Best Predictor of Your Child’s Success

Apr 18, 2016 by

Think self-control isn’t urgent for kids’ health, wealth, well being and more? Guess again.

by Katrina Rossos

Adults know the consequences of eating a dozen donuts, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day or behaving obnoxiously — and are able to weigh the penalties against any satisfaction they might derive from those actions and make an informed decision.

Children, on the other hand, have a harder time navigating this territory because they are still learning how to balance emotions and desires.

Yet ongoing studies show that children who exhibit self-restraint at a young age actually lead healthier and happier lives than those who have no control over their impulses.

So what sort of future are we setting our kids up for?

“The link is clear. People with better self-control are healthier, throughout life,” psychologist Roy Baumeister, co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” told LifeZette. “The bottom line is that they live longer than other people.”

One key explanation for why those with self-control have more longevity — they practice nourishing behaviors, Baumeister explained. “Good self-control manifests itself in all sorts of things, like not overeating, not becoming addicted, not smoking, not using alcohol to excess,” he said.

Psychologist Walter Mischel long ago prompted studies about childhood self-control with his now famous “marshmallow test.” Conducted in the late 1960s, the test measured a preschool child’s ability to delay gratification. Mischel placed treats in front of a child, some of which were marshmallows, and then told the child that if he or she waited quietly alone for up to 20 minutes, a second treat would be provided as a reward. If the child ate a treat, however, no second treat would be offered.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.—James 1:19

Mischel continued to observe these same preschoolers over the course of their lives to see how their ability to resist temptation affected their grades, sociability, and drug use. He found that children who were able to defer indulgence excelled further in life than their tempted counterparts.

Critics of the study say Mischel’s group was too small and homogenous for him to reach any real broad-based conclusions. However, a much more recent study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in 2010 was much larger and had results very similar to Mischel’s.

The study followed 1,000 kids from birth to age 32 to also measure how self-control during childhood influences the rest of their lives. Conducted by professors of psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience from a variety of universities, the study found that health, wealth, substance dependence, and criminal activity also can be predicted by self-control in childhood.

Five-hundred sibling pairs were also observed; the findings indicated that the sibling with less self-control ultimately fared worse in life than the brother or sister, despite having the same background and upbringing.

So if there is a correlation between having self-control as a child and having a fruitful life, is the ability to control impulses inherent? Or, is it possible for a child to learn self-control?

Jamie Goldring of Memphis, Tennessee, has been teaching self-control to children for over 30 years. She said scientists have confirmed self-control to be a learned skill.

While Goldring understands that “some people are born having better impulse control than others, just like some people are naturally better in math than others” — she knows that every child benefits from instruction.

The secret, she told LifeZette, is in practice and having a plan.

Source: Best Predictor of Your Child’s Success

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.