Chapter 7: Self-Control and Discipline

 

 

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Chapter 7: Self-Control

Submitted by: Drew Ibendahl

Throughout a single school day, students are continually asked to control their impulses, obey rules, ignore distractions, be patient, and stay focused on a task.  In other words, students are asked to exhibit self-control. When exhibiting self-control, children delay what they desire in that particular moment in order to gain something more desirable in the long term, a process known as delay of gratification (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  Self-control increases as impulsivity decreases dramatically with age.  Impulsivity in infants is evident when they are hungry and need to be fed immediately, whereas young children have a longer, albeit slightly, capacity to wait.  As children continue to grow, their ability to stay on task, ignore distractions, and control impulses improves (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).

            Research has shown that self-control in children is reflected in adulthood.  A longitudinal study, which followed over 1000 children in New Zealand over the course of 30 years, was completed in 2011. This study found that children scoring lower on self-control measures as young as age 3 were more likely to have health issues, become dependent on drugs and alcohol, experience financial troubles, and have a criminal record by the age of 32 (Moran, 2011).  A similar study was done with 500 pairs of fraternal twins.  The study found that the sibling with the lower self-control scores at age five were more likely than the other sibling to begin smoking, perform poorly in school, and engage in antisocial behavior by age 12 (Moran, 2011).

            The text describes cognitive abilities, practice, attachment, religiosity, and parental monitoring as factors linked to self-control. Students with high IQ are more likely to possess a delay in gratification (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  Through practice, self-control, like a muscle, can be exercised, and become stronger.  However, just like muscles, overuse of self-control without time for rest and relaxation, can result in failure (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Frequent breaks, such as recess, allow students the break they need from constant demands for self-control in the classroom. Research has shown students who spend time during the school day playing games, like “Simon Says” and “Red-Light, Green-Light”, which help improve self-control, score better on tests measuring executive functioning.  (Manier, 2008).  The pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for conscious decision-making is one of the last areas of the brain to develop in children, which is apparent in the young children’s impulsive behavior.  By improving working memory in children, executive functioning and self-control may also improve, because children must keep something in mind, while avoiding distractions. (Manier, 2008).  

            Parents monitor their children to different degrees, and how closely parents monitor their children plays a role in self-control.  Lack of parent monitoring is linked to low self-control, as well as aggression, depression, dislike of school, and drug use (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).  In a study done by the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth in Canada, data was collected from parents, children, and teachers regarding various social, economical, and biological factors.  Included within this study was information regarding students from intact families, reconstituted families, and single parent families. From the information gathered, parental monitoring appeared to have little association with the perception of self-control in children from intact families (Phythian, Keane & Krull, 2008).  However, the data did show a positive association between parental monitoring and self-control in students from single parent homes and reconstituted homes.

            So what can we as educators get from the information gathered in this study?  It is widely believed that differences in self-control in children still remains unexplained, but the overall family dynamics of intact households seem to have positive effects on self-control in children.  Moreover, parental monitoring and supervision have the potential to counterbalance the risks often associated with growing up in single parent and reconstituted households (Phythian, Keane & Krull, 2008).

 References:

  • Bergin, C.C. & Bergin, D.A. (2012).  Child and Adolescent Development in Your Classroom.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
  • Manier, J. (2008).  Research: Child’s Play Is Key to Self-Control. Retrieved from:http://proxy.mul.missouri.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.mul.missouri.edu/docview/390281500?accountid=14576 
  • Moran, M. (2011). Child’s Self-Control Reflected In Adult Health, Wealth, and Crime. Psychiatric News, 46(6), 17.
  • Phythian, K., Keane, C. & Krull, C. (2008). Family Structure and Parental Behavior: Identifying the Sources of Adolescent Self-Control. Western Criminology Review 9(2), 73-87

 Questions:

  1. In your capacity working with children, do you recall observing any relationships between a child’s/student’s self-control and your perception of the parental monitoring shown toward the child/student outside of the classroom? Explain the relationship you observed.
  2. In what ways can we promote/encourage self-control in our students, no matter what age or at what level of self-control they possess?
  3. Research shows religiosity is linked to many life outcomes based on self-control (seat-belt wearing, longer wait before intercourse, longer lifespan, greater well-being, and higher academic achievement). If you are in a public school setting, religiosity is a very sensitive, even forbidden subject. How can educators use this subject to promote self-control?
  4. Some cultures center around a collectivist point of view, where the needs of the group are more important than the individual and interdependence and harmony are emphasized. Other cultures are more individualistic, emphasizing independence, self-reliance, personal freedom and rights.  Which cultural characteristic do you feel your classroom centers around and why?

