The Marshmallow Test

Written by Les Dahl on January 17th, 2016. Posted in Parenting Strategies, Prosperity, Sage's Scroll



document.write(" sans-serif;">What does resisting the temptation to eat a marshmallow have to do with the ability to succeed? How important is it to teach our children self-control and the ability to delay gratification?

Some 40 years ago, a psychologist devised an unusual test of self-control. Walter Mischel set a plate with a marshmallow before preschoolers and then told them he had to leave the room for a few minutes. He gave each child a challenge.

If you wait until I return. I will give you another marshmallow. If you just can't wait, ring this bell and someone will come immediately—but you will have only one marshmallow.


Two-thirds of Mischel's subjects gave in to the excruciating temptation, rang the bell and ate the marshmallow. Only one out of three mustered enough will-power to delay gratification.

In which group would you have fallen, a mere 4 or 5 years old faced with a mouth-watering delight and no one else in the room except Jiminy Cricket whispering in your ear, “Don't eat it!”?

Mischel revisited his 'marshmallow subjects' as adolescents. The teenagers who had passed 'The Marshmallow Test' as preschoolers scored higher on the SAT and displayed a “greater ability to plan, handle stress, respond to reason, exhibit self-control in frustrating situations and concentrate without becoming distracted.” (Source)

Mischel and several colleagues tracked down 59 of the original 'marshmallow kids' who were now in their 40s. Were the attributes displayed as successful, high-achieving youth still active as adults?

Amazingly, the character qualities that marked their adolescent years continued into adult life. Those preschoolers who just couldn't resist the marshmallow “performed more poorly on the self-control task as adults.” Those who were able to delay gratification became successful, well-balanced and happy adults.

The ability to delay gratification has long-term positive consequence.

QUESTION: How can we cultivate the ability to delay gratification in our children?


These short videos will interest and amuse you.

(1) The Marshmallow Test <>

(2) What about Hispanic children? <>

(3) What about Canadian children? <>

(4) The implications? <>






5 Things We Can Teach Our Children About Christmas

Written by Les Dahl on December 24th, 2015. Posted in Family, Parenting Strategies, Peace, Sage's Scroll



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">It is easy to be knocked off balance and lose focus at Christmas. It is, after all, the busiest and most stressful season of the year.

Even more so for our children. Egged on by seemingly harmless questions, “What do you want for Christmas?” or “What do you want Santa to bring you this year?” children are swept off their feet by a marketing vortex that plays on their innocent fantasy.

Everywhere they turn, children are bombarded with high-definition, fast-action, color-intense visual images that prey on their impressionable imagination. As if the visual overload is not enough, an overdriven cacophony of Christmas sounds and advertising bombards their sensitive eardrums.

Exhausted and stressed, we parents get sucked into the Christmas juggernaut and miss what makes Christmas the “special time of the year” that it is.

Here are 5 things we can teach our children to help them stay balanced and not lose focus at Christmas.

1. Christmas celebrates Light

Just listen to the news for evidence that darkness encroaches upon our world. Our children feel it intuitively, along with their personal darkness and fear. Christmas is an opportune time to reassure our children that the Eternal Light of God, whose birth we commemorate, shines in their heart. It only takes a little candle to shatter darkness.


2. Christmas announces Joy

Darkness steals joy, especially that of childhood. Joy to the World is a favorite carol heard often at Christmas. But the commercialism of Christmas tempts our children (and us) to look for happiness in material things—toys, electronic devices, food. Joy, however, has its source within and springs forth by our choosing. That lesson will benefit our children all through the year.


3. Christmas proclaims peace and goodwill

Darkness promotes feelings of alienation. Home is designed to be a refuge of safety, especially for our children—the space where they can be themselves, accepted for who they are and loved simply and especially because they are family. Christmas is a good time to reaffirm family and extend expressions of goodwill to all.


4. Christmas denotes giving

On this point the significance of Christmas is most sadly lost. Too easily, especially for our children, Christmas becomes a season of getting. Giving of gifts tends toward superficial (it's the expected thing to do, especially if one expects a gift in return) or toward extravagant (an unnecessary and beyond-budget display).

True giving comes from a sincere heart and a habit of being kind and generous. It is found in a person who delights to elicit joy in others. Our children become authentic, fulfilled human beings as they learn this lesson.


5. Christmas heralds contentment

The attitude in the Christmas story that impresses me most is the unpretentious contentment of Joseph and Mary summarized by three words—simplicity, gratitude and wonder.

The young couple are content to begin their life together as a family in a rustic stable. Simple shepherds and dignified magi are welcomed with authentic gratitude and sincere wonder.

