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Nurture Shock: Chapter 8 – Can Self-Control Be Taught?

Nurture Shock self-controlChapter 8 from Nurture Shock talks about a very interesting preschool program that seems to helping children develop better self-control.  It was initially intended to be a program for “at-risk” children who were out of control, but it worked so well that those children had a complete turn around in behaviour and could no longer be classified as “out of control”.  So startling were the results that the researchers felt they could no longer keep the students in the control groups out of this program in good conscience.

There are many programs implemented in schools that are designed to help promote certain behaviours in our children – good behaviours.  For instance, there are “drivers education” programs designed to help younger drivers be safer on the road; there are drug prevention programs designed to help children say “no” to drugs.  Logically, programs like these should be successful in achieving their aims, but studies show other wise.  For all that they achieve, the government is better off saving the money and putting it towards something else.

That’s not to say that none of these programs have any effect.  The problem is that they do not have a lasting effect.  They may achieve their messages but it doesn’t create a lasting change in behaviour.  After a while, the children revert back to their original behaviours and they might as well have not gone through the program in the first place.

It’s pretty scary when you hear this.  So does that mean there is nothing we can do to protect our children and promote the kind of behaviours we hope they will adopt permanently?  Well, there is one program that has been found to work and it is supported by research.  It’s called “Tools of the Mind“.  It was initially a test program but the results were so positive that it was deemed unethical to keep other students out of a program that was clearly superior in every way.

After reading about it, I was sold.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any schools here that run the Tools of the Mind program so I’ve had to do my own research from a book called “Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education“.  You can buy the book from Amazon, but if you don’t want to, don’t worry, I’ll be writing about how you can implement “Tools of the Mind” at home with your child.  First I need to tell you why Tools of the Mind is so impressive.

In one Tools of the Mind study, they took ten kindergarten teachers and randomly assigned them to either the regular school curriculum or the Tools of the Mind program.  These teachers taught classrooms where a third to a half of the class were poor Hispanic students who were effectively a grade-level behind.  After a year, the students in the Tools of the Mind program were almost a full grade-level ahead of the national standard.  97% of these children scored as proficient.  Another study showed students from the Tools of the Mind program scoring markedly higher on seven out of eight measures, including vocabulary and IQ.

Even more impressive is the effect of Tools of the Mind on child behaviour.  Teachers teaching the regular classes often reported extremely disruptive behaviour almost every day.  These include behaviours such kicking the teacher, biting another student, cursing, throwing a chair, etc.  In the Tools of the Mind classrooms, such behaviours 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.  I can live with that.

Why does Tools of the Mind work so well?  How can we implement Tools of the Mind ourselves if we can’t send our children to a Tools of the Mind school?  We’ll get to that soon.

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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