Children taught self-restraint by their parents at an early age reap many benefits as they grow older. In a classic study- 4-year-old toddlers were tested to see if they could delay gratification.
A child would be put in an empty room with one marshmallow or cookie on a plate set before them. The children were told that if they waited and did not eat the treat right away, they would receive two treats as soon as the adult came back in the room—usually after a delay of 15 minutes.
Starting in 1968, a total of 653 4-year-olds completed this delayed gratification test. Some children grabbed the prize right away, whereas others patiently waited and received the extra reward. Follow-up studies over the past 30 years have shown that the preschoolers who were successful in delaying gratification for a longer time received better grades in school as adolescents, developed better social skills, had an ability to lay plans, were better able to handle stress, and achieved higher SAT scores.
These children are now adults. Those who learned restraint as children have much less obesity than their indulgent counterparts. It was discovered that there was 0.2 decrease in adult Body Mass Index (BMI) for each minute a child successfully delayed gratification. Only 9% of those who successfully delayed gratification are obese today. This is dramatically lower than the national average of 34% obesity.
This study bears out the truth of the Bible verse that says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NKJV).
Ellen White, a 19th century health reformer, expounded upon this principle when she wrote, “The Christian life is one of constant self-denial and self-control. These are the lessons to be taught the children from their infancy” (Child Guidance, p. 116), and again, “Let children be trained from infancy to habits of self-control. Let them be taught that it is not the object of life to indulge sensual appetites, but to honor God and to bless their fellow men” (Temperance, p. 181).