It is pretty well recognized that kids who exhibit self-control as youngsters have a much higher chance of success in school and work.
But is self control something that can be taught? Adam Smith thought yes, provided the child is taught to empathize. Failure to follow-through leads to a break in emotional sentiments that causes the child to learn self control.
Now a study in Developmental Psychology has brought out these points, “Promoting Prosocial Behavior and Self-Regulatory Skills in Preschool Children Through a Mindfulness-Based Kindness Curriculum.”
The twist is that the researchers in this paper inculcate greater experiences of empathy with mindfulness training. I’m a big fan of mindfulness, and have been tentatively bringing it into my college classrooms.
The authors find that a 12-week mindfulness training given to pre-school children improved learning, social-emotional development, social competence, health, and even end-of-year grades in the treatment group compared to a control group.
Duh! Quieting the mind through mindfulness, and filling the mind with positive thoughts, are both activities that would likely lead to positive changes in behavior. Just try it for yourself.
I am somewhat skeptical of the results, however, because of test design: it is likely that students selected for treatment classrooms where the mindfulness and kindness training were given would quickly determine they were “special” compared to the control group, who did other kinds of activities. They would “perform” for teachers and fulfill the expectations. Likewise, teachers who are teaching the treatment group may be attuned to looking out for examples of empathy and kindness, compared to teachers in the control classrooms.
Still, this is an interesting beginning to what in 20 years will be standard practice (I hope) in elementary schools.