Childhood Self-Control a Factor in Future Success

A colleague forwarded this interesting piece from NPR on self-control in children.

Some notes:

  • Sociologists find that there are three factors that determine one’s overall success as an adult:
    • IQ
    • Family socioeconomic status
    • Self-control (the easiest factor to change)
      • “The researchers define self-control as having skills like conscientiousness, self-discipline and perseverance, as well as being able to consider the consequences of actions in making decisions.”
  • Researchers studied 1,000 kids from birth to age 32; they found:
    • A child with self-control at age 4 is more like to be a happy and healthy adult
    • A child without self-control at age 4 was three times as likely to have problems as an adult with things like financial management, criminal records, and single parenting.
  • Teaching self-control
    • In a model pre-school, students are expected to do many tasks without the help of an adult; various resources (such as a “Solutions Kit” with pictures of ways to handle conflicts) are present around the classroom to aid in this.
    • For teens, establishing clear rules helps them regulate themselves.
  • Researchers find that the earlier self-control is learned, the better.

This article is especially interesting in light of “self-control” being a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). One aspect of being a Gospel-centered public school teacher is teaching kids skills or character traits that will someday aid them in the sanctification that we pray will be theirs. When public school students have had Gospel-centered teachers along their path to graduation, at the time of the salvation that we pray will be theirs, they will be able to say, “Ohh, now Mr. So-and-So’s emphasis on self-control makes that much more sense.”

In the meantime, may this research encourage us to continue searching for ways to build self-control in our students.


About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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