More than any other factor self control and discipline help your child succeed. Learn what to do
School success Depends on Developing your Child's Self-Control Muscle
More than any other factor, having self-control helps your child succeed in school and future work.
Their self-control helps them keep distractions to a minimum, get tasks done on time, and use study time effectively.
Educators used to think that disadvantaged children did poorly in schools because classes were too big and teachers overworked and boring. Psychologists determined that the real issue was children without self-control. Once children were taught self-control they performed much better.
Self-control begins with young children and their ability to delay gratification. In most cases it is learning to wait for food or toy that they want.
In a classic Stanford study called “the marshmallow test”, the long term benefit of such an ability to delay gratification was proven emphatically.
Young 4 year old kids entered a room one at a time in which a single marshmallow was left on a plate for each of them. They were told if they waited for the researcher to come back in a couple of minutes they would be given a second marshmallow. The other option was to eat the one in front of them at once.
These children were marked as those who ate immediately and those who waited. They were followed up 14 years later. Those who waited to receive second marshmallow were significantly more successful in high school and college. Being able to delay gratification is the first step in developing self-control and having future success.
Challenge of Teaching Self-Control
Self-control is a unique ability we have as humans. We are born with this ability but it has to be developed by parents.
Initially this teaching comes naturally. It is part of the definition of being a parent. You warn your child not to touch a hot stove, not to grab a toy from a play mate or to wait until after dinner to have the candy or dessert.
What makes this parental job difficult is that children are not made to agree so easily. You have to have patience, emotional self-control and persistence. Most important is to remain calm when teaching these lessons to your resistant child. Expect them to fight you about it as it is natural. Just don’t get frustrated.
The inspiring thing for a parent with school age children is that self-control is more flexible than IQ. Self- control is something you can develop like a muscle
Establish Self-Control Habits for School Age Children
With school age children developing self-control means helping them develop good habits. But, you can't over do it. Developing habits is just like developing muscles. If you don't exercise it becomes weak. If you over exercise it gets sore and non-functional.
That means you pick one or two areas for your child to develop self-control habits. In limiting your focus to one or two things it may console you to know that children and adults who learn and develop self-control in one area often exhibit a spillover of self-control into other areas as well. I
In thinking of a self-control habit for your child first think and ask them about things they enjoy doing. Don’t think of asking them to develop self-control by not doing something. Keeping in mind all the time to not do something takes more energy than thinking of doing something in a certain time frame.
Setting Up a Model for Self-Control
Set it up a specific time and place in which you ask your child to commit to do something for a short 15 minutes on a regular basis. . Psychologists like to call it the "IF" and "THEN" model. It means that if “if” is now 5 pm "Then" it is now time to read my book or do my homework.
What the child chooses to do can be reading a book for 15 minutes every night after dinner, doing homework for 15 minutes at or even practicing music or art.
When you are setting up this model for self-control it is also a good idea to describe it as the time when your child shuts down the TV or computer game and puts in the time for that something lese. It is the something else (reading, art, music) which is important, but shutting down distractions is an important byproduct.
It is best to explore with your child what that something else should be. That something else your child is doing should be educational and a little challenging. It means they are working on developing a skill.
It can be anything from music art, or even athletics. The important fact is that they should focus on improving in one of those areas and practicing. Practicing takes self-control and discipline. What you don’t want is to allow them to assign this for an activity which is just fun and relaxing. You child will not learn self-control from that.
Remember that this self-control muscle works like all other muscles. That means it takes your time, patience and discipline for you to implement it and teach your kids.
Hopefully your motivation in knowing how important it is to your child's future success will give you the strength to persist.