What’s the Deal with Puberty? Sex Education for Children in Norway… and the World. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Norway’s State funded educational TV series “Newton”, presents sex, sexuality and puberty for young children.  The series, which has been described as “graphic”, because we see male and female sexual parts up close, as well as being told details about various sexual practices, was banned from Facebook for a while and even called “disgusting” by some who felt it was “too informative” and would be damaging to children watching it.  Meanwhile views of the series have continued to increase, particularly after it came with English subtitles from 2015.

Sex education for prepubescent children (or even for preteens and teens) has long been hotly debated, with those arguing against it traditionally saying kids are “not ready” for such information and that “too much knowledge too soon” will inevitably result in increased rates of teen sexual activity and accompanying problems such as STDs, early pregnancy as well as emotional distress/ depression when early sexual relationships fail… all  issues which have life long negative impacts.

Studies show, however, that the opposite appears to be true.  As a general rule, having  more (and accurate) sexual knowledge seems to mean children and young people are a) less likely to become sexually active at younger ages and   b) when they do become sexually active, are more likely to make responsible (informed) choices.

In 2008, the Washington Post reported on a University of Washington study which found that teenagers who received comprehensive sex education were 60% less likely to get pregnant than someone who received abstinence-only education.  Numbers of sexual partners among those who were sexually active were also significantly lower.  The latter is important, not only because it indicates a lesser risk of STDs, but also because it has been shown that greater numbers of sexual partners, particularly during the teenage years, negatively effects mental well being, and can decrease the ability to maintain healthy relationships in adulthood.  Education on matters of sexuality has also been found to work hand in hand with dramatically lowering a child’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of sexual abuse (sexual abuse prevention education).

Sexual health is an essential part of good overall health and well-being. Sexuality is a part of human life and human development. Good sexual health implies not only the absence of disease, but the ability to understand and weigh the risks, responsibilities, outcomes, and impacts of sexual actions, to be knowledgeable of and comfortable with one’s body, and to be free from exploitation and coercion. Whereas good sexual health is significant across the life span, it is critical in adolescent years. health. http://www.naswdc.org/practice/adolescent_health/ah0202.asp

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) leads to improved sexual and reproductive health, resulting in the reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy. It not only promotes gender equality and equitable social norms, but has a positive impact on safer sexual behaviours, delaying sexual debut and increasing condom use. (United Nations Global Review, 2015).

http://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2016/03/comprehensive-sexuality-education/

Scandinavia has long been admired by American liberals and sex education advocates who cite comparable rates of adolescent sexuality, yet lower rates of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion in Scandinavia.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14681810601134702

Returning, then, to Scandinavia (and specifically Norway), how do markers of risky sexual behaviour in young people compare with those of other countries?  Rather than writing about these differences, some diagrams of statistics (sources cited) appear below.

Teenage pregnancy…

Sexually transmitted diseases…

Personally, having watched Norway’s State funded educational TV series “Newton”, I felt the episodes were well presented and in good taste.  For some of us seeing naked male and female anatomy, as the show’s host, Line Jansrud removes towels from real human bodies may be a little shocking, but isn’t that the problem?  Don’t we need to get over ourselves and present sex and our bodies as what they are, a very natural part of our humanity and one which our children can only benefit from being accurately informed about?

Line Jansrud speaking during one of the eight episodes in the “Newton” series (now with English subtitles)

Topics in the Norwegian TV series of eight episodes (in English) are as follows…

Episode 1 – How does puberty start?

Episode 2 – Breasts

Episode 3 – Penis

Episode 4 – Hair on your body

Episode 5 – Growth and Voice change

Episode 6 – Vagina and menstruation

Episode 7 – Zitz and sweat

Episode 8 – What’s the deal with puberty?

 

How to talk to your kids about Syria, by Sarah Williams, Child Psychologist

Sarah Williams is a child psychologist at Refugees As Survivors (RASNZ). She is currently working with the Syrian children and families arriving in New Zealand who seek the support of RASNZ during their 6-week orientation at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

World Vision spoke to Sarah about how to speak to Kiwi children about the crisis in Syria and about refugees, and about the new Kiwis arriving here from the Middle East. 

1. Speak honestly, but use language they understand

Firstly, ask your child what they know about the situation. Listen to how they are making sense of what they know or what they have seen in the media.

