Cookies are delicious. There’s no disputing it. Very few have the control to withstand the ultimate temptation of a warm chocolate chip cookie. One thing is for sure… It’s most certainly not the Cookie Monster. He is the poster child for instant gratification and impulse. But that all changed during the 44th season of Sesame Street. The show has reframed the Cookie Monster’s personality towards self-regulation and grit that is leaving the furry blue character in a serious identity shift.
As described by Sesame Street’s executive producer Carol-Lynne Parente in a recent USA today article, a prominent theme for the most recent season of the show was executive functioning. And at the forefront… self-regulation. Who better to work on these skills than Cookie Monster! With guest stars, music videos, and even his own hashtag to boot, the Cookie Monster has turned over a new leaf. He has not lost his love for cookies. Instead, he has learned that delayed gratification can lead to even more cookies.
This is a playful twist of a widely recognized experiment in delayed gratification called the marshmallow test. Children are given a choice. If they can sit in a chair and avoid eating a marshmallow for an undisclosed period of time (about 20 minutes), they get TWO marshmallows as a reward at the end. Click here to watch this torture in action. Such self-control is a tall order. Researchers have since learned that the marshmallow test has big implications for academic and professional achievement.
Recent research by Angela Duckworth has suggested that grit is one of the most important factors in predicting success. Delayed satisfaction and self-regulation are tightly embedded in her concept. Rather than expecting success because of traditional metrics like IQ, Duckworth contends that grit is the key. She tested this theory in the military, spelling bees, and public schools, and consistently found grit to be the common factor. This is reassuring in many ways because grit can be developed much more directly than perceived innate ability. It’s all about drive.
It is no secret to Montessorians that self-regulation is an important element in the classroom. Grit is intertwined into the process from the beginning. Moreover, Montessori grit is fun! It allows for failure, experimentation, and discovery. The intrinsic motivation cultivated in many Montessori students also comes with a stick-to-itiveness that something can be learned with enough effort. A student’s belief that competency is attainable should not be overlooked either. Within grit is a confidence. Educators should always highlight effort over initial comprehension as the path towards achievement.
It is lovely to see the trend shift towards non-cognitive skills as a precursor for learning. They’ve done good work with concentration, persistence, conflict, and empathy. Hopefully Sesame Street will continue it’s emphasis on executive functioning and non-cognitive ability. Maybe Oscar the Grouch will cover some of the grace and courtesy principles in upcoming seasons!
How gritty are you? Click here to take Duckworth’s grit assessment