Self-control in childhood predicts future success

I was very happy to see this article in a mainstream publication. I definitely see in my adult clients -- both the ones with and without labels -- that the people who are the most healthy and successful are the ones who can, to put it simply, sit down and shut up and do the right thing without arguing or making excuses. While personality/morals/trust plays into this a bit, I believe that the most central force in terms of whether someone is able to do this is whether they learned in early childhood to wait, to tolerate discomfort, and to do things much of the time that are someone else's agenda.

Just as I expected, there are comments on the article saying that teaching children to self-regulate and follow rules is stifling their creativity or hurting their self-esteem. I hear this a lot from parents, particularly Generation X or Y parents who are trying to do get away from the themes of our childhoods ("because I said so," "wait until your father hears about this," etc.). While I agree that our childhoods in the '70s and '80s could have been a little less authoritarian and a little more nurturing of our creativity, I do still see a real need for children to learn to conform and follow rules.

Self-esteem and self-control are actually more related than they are opposites; children who understand rules and can do what is expected feel more competent and are happier and more creative. Creativity is also only useful when it is exhibited in the context of knowing the rules and choosing to only slightly break them. I often see parents who look at their toddler as a "free spirit" when the child, say, wanders off to do something else without acknowledging that the parent is speaking. This behavior in my eyes of course looks like the child is either on the way to a neurodevelopmental disorder that needs immediate attention or else hasn't been taught some very necessary life skills.

I, too, want to raise the sort children who grow up to start their own business, but not ones who send the IRS a poem about their quarterly revenue because the correct form didn't interest them.


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