Harnessing the Power of Self Control Can Help Us Reach Our Goals
Acquiring self control skills will lead to greater success in the classroom, and in life. Self control is one of the most important traits that a person can possess in order to be successful. Self regulation is defined as a cognitive skill that enables mindful, intentional and thoughtful behavior. It involves the ability to control impulses, such as not drinking alcohol the night before class. It also involves the capacity to do something because it is needed. Imagine if a student is confronted with the choice of going to a party or studying for a chemistry exam. The student knows that sacrificing time to study and do well on the exam will go far in improving the chances for good grades, while partying may be fun in the short term but will do nothing to achieve the goal to get into medical school. Flash forward to medical school, where every day including weekends is a never ending repeat of sleep, study, eat and more study. During this time, the student watches friends sleep late, go out, have fun. The student is aware, however, that the delaying gratification will result in a successful, respected career. Anything less would be a huge disappointment and the student is focused on the goal. Doctors are masters at self control and delayed gratification. They could not become physicians without possessing these traits. There is a study that demonstrates that the traits of self control are evident as young as preschool, and that those children showing those traits are proven to be more successful adults than those not having those traits. The Marshmallow Study was conducted by Stanford Professor Walter Michel in the 1960’s in which children demonstrated self control, or a lack of self control. In Dr. Michel’s most recent book, The Marshmallow Test – Mastering Self Control, he writes that children must have the skills plus the motivation to self regulate and that strategies used in the classroom can be used by people of all ages.
Children may naturally have the ability to delay gratification and researchers have discovered that these children go on to be more successful, healthier, and have better grades as adults. What about the subset of children who do not naturally have the ability to self control? What about economically disadvantaged children whose environments are not conducive to learning self regulation? Are these children doomed to a life of hot emotional triggers and bad choices? The Marshmallow Study demonstrated that self regulation skills result in a better adult outcome. Early childhood is the best time period to teach self regulation skills, and that adolescents and adults can also learn the cognitive skills necessary to delay gratification.
One example of the success of teaching self regulation, especially in preschools in diverse neighborhoods where the effects of poverty and homeless wreak havoc on cognitive self control, is the Tools of the Mind program developed by Dr. Elena Bodrova and Dr. Deborah Leong. This innovative program believes that to be successful in school and in life, children need to master a set of mental skills as well as physical skills. It melds Vygotskian theory (a sociocultural approach to cognitive development) with recent neuroscience research, and develops self-regulation and executive functions in the classroom. How exactly do teachers accomplish this? In an article written by Dr. Bodrova and Dr. Leong, they explain how “Regulation” is just as important as the other R’s…Reading, (W)riting, and (A)rithmatic. Tools of the Mind incorporates emotional and cognitive self regulation skills that lead to greater success in the classroom and in social relationships. Case studies involving Tools of the Mind classrooms are impressive. The Christina Seix Academy in Trenton serves poverty stricken students with one adult caregiver. Children are given full scholarships to attend the PreK 3 – eighth grade school. In last year’s kindergarten class, 86% of the students meet or exceed the beginning of the year 1st grade literacy benchmark and 36% of the students exceeded the 1st grade level expectation. The goal is to put these economically disadvantaged children on track to attend the best high schools and universities in the United States.
There is no argument that cognitive and emotional self regulation skills are necessary to success, both academically and socially. The question answered here is that self regulation can be taught at any age, and the earlier the intervention the greater the benefits.
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NEW SOURCE “Vygotsky | Simply Psychology.” Vygotsky | Simply Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.
NEW SOURCE Winerman, Lea. “Acing the Marshmallow Test.” American Psychological Organization. N.p., Dec. 2014. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.