And after the grandiose fanfare of that first Christmas, Joseph, Mary and their beloved Yeshua continue a simple life filled with gratitude and wonder in Nazareth,.


The greatest gifts we can give our children this Christmas are the lessons of Christmas. These are best caught not taught, which happens when we parents model them every day of the year.

I bless my parents for these gifts. The lessons are deeply ingrained in me. I have the privilege this year of sharing them with two of my grandchildren who, with their mother, live with us.

Blessed Christmas to all...


Question: Will you take time this Christmas to impart these lessons to your children? They will bless you for it.



Written by Les Dahl on December 1st, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif;">“TV provides no educational benefits for a child under age two.”(1) ... “Watching TV in childhood increased chances of dropping out of school and decreased chances of getting a college degree.”(2) ... “Watching sex on TV increases the chances a teen will have sex, and causes teens to start having sex at younger ages.”(3)

Is TV a “one-eyed monster” devouring our children? These strong statements backed by research suggest it is. Is there any good effect of TV on our children?

“The bad” and “the ugly” - some shocking statistics.

  • Infants and toddlers exposed to programs designed to “teach” and enhance “brain development” learn less than children who play and interact with other children and adults instead. A child watching 1 hour of TV a day during his/her first 2-3 years increases their chance of developing attention problems by nearly 10%.
  • Watching TV contributes to obesity. On the tennis court, 8.1 calories are burned per minute; an “active” video tennis game like Wii burns about 5.3 calories per minute. Watching TV burns only slightly more calories than sleeping.
  • On average, children 8 years and older watch TV and/or computer more than 7 hours daily (this includes DVDs, video games, calling or texting on the phone). That's over 30% of their time. Usually kids are engaged in more than one of these activities while doing homework.
  • Kids immersed in TV are less likely to read books. Even watching kids' cartoons results in poorer pre-reading skills at age five. Language, which is developed by reading, conversations and play, is delayed and vocabularies are smaller.
  • In 1 year, the American child is exposed to 12,000 violent acts on TV. That's 1,000 per month! The American Psychological Association Help Center counted 20 violent acts per hour on children's TV programs. Children watching violence learn aggressive behavior, like hitting a child to get the toy they want. They get the idea this is acceptable from TV programs they watch.
  • Many parents do not discuss sex with their children, so kids get much of their information from TV. The number of sex scenes has doubled since 1998. Of the 20 most-watched shows by teens, 14 include sexual content. These include an average of 5 scenes per hour. Research documents the increase of sexual activity and teen pregnancy with this drastic increase of sexual content in TV programming.

“The good” - a silver lining around a dark cloud.

For years, “Sesame Street” was the most-watched and loved children's TV program. Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland and Phillip Levine Wellesley College studied the impact of “Sesame Street.” They found that “the famous show on public TV delivered lasting educational benefits to millions of American children — benefits as powerful as the ones children get from going to preschool.” They also found that “the show has left children more likely to stay at the appropriate grade level for their age, an effect that is particularly pronounced among boys, African Americans and children who grow up in disadvantaged areas.” Kudos to “Sesame Street”!

How can parents salvage “good” out of TV?

  • Become informed about “the bad” and “the ugly” effects and make necessary adjustment to TV viewing habits, not only of the kids but of the entire family. Set limits about how much time is allotted to watching TV. Monitor what is being watched. Be a good role model.
  • Use TV effectively to complement what kids are learning at school. Kids who watch informative, educational and non-violent shows score higher on reading and math tests than those who do not.
  • Follow-up a “good” TV program with discussion and appropriate activities. (e.g. after a show that featured cooking, have kids join you in the kitchen; take the kids to the library to find books to read on a topic viewed; start up a conversation that will expand the kids' curiosity about the topic viewed.)
  • Create a culture of family in which the uniqueness of each individual is appreciated and the contribution of each individual to the whole is valued. Out of this springs family entertainment with meaningful conversations, engaging story telling and spontaneous laughter. Include outdoor activities and outings that create happy and satisfying memories. All without sacrificing the necessary private space of each family member.

“Any positive effect of television ... is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. ...[They] are far more important to a child's development than any TV show."

So says the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Public Education. I agree.


Image courtesy imagrymajestic /

(1) Chacha Tumbokon, <>

(2) (3) UNHS, Your Child: Development and Behavior Resources <>

University of Maine Bulletin #4100, “Children, Television, and Screen Time” <>

“4 Good & 6 Bad Effects Of Television On Children”, Dr. Saara Fatema

“Positive Effects of TV”, <>

“Study: Kids can learn as much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from preschool”, Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post, <


Written by Les Dahl on July 16th, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies



document.write(" sans-serif;">Children are born with much more intelligence than we credit them. We assume that because they cannot talk, i.e. articulate thoughts in verbal communication, they are incapable of thinking. “Thoughts must be verbalized before they can exist or legitimately be called thoughts,” we say. In fact, babies begin to exercise intuitive and mental abilities at birth. Some researchers believe intuition functions while the baby is still in the womb.


