Selling Self-Control with Sugar: Charlie Sheen, Donuts, and Preschool Self-Regulation

Self-control at age 3 predicts life success. 
Got it. Self-control begets success according to a new study out of New Zealand. 

Makes sense.  All those years learning patience allows kiddies to grow up and get to work on time every day and stay off the police blotter.

How then to explain Charlie Sheen?  Not only the highest paid television actor but the one who's exhibited precious little inhibition of late.

Either he had mucho control that he lost along with his self-respect and humility or maybe self-control is not as highly valued or even necessary in tv land.  Possibly self-discipline pales in comparison to good looks, talent and a daddy in the biz?

Still, I'm a big fan of self-control.  Not the sugar-is-evil, no-tv, abstinence, not so much as a Kleenex box on the kitchen counter type but the more restrained kind that allows a person to focus, find friends, accomplish some goals while enjoying life including the waffle cone crammed with peanut butter  fudge ice cream. 

Wrote about self-control on Parent Dish if you want to check it out - Put Down the Bluetooth: Patience and Focus Can Mean More Money, Better Health - I dish on the Kiwi study, a pretty good one spanning several decades.

Anyhow, picked up We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess, a new book by Daniel Akst.  Who doesn't enjoy a good read about self-control?   

But honestly, I couldn't resist the big chocolate-frosted donut with sprinkles on the cover.

Not fair. Honestly, if you're pushing a book about societal's critical loss of self-control in an increasingly complicated consumeristic, super-sized, instant everything culture - is it fair to distract me with that mouth-watering treat in my already overscheduled day?  Is it ethical to sell an anti-temptation treatise by temptation? 

Maybe it was a test of sorts.  If you can pass up this bright orange book with the donut then you don't need to read it.  Despite its potential marketing genius, I've yet to see a diet book with a cupcake on the cover.


TherExtras said...

Sweet post, Polly.

Just the other day I was recalling the research that cemented 'EQ' in my mind. Young children were given the choice of one sweet now or 3 later. Those who demonstrated delayed gratification were later found to have higher 'emotional intelligence'.

I'll see if I can find an online version of an article I just read that said most people don't make decisions based on rational delayed gratification. Calling behavioral economics, or some such.


Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...


I remember those studies, and the famous marshmallow ones with the poor kids sitting there salivating over the sugar. That would have been a fun experiment to do!

With all the instant gratification devices around do you think kiddies today are gonna have less self-control? Would love to see some data on that.

Ken D Berry MD said...

Very interesting post. More and more research proves what most parents intuitively know, tending the twig well leads to an excellent tree...

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hi Dr. Ken. Mind if I co-opt the analogy? It's monotonous picking up and pruning those twigs, it requires constant effort. Though perhaps not vigilance, otherwise the trees might suffocate.