Any discussion with children needs to be adjusted for age and level of understanding but it also needs to be honest. Children trust their parents to help them understand what happens in the world around them.

With younger children use situations they might understand – leaving one’s home, leaving possessions behind, fleeing without saying goodbye, feeling scared, trying to find a safe place. Talk to them about people in Syria needing to quickly leave their home and travel to another country to be safe due to the war.

With older children we can talk about what it means to be a refugee, the complexity of the Syrian situation, persecution, and the difficult journey to seek refuge in another country.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.worldvision.org.nz/news-blog/blogs-2017/may/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-syria

Some notes on Attachment and “Childhood Fears”, compiled by Moira Eastman

A response to our previous post on “The Fear of the Dark” in children… see the following link…

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/the-fear-of-the-dark-by-john-cowan/

 

I must admit that I have a different understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

When I was a child–I was born in 1940 in Australia–the Second World War had started, and one of my earliest memories is that I KNEW that, after dark, Japanese soldiers–the enemy– were behind the garage. We had an outside toilet, built on to the end of the garage. I was terrified to go outside to the toilet at night. I’m amazed that no-one ever asked me what I was afraid of or why I was afraid. they thought my fear was irrational

But my understanding of these ‘irrational fears’ of childhood has been altered by my understanding of attachment theory.

I am posting some notes on my current understanding of children’s fear of the dark.

Bowlby on the attachment behavioural system

‘Once we postulate the presence within the organism of an attachment behavioural system regarded as the product of evolution and having protection as its biological function, many of the puzzles that have perplexed students of human relationships are found to be soluble. . . An urge to keep proximity or accessibility to someone seen as stronger and wiser, and who if responsive is deeply loved, comes to be recognised as an integral part of human nature and as having a vital role to play in life. Not only does its effective operation bring with it a strong feeling of security and contentment, but its temporary or long-term frustration causes acute or chronic anxiety and discontent. When seen in this light, the urge to keep proximity is to be respected, valued, and nurtured as making for potential strength, instead of being looked down upon, as so often hitherto, as a sign of inherent weakness. (Bowlby, 1991, p. 293 of postscript to Attachment Across the Life Cycle)

Attachment involves four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour

[57] ‘Bowlby (1982) defined attachment in terms of four distinct but interrelated classes of behaviour: proximity maintenance, safe haven, separation distress, and secure base. These behaviours are readily observable in 1-year-old infants in relation to their primary caregivers (usually mothers). The infant continuously monitors the caregiver’s wherabouts and makes any adjustments necessary for maintaining the desired degree of proximity, retreats to her as a haven of safety in the event of a perceived threat, is actively resistant to and distressed by separations from her, and uses her as a base of security from which to explore the environment. Infants often direct one of more of these behaviours toward individuals to whom they are not attached. Importantly, it is the selective orientation of all these behaviours toward a specific individual that defines attachment. (From Hazan et al. 2004) .

Infant attachment behaviours: behaviours that maintain proximity to the mother

Bowlby noted that infants all around the globe manifest five behaviours that help keep the mother and infant together. They are: crying, sucking, clinging, following and smiling. The first four are also common to other primates. Only chimpanzee infants also smile.

What turns on attachment behaviours? Clues to an increase in danger

There are natural clues to an increase in danger. Infants have evolved to recognise these clues. They do not have to learn them from experience. They are:

  • darkness,
  • being alone,
  • separation from the mother,
  • sudden loud noises,
  • looming figures,
  • unfamiliar environment,
  • the presence of strangers,
  • change in temperature,
  • being sick.

In the past, children’s responses to some of these clues (or cues) to danger—such as fear of the dark—have been considered to be the ‘irrational fears of childhood’. But in hunter-gatherer societies they were clues to increased danger and this increased danger provokes attachment behaviour in the infant and therefore the need to be close to the mother or mothering person.

  • Function. ‘Many aspects of infant and child behaviour and mother-infant interaction seem irrelevant to the modern world, and can only be understood in terms of the evolution of humans in an environment very different from the modern city.’

These fears used to be seen as ‘the irrational fears of childhood’. They make sense only when seen as functional in the environments in which humans evolved.

The environment of evolutionary adaptedness

‘The environment of evolutionary adaptedness’ refers to the environment to which the human species has become adapted through evolution: that is an environment similar to that in which current day hunter-gatherer societies live.