Babies begin to exercise intuitive and mental abilities at birth.


A baby's perception develops as he becomes increasingly aware of light and movement around him. With his five senses, which become operational from birth, he gathers information. His mind begins processing input—sorting, categorizing and synthesizes data into increasingly complex images. It is not by chance he recognizes familiar objects and people. Deliberate movements emerge, the result of rudimentary critical thinking.

We parents cannot contain our excitement when our baby utters his first word. Perhaps initially he is only mimicking us, but from birth his mind takes note of the sounds coming out of our mouth. Intuitively, he recognizes an appropriate response is expected. His mind sifts through his memory bank to find a matching audible. No match.


Deliberate movements and sounds are the result of rudimentary critical thinking.


He pays careful attention to our speech, even when we think he's not listening. He practices his expanding catalog of new sounds. We coax him to talk. One day, he looks intently into our eyes and clearly articulates ”ma-ma!”

Our outburst of joy and parental pride does not go unnoticed. The emotion, followed by a gush of praise and love, is registered in his memory. It feels good and becomes a strong motivation to recreate the process in order to experience the reward again. His little mind is already climbing the ladder of learning.


So, when does learning actually begin?


We don't realize how much is 'uploaded' into our unborn children while they are still in the womb.


A mother physically nourishes the developing embryo through the umbilical cord. But a little body is not all that is emerging. The foundation of emotional well-being, self-esteem and desire to live is laid in the womb. The soul and mind of the little person forming inside is also being nurtured...

  • by cultivating positive emotional responses to situations and people encountered during the day,
  • by smiling and laughing often,
  • by listening to good music and singing,
  • by reading aloud and telling stories,
  • by creating secure, wholesome family relationships,
  • by expressing love, acceptance and greatness to the unborn child,
  • and especially, as the husband and father is involved.

We don't realize how much is 'uploaded' into our unborn children while they are still in the womb. Fortunately, our Father in Heaven compensates our short-coming with His grace.


After the baby is born...


1. Add to the above curriculum lots playtime, unstructured and structured, as much as possible outdoors. Curiosity and imagination, important components of learning, are developed during play.


Playtime provides constructive parent-child interaction and spontaneous parent-guided learning.


2. Conversation is another important addition to the 'early learning' curriculum. Converse with your child as you would with any other person. 'Baby-talk' is cute, but unnecessary. It is the sound of your voice that delights your infant, whether the sound is 'goo-goo' or actual words. Remember, that little brain holds much more intelligence than you think! As you discuss things intelligently and your child listens wide-eyed and mouth agape, realize he is absorbing more than you realize. When he begins to talk, you will be amazed at the vocabulary ready on his tongue as he communicates thoughts and feelings.


Respect the intelligence of your child with intelligent conversation.


3. Involve your child as much as possible in what you are doing, even if he sits in the stroller nearby watching and listening. Again, you will be surprised by the learning taking place.


My grandson was not yet 1 year old and could neither walk nor talk. He watched intently as I fixed a ply-board barricade across the doorway of his veranda play area to keep him from crawling outside. Satisfied he was safely contained with his large-size lego blocks, I returned to my work.

Not much time passed when my wife called. She pointed to the doorway. There was my grandson, pulled up into standing position with a toy screw driver in hand working at a screw that held the barricade in place!

Having watched me use the tool only once, he was able to recognize the toy replica in his lego set and figure out what to do with it! My grandson is not a genius—he's a normal, curious, super-active boy. At that moment, I realized that...


Children are much more intelligent than we give them credit!


Image courtesy tuelekza /


Written by Les Dahl on June 21st, 2015. Posted in Family, Parenting Strategies


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Dads are not perfect. Mine certainly was not. In fact, I can recall very few times of memorable engagement with my dad. Yet, my dad greatly influenced what I am today.

During my first teaching assignment, I discovered three powerful realities about kids and fathers. They helped define my personal mandate as a father and give me even greater clarity about my role as a grandfather.

I cut my teaching teeth in Prince Rupert, a rugged fishing town 500 miles up the coast from Vancouver, B.C. The school served as a melting pot of well-mannered middle-class children and rough “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” kids. The latter was predominant.

