Have you ever wanted to know how you can ensure your child’s success in life? I know I have! There are so many amazing things we can do, as parents and teachers, to help our children grow into strong and flexible people ready to face the world. I have come across one particular insight however, from the Dunedin Study, which has a remarkable, life-long, influence for success in a person’s life.

The most remarkable predictor of success in adult life is self-control. This transforming self-control is developed between 3 years and 7 years of age and can influence things such as the type of job your child will have, whether they go to university or have stable relationships and so on.

The Dunedin Study is an ongoing longitudinal research project spanning 40 plus years. Its main focus is studying how we, as humans, grow and change. The findings of the Dunedin study are remarkable, revolutionizing what we know about human development. As it has been so carefully moderated, many of it’s finding including the research on self-control, has been replicated all over the world and changing peoples lives across the life span. To really get a good overview and understanding of the Dunedin Study and its research into the influence of the early years follow this link to a documentary on SBS On Demand: http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/677558851715/predict-my-future-the-science-of-us-the-early-years.

Here at Thinkers.inq we take particular care in working towards developing this very important self-control factor. We do this through offering our children risky play experiences, daily challenges for the mind and body to stretch self-regulation and great relationships where thinking and reflection can flourish.

As this is such an important aspect to develop in your child we wanted to offer a few great ideas home too:

  1. Be consistent to reward self-control. To help build strength around delaying gratification we need to make sure the pay off is consistently worth it. It is just like when you say to yourself, “I’ll have that chocolate, once I have completed that task.” Help the self-control grow with an appropriate reward.
  2. Remember a timely reminder. Keeping the self-control goal ‘front and centre’ is very important. At the beginning of a self-controlled task, mid way through and at the end of the process remind your child of why the task matters. A great example is teeth cleaning; by repeatedly making the process matter and the intent clear there is a higher chance for the perseverance to prevail.
  3. Play games to build and strengthen self-regulation.
    • Red Light, Green Light. Children hear ‘green light’ and move towards a goal. When they hear ‘red light’ children stop. Then reverse the action.
    • The Freeze Game. Children dance when the music plays and freeze when it stops. Dance quickly for fast-tempo songs, slowly for slow-tempo songs. And then reverse the cues: Fast music = slow dancing. Slow music = fast dancing.
    • Conducting an orchestra. Children play musical instruments (like maracas and bells) whenever an adult waves the baton, increasing the tempo the children respond by playing their instrument faster. The same with reducing the tempo when the baton slows down. Then the opposite rules apply (e.g., children play faster when the baton moves slowly).
    • Drum beats. An adult tells children to respond to different drum cues with specific body movements. For example, children might hop when they hear a fast drum beat and crawl when they hear a slow drum beat. After a time, kids are asked to reverse the cues.
  4. Talk about feelings which influence our self-control. Children benefit when parents talk to them about their feelings, show empathy, and discuss constructive ways to cope. Some researchers call this sort of conversation “emotion coaching,” and it’s associated with better child outcomes as children can talk freely about how they feel without worry of being in trouble or that what they feel is wrong or problematic. For example, meals times are a great time to chat and brain storm solutions around these sorts of feelings and their influence.
  5. Give your children a break. While working the self-control muscle is very important it is also important to give it a rest. A balanced approach is vital and key to renewal and change, just like any sort of exercise.

If you would like some more ideas like these, then Parent Science is a great place to refer to!