The solution to fear of the dark

Bowlby discovered that the only thing that can ‘terminate’ attachment behaviour such as fear of the dark is closeness to the attachment figure.  So what is required is not explanations to a young child about how there is nothing to fear, but be close, be available.  This is what removes his/her fear.

 

 

Moira Eastman has her own website, essentialmother.com  and is particularly interested in attachment.    Moira works at Mothering Business and studied Sociology of education at Monash University, Melbourne.

She is a member of the group “Mothers at Home Matter”, a UK based group.  “Mothers at Home Matter”  – PO Box 43690 London SE22 9WN
www.mothersathomematter.co.uk – is about redefining values, re-honouring the name “mother” and highlighting children’s developmental needs. It is about understanding the impact of economic forces on the family – mothers and fathers – and campaigning for change. The full aims of the organisation are on their website (see address above). “Mother at Home Matter” are not affiliated to any political party or faith group.

 

10 Dr. Seuss Books you’ve Never Heard of, by Crystal Ponti

Dr. Seuss is one of the most beloved children’s writers of all time. During his career, he wrote more than 60 playful and exuberant books – each with a deeper message about life, love, and humanity.

His most memorable titles, like “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Cat in the Hat”, are mainstays on children’s bookshelves. But he also penned many books that never quite made it into the spotlight.

Here are 10 Dr. Seuss books you might not have heard of (and if you have, you must be a super fan):

andtothinkisawthatonmulberrystreet

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (1937)

The very first book Dr. Seuss ever published under his pen name, this lively tale about Marco and his vivid imagination predates his bestselling titles, but is still among his best. Travel down Mulberry Street, the most interesting place in town – a place where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Marco spins a wonderful story for his father, turning everyday sights into wild highlights of his journey home from school.

icanlick30tigers

“I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today!” (1969)

Follow the Cat in the Hat’s son, daughter, and great-great-grandfather on three magnificent adventures, as told by Cat in the Hat himself. From battles with tigers to the unexpected consequences of a runaway imagination, this is the only book where children can thunk a Glunk and wrestle with King Looie Katz. The illustrations are a unique combination of gouache and brush strokes rather than the usual pen and ink, adding even more uniqueness to a timeless rarity.

wouldyouratherbeabullfrog

“Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog?” (1975)

“Would you rather be a clarinet, a trombone, or a drum? (How would you like to have someone going boom-boom on your tum?)” In traditional form, Dr. Seuss asks young readers fun, rhyming questions to make them think, ponder, and laugh. The book helps children understand there are so many things they can be, and that they have plenty of time to figure out who they are and where life might take them.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-dr-seuss-books-youve-never-heard-of/?utm_source=newsletter_256&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pcodaily&utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=83f735ef56-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-83f735ef56-132097649

 

The Roots of Childhood Aggression, and How to Handle Them With Compassion, by Alicia Lord

Why do aggressive behaviors occur? Like all other behaviors, aggression is a means to an end. A child is engaging in verbal or physical aggression because it is benefiting them in some way. They may be fulfilling a need or desire, attempting to self-protect, or attempting to get contact and connection. There are a variety of internal and external experiences that may precede the actual behaviors.

Aggression as protection

Aggression plays the role of evolutionary protector. When the body perceives danger, it has three options: fight, flight, or freeze. The fight instinct results in aggression. An important piece to note here is the word perceives. In addition to the basic instincts of the human body, each person has their own set of cues and triggers to indicate danger based on past experiences. This means that someone can perceive they are in danger in a situation where danger is not obvious to others.

Some triggers may be noticeable and easy to conceptualize, while others may be more difficult – or even impossible. If a child experiences a car accident and then subsequently throws a tantrum each time he is forced to get into the car, it will likely be easy for adults to understand why the tantrum is happening.

Some triggers, however, are not so simple. You may never be able to deduce what conditioned them to exist. Some children, especially those who have experienced interpersonal trauma, perceive a threat in a specific tone of voice, or very subtle body language. Regardless of the specifics, what is important with this type of aggression is to understand that it comes from a place of life-threatening fear.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/roots-childhood-aggression-handle-compassion/?utm_source=newsletter_235&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pcodaily&utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=a726aea331-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-a726aea331-132097649

10 Simple Ways to Build an Unbreakable Bond With Your Child, by Angela Pruess

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Our connection to our children means everything.

