Education for Self-Control

If young people are going to resist constant internal impulses, they need to be taught one vital skill: Self-regulation.

In Dunedin, New Zealand (a lovely city and their center of the Great Highland Bagpipes), every other year teachers and parents evaluate each child between the ages of three and eleven on levels of aggression, hyperactivity, lack of persistence, inattention, and impulsivity. These ratings, along with those from the children themselves, result in a self-control score for every child.

Here are some interesting conclusions from their long-term study:

  • At 32 years old, the boys and girls who had had lower scores were poorer, had worse health, and were more likely to have committed a crime than those exhibiting more self-control.
  • Poor ratings were a stronger predictor of financial troubles than was social class or IQ.
  • In a separate set of 500 sibling pairs, the researchers found that despite a shared family background, the sibling with lower self-control was more likely to smoke, engage in antisocial behavior and struggle in school.

The Discipline Without Stress and Parenting Without Stress books show parents and teachers how to manage impulse control. This New Zealand study makes a good case for the necessity of teaching this all important skill.