A study published in the July issue of Developmental Psychology confirms what you and all other educators already know: a child’s ability to exercise self-control is a determining factor in his or her success in school.
Indeed, self-control can be more important when it comes to ensuring student achievement than IQ or a host of other factors.
As a principal, you can walk into any classroom on any day and identify right away those students who are exercising self-control. You can see it in their ability to listen. You can see it in their focus. You can see it in their level of on-task behavior…
Your classroom observations -- and the recent study -- make the topic of self-control a perfect one for your next school-to-home “Principal’s Message” for parents.
It used to be that students learned self-control at home. They learned the skills both directly and indirectly from parents and siblings, says Martin Henley, a professor of education at Westfield (Massachusetts) State College. But today, Henley adds, most teachers recognize that they play a large role in developing students' social skills, sense of responsibility, cooperative learning skills, and organizational abilities.
Can a teacher really teach the skills of self-control? Yes, says Henley, who helped identify a list of 20 social skills that comprise a student’s ability to exhibit self-control.
Just as there are reasons why some kids demonstrate self-control, there are reasons why others demonstrate deficiencies in self-control, added Henley. The fact that they were never taught the skills -- and never given opportunities to practice them -- are two of the main reasons. That’s why Henley developed Teaching Self-Control: A Curriculum for Responsible Behavior. His K-12 classroom curriculum provides specific activities for teaching all 20 social skills across the grades.
Parents still play a large role in teaching and reinforcing skills of self-control. For parents, the National Association of School Psychologists says it is important to select age-appropriate goals for children who are learning self-control. The key lies in setting simple, easily attained goals.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
If you take advantage of the release of this study as an opportunity to write about self-control in your next school-to-home newsletter, you might draw upon or share with parents these two fine resources:
Teaching Self-Control: Strategies for Parents
The National Association of School Psychologists offers strategies to help parents teach self-control and to help them deal with their child’s feelings as they teach the skills.
Teaching Your Child Self-Control
This KidsHealth.org article offers suggestions to help parents teach their children to control their behavior. Tips are provided for kids from infancy to adolescence.
Teaching Self-Control: A Curriculum for Responsible Behavior
Education World chats with Martin Henley, creator of the Teaching Self-Control curriculum. Included: Twenty self-control skills all children need.