It means the difference between a confident child and an insecure one. It means the difference between a cooperative child and a defiant one. Our early attachments and ongoing connection to our children fostered through love, nurturance, and guidance is a strong predictor of our child’s success in many areas of life.

We’ve heard a lot about attachment, so the concept and importance of bonding with our baby seems obvious. Just because your little one has grown to become a lot bigger, smellier, and sassier doesn’t mean your bond and connection with them is any less vital to their development. In fact, it continues to be of the utmost importance throughout childhood.

Life with kids is busy. It’s not uncommon at the end of the day to find yourself wondering whether you even sat face to face with your child. Here’s the good news: You’re likely already engaging with your child in activities that promote a strong parent-child relationship.

Reading

We all know reading with children is a simple way to improve their language and reading skills. But research also shows that reading with children actually stimulates patterns of brain development responsible for connection and bonding.

This makes sense when we consider that story time usually involves cuddling, eye contact, and shared emotion. If you make reading together a priority in your home, you are without a doubt connecting with your child.

Art

Engaging in art or craft activities with children is an awesome way to provide not only a fun and enjoyable experience, but a therapeutic one as well. No matter their age, you’ll be hard pressed to find a child who can’t find an art medium that interests him.

When engaged in a creative process with children, we provide an outlet for them to express their thoughts and feelings. This is especially true with younger children, who aren’t yet able to verbalize their complex emotions. When your child has access to acreative outlet, odds are that interactions between the two of you will be more positive.

Music

Whether listening to them play an instrument or dancing to the “Trolls” soundtrack together, music offers lots of benefits for both parent and child, including bringing our awareness into our bodies and into the current moment. Your kids will be practicing mindfulness without even knowing it!

It’s pretty difficult to focus on a mistake at school yesterday or the test coming up tomorrow when we’re busy processing auditory input as well as coordinating our motor skills.

Nature

Feeling stressed? Stress is often a huge barrier to parents engaging with their children. Spending time with your child out in nature will go a long way to increase emotional health and physical well-being for both parties.

Research tells us that exposure to nature reduces our blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. Nature is no joke. Even if you don’t have time to go for a hike, simply water a plant together. These studies show similar effects can be derived from even small amounts of nature.

Play

Play is the language of children, so it only makes sense that we should try to connect with them though something that comes so naturally. When parents enter their child’s world and follow their lead in play, they open up the possibility for many positive outcomes, including taking on a different relationship role and seeing our children from a new perspective.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-simple-ways-to-build-an-unbreakable-bond-with-your-child/

Four Daily Habits that Build Connection with our Kids, by Rebecca Eanes

connection-collage

Looking back on my childhood, the summer vacations to the amusement parks and over-the-top Christmas celebrations do stand out in my mind, but the grandiose doesn’t take up the biggest places in my heart. It was small things – fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing Scrabble at the table, gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken – that made me feel connected. It was the ordinary regular occurrences that made us feel like family.

Now I’m raising two children of my own. When I feel like I need to throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party or guilt arises because I haven’t yet taken them to Disneyland, I remind myself that it’s the everyday habits I keep that they will hold most dear. It’s during the moments when I put aside busyness to be present and attuned to the people in front of me – to laugh, to listen, to love – that the messages that matter reach their hearts. You are valued. You are loved. You belong here.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to connect deeply with our children. In just a few minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, we can bring our focus onto them and fill their cups with positive attention and affirmation. Here are four daily habits you can begin now to build connection:

1. Start the Day with a Morning Blessing

Mornings can be a real hassle. Trying to get everyone up and out the door on time is often a stressful time for families. Our adult minds are focused on the dozens of things we must accomplish in the next 12 hours, and our children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied with their own thoughts on the day ahead. Taking two or three minutes of the morning to focus on our child’s face and say something positive can really have a big impact. “Good morning, my love! Seeing your sweet face makes me happy” is a thoughtful way to greet a child into their day. I think“Triple A to start the day.” That stands for attention, affection, and affirmation. Aim to give them your full attention for at least a couple of minutes, offer a hug or rub on the head, and say something positive about them. Making this a daily habit starts each day off on the right foot.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/four-daily-habits-build-connection

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening, by Emma Young

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years. Emma Young finds out how they did it, and why other countries won’t follow suit.

