Parents usually resort to more study time, tutoring and advanced classes when they want to help their children achieve their academic goals. This achievement-centered approach might be helpful, but studies have shown that kids with more self-control achieve more academically. Therefore, it makes sense to help kids develop and practice skills related to self-control rather than make them take that one extra class, which is often stressful. Practicing these skills is not only useful for academic success – having a higher level of self-control also means being able to better tolerate stress and control your emotions. More self-control leads to increased empathy and social competence. And, all of this results in better concentration abilities.
“The Marshmallow Experiment” have shown that skills related to self-control are better predictors of academic success than IQ scores. In this experiment, children knew that a two marshmallow reward could be had if they did not eat the first marshmallow right away. It’s important to note that the children were not punished for eating the first marshmallow right away, nor were they praised for waiting. When practicing self-control, it is critical to remember this because bettering this skill is about controlling one’s impulses to achieve a goal, and not about pleasing others and avoiding punishment. It is also important to start the practice at the child’s current level and focus on his/her own progress rather than comparing their progress to others. Doing this could lead to feelings of inferiority, leaving the child hesitant to keep trying.
One of a child’s earliest experiences with self-control occurs during imaginative play, and parents should make sure that their children have enough time for it. During imaginative play, kids set their own rules and are motivated to follow them when the game is fun. For example, they have to control their behavior and inhibit their impulses when they want to achieve their goal of becoming an astronaut or a teacher. Another way of improving self-control skills would be through fun activities with parents. These activities should involve some structure, such as taking turns; so, board games could be especially useful. During the game, it is important to let the kid monitor him/herself and if that proves too hard for them, find an alternative appropriate for their current level of self-control.
Imaginative play and board games as means to improving skills related to self-control prove that achieving success doesn’t have to be stressful or boring for the child. It can be fun, and the more they do it, the more self-control they will develop. These ways to develop self-control also show that playing is not the opposite of learning; rather, playing IS learning.
– via Psychology Today