SELF CONTROL What is self control? Self-control is the restraint of one’s emotions, desires, or inclinations. Many people and parents believe children just learn self control on their own and will eventually grow out of their bad behaviors and everything else. The truth though is whatever the teachers are teaching them in a regular school is not helping them with self control at all. Well on the other hand, self control can be taught to young children to fix bad behaviors and low test scores.
The big question though is can self control really be taught to children at an early age? Studies and programs have proven this to be completely possible and effective. Self control can be taught to children through a variety of programs by helping them to develop cognitive skills and using their “mental tools” and just by simple play. One of the biggest and fast spreading programs to teach self control to preschoolers and kindergartners is the “Tools of the Mind Program”. The concept of program all started with a psychologist named Lev Vygotsky. He believed that just as physical tools extend our physical abilities, mental tools extend our mental abilities to enable us to solve problems and create solutions in the modern world” (Metropolitan State of Denver). The Tools of the Mind curriculum actually began in 1993 at Metropolitan State College of Denver. The developers of the program, Dr. Elena Bodrova and Dr. Deborah Leong began working together in early childhood classrooms to improve children’s ability to learn and to teach educators new techniques for working with children.
They wanted to expand Vygotsky experiment because they knew it would have huge success rates and could actually teach children self control. So they created the “Tools of the Mind” program. The Tools of the Mind project aims to encourage the cognitive development of young children by helping them “master a set of mental tools” (Denver). It is a key program to teaching children self control of their knowledge and behavior. Many schools are using the programs and have had great results and success from their studies. Currently the Tools of the Mind program is being applied in Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington and is still spreading. There are currently 15,000 pre-k classrooms implementing Tools of the Mind program and 3,000 in the kindergarten program for a total of 18,000 classrooms” (Denver). The program uses many different activities and teaching styles to help children learn self control and it actually works! So what do they actually do in the program that can teach your child self control?
The main focus and activity is to have the children interact with each other and just imaginary play. The Children practice self-regulated learning throughout the day by engaging in a variety of specifically designed developmentally self-regulation activities. By doing these activities, Children learn to “regulate their own behaviors as well as the behaviors of their friends as they enact increasingly more complex scenarios in their imaginary play in preschool and in learning activities in kindergarten” (Denver).
One of the activities the program has the children do is “make individual play plans” (NutureShock). What the children do is that they have to draw pictures of the themselves in their chosen role is whatever kind of imaginary play they are doing that week and then they write it out in a sentence. They use a “sound map” (NutureShock) instead of the alphabet to figure out what they want to write. A sound map is a visual representation of the letter and their sounds.
This helps the kids learn how to spell which supports their make believe play. Another great concept they use is “Buddy Reading”. It is where two children face each other and one has a large pair of paper lips while the other has a large ear. The child with the lips looks at a book and “tells” the story while the other listens. At the end, the “ear” asks a question about the story and then the children switch. One of another game they do to teach the children self control is called the “Freeze Game”.
The game is sort of like musical chairs only the teacher is holding up a stick figure pose and when the music stops children have to do the pose instead of rushing to sit in the chair. Its main purpose is to build self regulation. According to Celeste Merriweather, “the important part of the Freeze game is the practice of controlling impulses by observing the stick figure without immediately doing as the stick figure does”(Spiegel). Overall, this programs main focus is to get children to interact with each other especially by specific kinds of play.
The results have just astonished many people. It has proven that self control can be taught by just some simple games in a classroom. Children just need to be built up on their cognitive development to be able to accomplish self control of their behavior and knowledge. Naturally, while all the play that children have been doing might not have looked like much, it actually has helped build a cognitive skill called executive function. This is the skill children need to learn to build self control. This is what the Tools of mind programs helps to accomplish.
