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The Importance of Self-Control

From the Superintendent’s Standpoint
By Travis Miller

The Importance of Self-Control

I recently had the opportunity to attend a professional meeting with educators from across the Nebraska Panhandle regarding entrance into kindergarten. During this meeting educators discussed the importance of academic, cognitive, behavioral, and social skills for success in the early elementary classroom. During this professional discussion the general consensus of the educators indicated that while academic and cognitive skills are essential, behavioral and social skills are the primary indicators for successful transition into the school classroom. In other words, the ability of young children to engage in self-control contributes positively to early elementary learning.

I personally believe that the development of positive and effective behavioral and social skills continues to be important throughout our academic and career lives. If our students can engage in behavior and relationships that are appropriate in the classroom, careers, and a rich variety of social settings, then they are likely to be able to effectively navigate the challenges that life inevitably brings. However, when students (and adults) have difficulty engaging in self-restraint and self-control, the outcomes likely will be less positive for students throughout their academic and career lives. As I recently heard Kevin Kush, Head Football Coach at Boys’ Town, say, “Nothing else matters if you can’t show up on time, follow instructions, get along with other people, and accept feedback from authority.”

Coach Kush’s words were recently validated in a scholarly article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) entitled “A Gradient of Childhood Self-Control Predicts Health, Wealth, and Public Safety."  In this study the scholars followed 1,000 2 year old children for 30 years and studied the relationship between the participants’ self-control and a variety of well-being outcomes experienced by the participants at the age of 32. The study found that participants with low levels of self-control experienced poorer physical health, increased prevalence of substance abuse, and increased levels of criminal conviction. Additionally, the study found that participants with higher levels of self-control experienced increased income, higher levels of socioeconomic status, and better health relative to their age-group peers with low levels of self-control.

Clearly there is a need to teach children (and young adults) to engage in self control. As parents, sometimes the best thing that we can do for our children is to say “no” and to follow through with consequences. I know from experience that this is sometimes very hard to do, but it is also a very important way to teach our children to rise to expectations and to begin to learn self-control. In my opinion these lessons are best taught prior to school age. However, no matter how old our children are, parents can serve their children well by providing care, concern, discipline, accountability, guidance, and support to help reinforce behaviors that will lead to success in school and in life.

Although there are a variety of useful resources for parents when working to help students learn self-control, one of my favorites is “Say Yes To No” (http://sayyestono.org/). This site includes a variety of helpful information for parents including the following “Top 10 Tips to Raise Happy, Self Reliant Kids:”

1. Spend twice as much time and half as much money.
2. Support; don’t rescue. Encourage; don’t coddle.
3. Get them what they need but not everything they want.
4. Back up teachers and schools.
5. Take charge of media.
6. Set clear and high expectations.
7. Give chores.
8. Set and enforce limits and consequences.
9. Encourage volunteering.
10. Visit SayYestoNo.org

As always, if you would like to share success stories about Bayard Public Schools or if you have ideas about how we can work together to make our school even better, please call the school or send me an email.