Under Control: Helping Our Kids Develop Self-Discipline
In the late 1960’s, at Stanford University, a psychology study on delayed-gratification called the Marshmallow Test demonstrated that the more self-control a young child has, the greater the chances for academic, professional, and personal success in their future. There was a forty-year long follow up, and one of the most important lessons that we learned from it is: self-discipline is something that we can teach. This classic study has now been replicated many times. Check out one replication here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX_oy9614HQ
Self-discipline, or as its become known more recently: “self-regulation”, is something we can change. We can foster it, develop it, facilitate and refine it in our children. And the best time to start is now. Recent research findings have shown us that when it comes to addressing behavioural and emotional functioning, the earlier the better. School-based interventions, group programs, and therapy can start at very young ages, usually involving a parent as well, and children with out-of-control behaviour can learn to understand & express their feelings (sometimes through play, art, stories, drawings, or in direct conversation) and start behaving more appropriately at home, school, and within the community. Often, the changes are supported by a strong alliance between parent and child. Sometimes things seem fine at home, where parents are able to accommodate their child’s needs and wants, but it quickly becomes essential when a child with self-regulation difficulties enters the school system and has to socialize with others, follow rules, and be able to handle all of the expectations of being in a classroom environment.
Parents can consult with a private child psychologist to determine if early intervention might be worth considering for their child, or can explore subsidized services available through mental health agencies across Ontario: http://www.kidsmentalhealth.ca/
Parents may also be interested in a terrific new film about how early intervention is so effective for children with self-control difficulties. It has been released through CBC’s Doc Zone with the title: “Angry Kids, Stressed Out Parents”. If you are interesed in learning more about the film, check out their YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/BountifulFilms/