According to Spiegel from NPR, the activities that parents buy for their children now such as video games or guitar lessons because they feel it will help their children to excel, actually it is not helping at all. According to Adele Diamond and Deborah Leong “The best kind of play costs nothing and really only has one main requirement-imagination” (Spiegel). Executive function may have many elements such as memory and cognitive flexibility but the most important one is self regulation because it is the ability to control the children’s emotions and behaviors, and to exert self control and discipline.
This is why the Tools of the Mind programs spends so much time building on the executive functions because it is important to teach kids self control at an early age otherwise there are more likely to be children dropping out of school and IQ scores dropping according to studies done by Deborah Leong. Most parents who have their children in regular school actives and the ones who let them play video games have just given up on their children’s behavior and test scores as the early age because they feel they will grow out of it and become successful later on in life. Well they are wrong!
Self control can be taught at an early age, all they need is a little bit of fun interactive exercises and play time at an early age and their behavior and test scores will improve dramatically. Dr. Elena Bodrova and Dr. Deborah Leong developed the Tools techniques in the1990s and began the first real test in 1997 in the Denver public school system. Nearly one-third to one-half of the students in each class was classified as limited-English speakers and wasessentially a grade-level behind when starting Kindergarten. “At the end of the first year of the study, 97% of the Tools children scored proficient at their grade level.
In the traditional classrooms, the number was about 50 %”( NutureShock). These are the results that are so astonishing and proved that self control can be taught at an early age to anyone. Even more impressive is the effect of Tools of the Mind on child behavior. Teachers teaching the regular classes often reported extremely disruptive behavior almost every day. In the Tools of the Mind classrooms, such behaviors never occurred. In other words, Tools of the Mind not only produces brighter children who are classified as gifted more often, but it also produces better behaved children.
Which is extremely effective and helpful I believe for parents and teachers today. Although studies have shown tremendous results from the programs a lot of schools and states haven’t adopted the programs yet, so many parents are wondering what they can do to help children gain self control. Parents are a huge part in their children’s life especially at the early age and with the growing academic expectations being placed on young children each year, it’s easy to forget how critical play is to their social, emotional, and cognitive growth.
According to Leong and Bodrova, “many behaviors from movement games like tag to building a city with blocks constitutes play; however, “mature” or “high-level” play, involving sustained pretend scenarios, multiple roles, and symbolic use of props, contributes to foundational skills and literacy development”. To promote this high level play, parents need to create an environment that encourages pretend play and to support your child’s play efforts. Never direct your children play efforts as it defeat the purpose of teaching them self regulation.
To help children gain self control, they need to have at least “30 minutes to 1 hour of planed play time to develop and act out a good play scenario” (Leong/Bodrova). A play scenario would be such as if you’re in the kitchen cooking, give your child a play kitchen because it was exercise their creativity and build language skills. Parents can teach their children self control just by simple play so easily. Parents definitely don’t need to sacrifice play in order to fulfill academic requirements.
As long as they support high-quality play in their children’s life, parents will be helping their child to fully developing his language and literacy skills. In other words, teaching them self control! In conclusion, through the many studies done it has been proven that you can control a child’s emotions, desires, or inclinations. With the help of the tools of mind programs and just by teaching children simple interactive play, they can develop self control to be able to improve their behaviors and test scores tremendously.
It doesn’t cost much money or time, just a little effort in the child’s life to save them from the future. The main goal is to teach them cognitive skills and to show them how to use their “mental tools” so they gain self control of themselves. Play is the most important thing in a young child’s life! Works Cited Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman. NurtureShock_: New Thinking About Children_. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print. Bodrova, Elena, and Deborah Leong. _Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (2nd Edition)_. ed. Alexandria, VA: Prentice Hall, 2006. Print. Spiegel, Alix. “Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control : NPR. ” NPR :_ National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR_. Web. 28 Feb. 2008. http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=76838288. Leong , Deborah , and Elena Bodrova . “Playing to Learn: High-Level, Language Building Play | Scholastic. com. ” Teaching Resources, Children’s Book Recommendations, and Student Activities | Scholastic. com. Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine.