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Can self-control at age three predict the kind of adult the child will become?
Actually, the answer is yes.
A study of 1000 New Zealand children born in 1972-73 and tracked until age 32 notes that children with the most self-control at age three grew up to be the most successful adults.
Conversely those with the least self-control were more likely to drop out of school, get in trouble with the law, and not do well financially.
Studies like this must be looked at with a bit of skepticism as there are many variables that must be considered when comparing a child to the adult he or she becomes. It was noted that children of high socioeconomic status had greater self-control. Of more interest is that children with high self-control at age three, after controlling for both socioeconomic status and intelligence, had better health and earned more money at age 32.
Children with poor self-control had low tolerance for frustration, were not persistent, were restless, and did not like to take turns. Children with high self-control can focus of a task like a puzzle, enjoy solving the puzzle, and like to work with others on a task.
This is important for parents. Although many traits like a low frustration tolerance are inborn, parents CAN help children develop or improve their self-control. Some tips:
· Hesitate before picking a baby up so you give the infant a chance to self-calm.
· Give the child a chance to come up with a solution before you jump in to help, whether it is a puzzle or how the child deals with peers.
· Expect the best from your child. Lose the feeling that your job is to keep the young child happy. Your job is to help the child develop into an successful adult who doesn’t need you any more.
· STRICTLY limit TV. All screens interfere with the development of normal attention.
· Turn your house into a QUIET/CALM ZONE. Everybody, including the parents, will be less frustrated and better able to solve problems.
· Model self-control for your kids. No tantrums. (If you feel like screaming go to your room and do it softly!)
· Talk with older children about how to calm down when they get heated up, how to control their tongue and temper. Counting to five or 10 and writing down what they are angry about helps some children.
This study is important for communities as well as parents. Schools need to help children develop self-control. Communities should develop sports programs and projects that help kids think about others on the team or those less fortunate than themselves. A focus on others puts self into perspective. Children have to learn they are not the most important person on the planet, they are one of many and our task is to work together.
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