitchen and help himself to a cookie. Not cool.

Until I saw this video I didn’t fully understanding the psychology behind my actions. I just believed that it was my responsibility to repeatedly remind him of the importance of completing the task at hand and then rewarding yourself after, not the other way around.

This is obviously difficult for his little head to digest because for a toddler, life is good and he wants as much of it as he can get. Whether it’s TV time, cookies, time at the playground or just time being awake. If you ever want to see an example of not planning for the future, just observe a hungry and over-tired toddler who is refusing to nap. Very scary. 

Whether we are aware of it or not, instilling these values in our toddlers is crucial.

Lastly, in terms of someone’s “optimal time profile”, read the transcript below.

Transcript II:

So, very quickly, what is the optimal time profile? High on past-positive. Moderately high on future. And moderate on present-hedonism. And always low on past-negative and present-fatalism. So the optimal temporal mix is what you get from the past — past-positive gives you roots. You connect your family, identity and your self. What you get from the future is wings to soar to new destinations, new challenges.What you get from the present hedonism is the energy, the energy to explore yourself, places, people, sensuality.

If anything can be taken away from this video it’s that your kid should understand that if you do good things in life you will be rewarded and that it’s okay to indulge on chocolate chip cookies from time to time.

For parents, you shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt for insisting on your kid cleaning up before they get a reward. Yes they will kick and scream, but in the end you’re helping your kid for their future.



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