 

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3 Responses to Chapter 7: Self-Control and Discipline

  1. Melinda says:

    3. Research shows religiosity is linked to many life outcomes based on self-control (seat-belt wearing, longer wait before intercourse, longer lifespan, greater well-being, and higher academic achievement). If you are in a public school setting, religiosity is a very sensitive, even forbidden subject. How can educators use this subject to promote self-control?

    Psychologists Roy Baumeister (Florida State University) and Michael McCullough (University of Miami), as well as researcher Kevin Rounding of Queens University, define religiosity not so much as the practice of a religion or even a belief in a deity, but rather a “cultural adaptation that has benefitted humanity’s fitness by promoting socially beneficial behaviors in the face of adversity “(Gonzales, 2012), or more loosely, “morality”. They further postulate that if religion does function as a means of cultivating self-control, it’s likely because of what they refer to as a “religious prime” (morality concepts or death-related concerns) imbedded in or evoked by words (such as ‘divine’) or symbols (such as a dove) within the situation. And, although people who are ‘religious’ are, not surprisingly, more subject to this effect, even self-professed agnostics and atheists show similar susceptibility (Gonzales, 2012).

    What does this mean for educators? First of all, we need to separate “religion” from “religiosity”. The former (religion) is off limits, as it is, or can be, an inappropriate misuse of our influence as authority figures, potentially conflicting with parental rights and beliefs. However, it seems that modeling, discussing, and expecting compliance with basic social mores, such as turn taking, respectfulness, honesty, sharing, etc. – all components of ‘religiosity’ – are essential aspects of a successful society (such as a classroom) and are, therefore, not only “fair game”, but almost an obligation on the part of the teacher. In short, we can, and should, bring in programs and develop practices that build on the students’ natural tendency to respond to religiosity, but we should not speak specifically about or promote our own religious beliefs.

    (For more specifics about religiosity, morals, values, social mores, and ethics, stay tuned for the discussion of social cognition and moral education in Chapter 9, the week of October 14.)

    Reference: Gonzales, Robert T. (May 17, 2012). Religion can improve your self-control – even if you don’t believe in God. io9, We Come From the Future. Retrieved from http://www.io9.com/.

  2. Nicole Gaffney says:

    In what ways can we promote/encourage self-control in our students, no matter what age or at what level of self-control they possess?

    In kindergarten, it is difficult to distinguish which behaviors are because of a lack of self control, and which behaviors are because of lack of knowledge of rules and routines. It is in our nature to give students expectations before we ask something from them. We ask them to “Raise your hand quietly if you know ______” or ” lets walk to line with our hands to ourselves”. These kinds of verbal warnings help keep unwanted behaviors to a minimum.

    With my students, I encourage them to be patient and constantly talk discuss with them the expected behavior at school. I model how to talk to others when I want something. I also show them the appropriate ways to take turns and share. If a behavior occurs due to the lack of self control, I sit down with the student and discuss why the behavior needs to be changed and who it effects. This usually helps most students.

  3. Brooke says:

    Research shows religiosity is linked to many life outcomes based on self-control (seat-belt wearing, longer wait before intercourse, longer lifespan, greater well-being, and higher academic achievement). If you are in a public school setting, religiosity is a very sensitive, even forbidden subject. How can educators use this subject to promote self-control?

    I am in a public school setting and while reading this part in the chapter was thinking about particular students I have that are vocally religious and I would say, I could see this information being accurate. I have many mormon students, catholic students, and many that are very active in their christian communities. Most of these students (not all) do seem to be more in control and follow these descriptors for whatever reason.

    In the public school it is a big no-no to voice your opinion and to force students to believe or adopt a certain way of religious thinking. I do, however, do not think it is a problem to acknowledge that religion exists and to explore the ideology objectively. While I would not consider myself a very religious person, I think it is an interesting topic to explore and think that we can learn a lot from all of our diverse religions in our schools. I usually ask students to reflect and share what helps motivate them and keep them on track in school. If they happen to say it is religion or God, I would have no reason to stop them from telling their peers what works for them. Last year, one student brought a box of mini “Think-books” to our school that were given out in her youth group. These books were no bigger than post-it size and contained short motivational quotes for self-control and motivation, space for written reflection, quizzes, as well as bible quotes that matched each idea. The principals allowed her to pass them out during lunch and said that it was up to the other students whether or not they accepted and used them.

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