Cookie Monster could actually teach your kids self-control

This is a bit unexpected, considering any of us familiar with the classic Sesame Street character knows – the monster just cannot control himself when it comes to cookies. In fact, he doesn’t even take his time to chew, just shove-in-face and crumbs fly. But the iconic children’s show has rolled out a new curriculum […]

This is a bit unexpected, considering any of us familiar with the classic Sesame Street character knows – the monster just cannot control himself when it comes to cookies. In fact, he doesn’t even take his time to chew, just shove-in-face and crumbs fly.

But the iconic children’s show has rolled out a new curriculum with videos of Cookie Monster having some restraint, and researchers at the University of Iowa saw that it has actually made a difference.

First the kids were shown this video of self-controlled Cookie Monster:

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After finishing the clip, the kids were given the Marshmallow Test. This entails showing the children  marshmallow in front of them, but telling them if they wait and don’t eat it, they will get another treat. This tests the ability to delay gratification. Studies have shown that children who resist the temptation tend to have better outcomes in life, from higher SAT scores to better health. As it turns out, the kids who had watched the video clip were able to wait four minutes longer than those who didn’t.

The children were then sent home with more clips of the blue monster maintaining self-control, and it turns out they did show stronger action inhibition skills. One that a lot of parents would appreciate – when asked to whisper names of television characters they knew, they were less likely to shout.

These skills are “linked to resisting temptations, finishing challenging and time-consuming tasks, following rules, and interacting appropriately in social situations,” the study said.

Not only was temptation control improved, the kids showed stronger working memory skills. They were better able to focus on the requirements of certain tasks, such as not eating a marshmallow to get more marshmallows.

Turns out though, that even with temptation control and memory skills, impulsive behavior was still prominent (i.e. slam cookie into face). So maybe the experiment isn’t fool-proof, but improvement in some areas is definitely still something.