Social scientists have found that poor self-control is predictive of a variety of patterns of instability later in life. For example, children displaying poor self-control during elementary school years are more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors later in life, such as over-eating and smoking. They have even found poor self-control to be predictive of early mortality, unemployment, poverty, and crime. Obviously, this highlights the importance of teaching children self-discipline and delayed gratification.
Researchers have found that approximately 30% of 4 year olds already possess adequate self-control skills. Children who struggle with self-control issues can be taught healthy self-control and self-management skills early in life. While many people don’t necessarily equate self-management with social-emotional learning, the roots of self-management are in social-emotional learning and character development. The development of trust, empathy, patience, gratitude, respect, and generosity all contribute to the development of self-management skills and an awareness of the needs of others. Parents and teachers who model emotional regulation as well as empathy in setting limits help children to strengthen their self-management skills. In addition, character development opportunities through direct instruction and frequent conversation at school and at home enable children to develop increased empathy for others, increasing self-management skills and positive character strengths.
By Pamela L. Bruening, Ed.D.
Cain, G. & Carnellor, Y. (2008). ‘Roots of Empathy’: A research study on its impact on teachers in Western Australia. Journal of Student Wellbeing, 2(1), 52-73.
Duke University. (2011, January 25). Childhood self-control predicts adult health and wealth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110124151711.htm.
Markham, Laura; Help Your Child Develop Self-Control. Aha! Parenting Blog. Retrieved July 14, 2014 from: www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/Help_Your_Child_Develop_Self_Control/
Written for Charity for Change