Every time your grandkids affectionately call you “Grandpa” or “Grandma,” they are doing a lot more than acknowledging their familial relationship to you. They are looking up to you as an older, wiser, more experienced role model.

As youngsters, they probably won’t express the sentiment in words, but they are counting on you for direction and guidance, so the ball is your court to provide it.

Think about the qualities you would like to see your grandchildren develop as they branch out from the safe haven of their home environment and spread their wings trying new and sometimes scary ventures in uncharted territory.

Not everything will be smooth sailing and delays, disappointments, and frustrations en route to major successes and rewards are inevitable.

You can have more of a say than you realize in how your grandkids react. You can show them by the way you lead your own life that “patience is a virtue.”

What Can Marshmallows Teach Us About a Child’s Future Success?

Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a psychology professor named Walter Mischel conducted some research studies at Stanford University that dealt with delayed gratification. In these studies, preschool children were asked to choose between just one small reward (a marshmallow, cookie, or pretzel) immediately or a double reward if they were willing to wait for about 15 minutes until the experimenter returned.

Follow up studies of the same people years later showed that the children who were willing to wait longer for the bigger reward tended to have higher SAT scores, higher levels of education, and better performance on social competency measures. The data were published, and the research studies became widely known as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.

Even though the research had serious methodological flaws, it does illustrate the lesson that being patient pays off. How do you think your grandchildren will fare on the marshmallow test? Check out these instructions, give them the fun activity described, and find out!

Why Patience Is Important

Patience is a quality that children can and should develop from an early age. As a youngster, your grandchild will discover other children besides themselves waiting to hear their name called, play a game, be picked for a team, and be served in the school lunchroom. If they go to amusement parks, they will probably have to stand on line to go on one of the more popular rides. If they are taking a trip with you, there may be an hour or more of boring travel time before they reach their destination.

When your grandkids get older, they will need to take tests for college or for a job and will have to patiently wait for the outcome. Or they may find a new outfit they like, but the price is too high so they will have to wait for a sale. As adults, the temptations for immediate gratification are even greater and more frequent.

Clearly, learning to be patient and selective is not only desirable; it is a necessity for making a happy and healthy adjustment to society at any age.

How You Can Help

You, as a grandparent, have years of experience to draw on regarding where patience got you and where impatience failed to get you over the years. Even so, sometimes your grandkids’ rambunctious behavior and seeming unwillingness to obey will exasperate you. But you really do need to stay calm and not lose your temper yourself. If you are patient with your grandchildren, you, as their role model and mentor, will be teaching them a valuable life lesson on how to be patient as well.

Conversely, if you frequently yell and curse in front of them, they will conclude that this kind of behavior is okay for them, too. Then you really will have your work cut out for you gaining their respect.

Having patience is especially important if your grandchild has a disability. It can be very frustrating when a child doesn’t immediately catch on to a lesson or is clumsier or needs more time to complete a task than other children, but that doesn’t mean that the desired goal is unattainable. Nothing is gained by giving up prematurely, but a healthy dose of patience and perseverance may be all that is needed not only not to fail but to exceed one’s expectations.


If being a good role model for your grandchildren is important to you, start by exercising moderation and restraint in your own daily habits and behavior. Don’t give in to every little temptation and your grandchildren won’t either.


The old saying “patience is a virtue” is believed to date back to the 14th century. Then, three centuries later, the French playwright Moliere remarked “Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”

These observations have stood the test of time. So when the desired outcome or reward is not immediately forthcoming, stay calm, have patience, and teach your grandkids to do likewise.

What have you done recently to help your grandchildren be more patient? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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