Herbie (not his real name) was a small-for-his-age fourth grader. His mother regularly entertained men and his father was an abusive drunk. (“Alcoholic” does not adequately describe Herbie's father!). More than once, Herbie spent the cold, rainy night huddled on the doorstep, locked out of the house.


  • Reality #1: Kids long for approval of and relationship with their fathers. In my opinion, it is their deepest and strongest motivation.


It was hard not to feel compassion for Herbie, despite his misbehavior in class and aggressive interaction with peers on the playground. As I got to know him and learn more of his story, I wondered how does a little kid like Herbie deal with such neglect and abuse. For the most part, he didn't—Herbie simply couldn't process the trauma he experienced every day!

Yet, I discovered in Herbie a deep-rooted yearning for approval from his father. It was a driving motivation. And even more astounding was his deep longing for relationship with his father. It didn't make sense, knowing the kind of man his dad was!


  • Reality # 2: Kids are very forgiving of their father's short-comings—dads don't have to be perfect.


Herbie taught me the second reality about kids and dads. As our relationship grew, Herbie confided emotions and thoughts that seethed inside his small frame. It no longer surprised me that Herbie exploded at the drop of a pin. Yet, he never blamed his father for the abuse. Instead, he excused it with, “He only gets that way when he's drunk.” Herbie desperately clung to those few sober moments—trust me, they were very few—rather than dwell on the continual mistreatment.

There is, however, a tipping point. I don't know what became of Herbie, but without intervention, he was headed for disaster. Anger was growing into an uncontrollable gorilla inside.


  • Reality #3: Fathers have far greater impact on the personality, character and future of their children than they realize.


My experience as an educator and a minister has brought me to understand the third reality about kids and dads. Some fathers impact their children by intention, others by default, but all shape the personality, character and future of their children. Fortunately, some children are able to overcome childhood trauma to become healthy positive fathers of their own children.

Growing up on the farm, I admired my hard-working dad. I worked hard to measure up to his strong work ethic. I was amazed how he could fix things, often improving on the original. I watched him endure hardship and adversity with extraordinary stamina, hope and unshakeable faith.

My dad was not perfect, but he was a rock. Visible cracks and chinks, yes, but solid, beautifully-grained marble. I love you and miss you, Dad.


Image courtesy Pixabay



Written by Les Dahl on June 18th, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions, Parenting Strategies


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Do you wonder why kids hate school? Why their typical answer to the question is, "Because it's boring!"?

As we began our coaching session, Reggie (not his real name) made it clear that he was bored with school, that he didn't need to study for his up-coming year-end exams because he already knew everything, and that he wasn't pleased that his mother had arranged this session. His question, “How long is this gonna take?” said it all!

I needed to understand the root of his strong feeling about school so I asked, “Why do you hate school?”

“It's boring!” he responded.

“What do you mean when you say boring?” I probed.

“It's no fun!”

Happily, our session ended on a positive note. I deemed it an uneasy victory—I had won the skirmish, but not the war.

Reggie is a bright Fourth Grader whose quick, active mind jumps from one thought to the next and back again. Between thoughts he answers my study questions—he actually does know everything with at least 80% accuracy.

Not only is Reggie's mind flitting like a butterfly from idea to idea, he cannot sit still. He fidgets, squirms and finally gets up out of his chair and moves about the room in perpetual motion. (Yes, Reggie clearly displays ADHD symptoms.)

As I carefully observe Reggie, I think to myself, “Little wonder Reggie is bored at school!”

Here's why.

     1. Children are naturally different.

That's obvious. But in school, children are expected to conform to a singular, standardized mold. There's little room to be different.

Part of Reggie's ADHD “gift” is that his mind works much faster than most of his classmates. He catches on quickly and gets bored waiting for the others to catch up. Reggie acknowledges my prognosis with a wry smile.

     2. Children are naturally curious.

Children love to explore and investigate. But in school, a prescribed curriculum and schedule are imposed upon them. There's little room to spontaneously pursue piqued interest.

Reggie's mind flits from one point of interest to another not so much aimlessly asspontaneously. A study question reminds him of something else—sometimes related to the question, sometimes not. After a brief discussion, he easily returns to the original question and answers correctly.

     3. Children are naturally creative.

Creative expression of their uniqueness and curiosity affirms children's self-esteem. But in school, methodology—appropriate questions and accepted answers—is predetermined.

Is Reggie typical? Not necessarily.

Each child responds differently to the “un-naturalness' of school. But, given the opportunity to be different, curious and creative, children will feel differently about school.

Children thrive when they are encouraged to be responsible, to make choices and to take ownership of their learning process.

Question: Will kids like Reggie ever like school?