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It’s a little before three on a sunny Friday afternoon and Laugardalur Park, near central Reykjavik, looks practically deserted. There’s an occasional adult with a pushchair, but the park’s surrounded by apartment blocks and houses, and school’s out – so where are all the kids?

Walking with me are Gudberg Jónsson, a local psychologist, and Harvey Milkman, an American psychology professor who teaches for part of the year at Reykjavik University. Twenty years ago, says Gudberg, Icelandic teens were among the heaviest-drinking youths in Europe. “You couldn’t walk the streets in downtown Reykjavik on a Friday night because it felt unsafe,” adds Milkman. “There were hordes of teenagers getting in-your-face drunk.”

We approach a large building. “And here we have the indoor skating,” says Gudberg.

A couple of minutes ago, we passed two halls dedicated to badminton and ping pong. Here in the park, there’s also an athletics track, a geothermally heated swimming pool and – at last – some visible kids, excitedly playing football on an artificial pitch.

Young people aren’t hanging out in the park right now, Gudberg explains, because they’re in after-school classes in these facilities, or in clubs for music, dance or art. Or they might be on outings with their parents.

Today, Iceland tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. The percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month plummeted from 42 per cent in 1998 to 5 per cent in 2016. The percentage who have ever used cannabis is down from 17 per cent to 7 per cent. Those smoking cigarettes every day fell from 23 per cent to just 3 per cent.

© Dave Imms

The way the country has achieved this turnaround has been both radical and evidence-based, but it has relied a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense. “This is the most remarkably intense and profound study of stress in the lives of teenagers that I have ever seen,” says Milkman. “I’m just so impressed by how well it is working.”

If it was adopted in other countries, Milkman argues, the Icelandic model could benefit the general psychological and physical wellbeing of millions of  kids, not to mention the coffers of healthcare agencies and broader society. It’s a big if.

“I was in the eye of the storm of the drug revolution,” Milkman explains over tea in his apartment in Reykjavik. In the early 1970s, when he was doing an internship at the Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital in New York City, “LSD was already in, and a lot of people were smoking marijuana. And there was a lot of interest in why people took certain drugs.”

Milkman’s doctoral dissertation concluded that people would choose either heroin or amphetamines depending on how they liked to deal with stress. Heroin users wanted to numb themselves; amphetamine users wanted to actively confront it. After this work was published, he was among a group of researchers drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to answer questions such as: why do people start using drugs? Why do they continue? When do they reach a threshold to abuse? When do they stop? And when do they relapse?

“Any college kid could say: why do they start? Well, there’s availability, they’re risk-takers, alienation, maybe some depression,” he says. “But why do they continue? So I got to the question about the threshold for abuse and the lights went on – that’s when I had my version of the ‘aha’ experience: they could be on the threshold for abuse before they even took the drug, because it was their style of coping that they were abusing.”

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://mosaicscience.com/story/iceland-prevent-teen-substance-abuse?utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=79720c9e11-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-79720c9e11-132097649

“The Cellar’s Echo,” by Huberta Hellendoorn: A Child’s Experience of War: Link to a short story broadcast on Radio NZ

eight_col_pre-school-a

“The child on the staircase imagines a secret place with walls so thick she cannot hear the guns and no windows through which she can see the dead bodies.”

Imagine if you will, a seven year-old girl sheltering with her family in the cellar of their house as war rages in the streets outside. What does she feel?

Huberta Hellendoorn’s The Cellar’s Echo vividly recounts her own childhood experience in Holland during the last days of World War II. And who could have imagined that 50 years later she would make a remarkable re-connection with that fearful past?

eight_col_pre-school

Huberta at kindergarten (“We started school at 6 years old but because my birthday was in October I had to wait until August of the next year before I could start school.”) Photo: Supplied

The first Palm Sunday celebration after the war, which was held on a Saturday). Evidence of war damage still to be seen. (Huberta says this photo may have been taken by a newspaper.)

A photo taken by Huberta’s family GP, Dr JB Thate, whose sons Henk was her classmate.Photo: Supplied

Fear, dread, horror? These are powerful and primitive human emotions all children experience. We all fear the dark, the unknown thing under the bed, scary pirates from a movie. But these are products of our imagination, however real they may seem.

