Heads Up

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Weekly wellbeing links

“Me want it, but me wait!” — Cookie Monster

“Self-control” or “delayed gratification” was first formally researched in the 1960s by Walter Mischel in what has become a rather famous study referred to as the “Marshmallow Test” (this video is sure to make you smile). Since then, self-control has been deemed an essential skill for a healthy life.

The Character Lab defines self-control as “controlling your actions, thoughts, and feelings so they align with your goals.” They list two kinds of self-control: intrapersonal and interpersonal.

Self-control or self-management falls under the umbrella of emotional intelligence. This “How To Be Emotionally Intelligent” article by science journalist Daniel Goleman, first published in the New York Times, is a helpful checklist of the competencies of emotional intelligence and draws on research to show the “role emotional intelligence plays in excellence.”

Stanford University’s Challenge Success program identifies self-control as one of the three greatest predictors of academic, emotional, psychological and financial success. You can read the entire article, but this is a key takeaway: “When I explain that teaching kids to overvalue external measures of success short-circuits their development as self-regulating individuals — the true foundation of a productive life — a shocking number of parents respond that you can’t undo bad grades and low test scores, but you can always catch up on the emotional stuff later — a tragic misapprehension.”

The Duckworth Lab, led by Angela Duckworth (known for her research on grit) is working to develop strategies to help make self-control easier.

“These strategies all have the feature of making self-control easier, by reducing the expected value (i.e., attractiveness) of temptations and/or increasing the expected value of desirable behaviors,” she wrote.

Read more about the relationship between grit and self-control here.

If you want a succinct and fun way to learn strategies for self-control, you (and your kids) can get it all by listening to Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. Cookie suggests using self-talk, or taking a mindful moment by simply breathing deeply, both of which are scientifically proven to be effective for young and old.

If you prefer an expert without blue fur, but with a focus on how to support older kids with self-control, watch this short video from Kids in the House: Adolescent Brain: “Ferrari with Faulty Brakes.”

For any age, this article looks at how “cultivating moment-to-moment awareness can help children defer gratification.” Expert Daniel Goleman explains what’s happening in the brain when our self-control is tested, or as he calls it “hijacked,” in this article:  “Why Emotional Self-Control Matters.”

What is your “marshmallow” or “cookie, and how do you role model self-control for your kids? Maybe it’s about your nutrition choices, or making fitness a priority, or delaying gratification by putting the phone away during family time. I’m working on keeping my amygdala in check while driving.

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you at lfraser@ucc.on.ca.

Thank you.
Laurie Fraser, Character Program director

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Yellow: Upper School
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