self control

I firmly believe that kids who grow up surrounded by loving, firm, fair, consistent boundaries grow up able to self regulate themselves and are happier.

I have been recently working in a school where I worry about the children’s ability to control their own behaviour as they are mostly undisciplined and struggle to follow the rules.

I read with interest this article in Motherlode the New York Times blog called “Don’t Make Your Children the Exception to Every Rule

Research on well-being – the outcome closest to happiness that psychologists will promise – centres on three core factors: health, relationships and a sense of mastery in one’s chosen pursuits. In other words, “happy” adults enjoy good emotional and physical health, have relationships that make their lives better (not worse), and have a sense of competence and control in their endeavours.

When we look at the research on the childhood precursors of adult well-being – the traits we see in children who go on to become happy adults – we find that the driving factor is childhood conscientiousness, not childhood happiness. Children who are industrious, orderly and have good self-control are more likely than their careless or undisciplined peers to grow into happy adults.

Of course none of us want our children to be unhappy, and we all hope our children will grow to be adults who enjoy an abundance of well-being. It turns out that adult happiness doesn’t arise from parents bending the rules to a child’s advantage; it comes from children learning the rules and conforming to them.

As with many findings in academic psychology, the connection between childhood conscientiousness and adult well-being simply proves common sense. Conscientious people enjoy better health as adults because they chose long-term payoffs over short-term gratifications. Most conscientious people would prefer a beef burger to a trip to the gym, but they know that – genetic factors aside – heart disease doesn’t care who your parents are.

In their relationships, conscientious people are unlikely to lie and cheat or, presumably, put up with that behaviour in their friends and lovers. When it comes to having a feeling of mastery in one’s endeavours – whether one chooses to be a homemaker or a homebuilder – conscientious people come out ahead because they do good work even when no one is looking.