(To read more, and listen to the short story, please follow the link below…)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/standing-room-only/audio/201822985/the-cellar’s-echo

The Dunedin Study: The Vital Importance of “Self Control” in creating Positive Life Outcomes, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Boy hugging toy, looking at bowl of marshmallowsgetty creative easy access

Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”…

Among the most important and hopeful findings of The Dunedin Study is that there is something unfixed, something we can teach any child, regardless of their personality type, which will increase their future health, wealth and happiness.  This important something is the quality of self control.

The measure of self control a child possesses has, through the findings of The Dunedin Studyand others, been shown to be a more important factor in predicting individual positive life outcomes than intelligence or IQ.

jay_belsky

Professor Belsky

“Are you in command of yourself or does your self control you?” asks Professor Jay Belsky, Professor of Human Development at the University of California, Davis.  “Lots of people will say, ‘I didn’t choose to explode, it just happened.’  However, we now know that self control measured at age three forecasts whether a person will be married/ in a stable relationship, whether they will have a good or bad job history and even whether they will have good or bad health in adulthood.”

The good new is that, unlike personality  (which is fairly fixed), self control is variable, as it is a quality we learn.  Following from this, self control can be developed in any child.

Self Control is not fixed and can be developed in anyone.

The classic psychological “self control” test is what has become known as “The Marshmallow Test”.  Young children are left alone in a room with a marshmallow on a plate in front of them.  If they manage not to eat the marshmallow before an adult returns, they are given a second marshmallow.  They are told clearly in advance that the reward for controlling their natural impulse to eat the first marshmallow will be to obtain a second one. The children were filmed while alone with the marshmallow.  Children who showed the most self control during these experiments used self distraction to avoid eating the marshmallow.

“Kids who have the ability to distract themselves in this way are those who have had early, clear boundaries put in place,” Professor Belsky says.  “By age three or four they know that if they are told not do do something, the best method of avoiding it is not to hang around it and to find something else to do.”  Children’s methods of avoiding the marshmallow (and controlling their impulses) vary: some sing, crawl under the table, put their heads down or shut or avert their eyes.  When put in pairs, children encouraged (or discouraged) self control in one another. (A video clip of children participating in “The Marshmallow Test”, from YouTube is below).

The results of The Dunedin Studyshow that in almost every measure of success, self control made a huge difference.  Moreover, participants who displayed low levels of self control during childhood presented with a raft of physical problems later on in life. These health issues included such things as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, gum disease and sexually transmitted diseases.  “Low self-control” children were also more likely to grow up addicted to tobacco, alcohol or drugs. All these represent an expensive cost to the individual, their community and society.

Self Control: a more important factor in predicting individual positive life outcomes than intelligence or IQ.

How, then, can self control be improved and developed in our children?  The best control measure in the The Dunedin Studycame when comparing children who were identified at age three as having an “Undercontrolled” personality (10% of participants) with one another.  Those who had firm, consistent and sensitive parenting with structure and routine developed self control habits which over-rode their “Undercontrolled” personality types.  “Enforced Norms”, such as those created in Early Childhood Education Centres, were also shown to be of benefit in helping children regulate their own behaviour and create their own  boundaries.  Furthermore, it was shown that intervention and work on developing self control at any age (even during adulthood) was beneficial.

As with other areas, however, The Dunedin Studyfindings showed that the greatest benefits were achieved the younger the age at which children learned these skills.

Professor Heckman

Professor Heckman

Professor James Heckman is Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, a Nobel Memorial Prize winner in economics and an expert in the economics of human development.  Heckman and his team have been using results from The Dunedin Study“ in the USA, advising the presidency to prioritize the teaching of Self Control in schools.  Professor Heckman believes this will result in huge, long term benefits to the US economy, as well as immense savings.

Once again, then, findings from The Dunedin Studyoffer hope and encouragement.  Nature at age three, thirty three or fifty three does not vary greatly.  However Nurture plays and enormous part in determining whether or not a young child has positive life outcomes as an adult.  Role modelling and teaching the vitally important quality of “Self Control”, as well as parenting consistently, with regular routines and boundaries, gives young children, particularly those with Undercontrolled or  Inhibited personality types, the best chance at becoming well-adjusted adults who are able to cope with what life throws their way.  The overall message then: with the right methods and resources at our disposal we can make a difference in the life trajectory of any child… something we can all feel positive about.

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