Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Wish I'd Learned Self-Control In Kindergarten

Kelly McGonigal tweeted a post on Activities for Practicing Self-Control. It's a kindergarten teacher's description of things he does to teach self-control to his students. He says, "I often hear teachers complain (including myself) about kids lack of self-control but what are we doing to help kids learn about it?" Good point. I would argue that self-control/self-discipline is a big part of managing time. It seems to be the kind of thing most of us pick up or we don't. It isn't specifically taught the way, say, addition is. Those of us who find ourselves undisciplined adults are going to have to muddle along on our own.

The Piece of Cake


Matt Gomez, the teacher who wrote the post on self-control activities for kindergarten students, writes about modeling self-control for his class. "I give examples often of adults that have to have self-control so they know we all have to make choices. For example: “guess what class, I saw a piece of chocolate cake in the staff refrigerator. I could have eaten it but I chose not to because it wasn’t mine.”" I found this interesting for several reasons.
  1. Gomez is interested in self-control in relation to people getting along with one another. He says he didn't eat the cake because it wasn't his, not because it wasn't good for him, a reason many people exercise self-control around food. I'm interested in self-control in relation to staying on task with my work and getting more done faster, not because it will improve my relations with others. However, according to Kelly McGonigal's book, The Willpower Instinct, working on improving willpower in one area of life often leads to improvement with other areas that require willpower. It doesn't appear to be a spot specific strength. Therefore, the children learning to control themselves so they can get along within a group, may find themselves better able to control themselves when needing to stay on a task. If I am able to improve my control with my work, I may find myself getting along better with others.
  2. Unless we've been receiving some kind of self-control instruction or are undergoing some kind of training in it, how often are we actually aware that we are practicing self-control or need to? For instance, take the example of seeing a piece of cake in the refrigerator. How often do we see something like that and consciously think, Time to exert a little control here and walk away from that thing? I think it's probably much more common for us to realize we've experienced a self-discipline success or failure after the fact (I knocked off a chapter today! I lost half the day to phone calls!) than while we're in a position to do something about it. Is this because that's the nature of humans or because we simply haven't learned a particular behavior or skill?
  3. Gomez's description of modeling self-control for his students raised this point for me--I would have to remember I was looking for self-control examples, particularly if I wanted to find any coming from me, before I would recognize that not eating that cake was a golden opportunity to create one. And that brought up the whole issue of memory and self-control.
Now you know what I'll be writing about next week.


Jen Robinson said...

Interesting! I'm going to try this approach with my daughter. I gave up sweets a year ago, and I thus find myself with many examples where I'm aware of practicing self-control (because we still have sweets in the house).

Gail Gauthier said...

Because I've been fixating on developing discipline this last year or so, I'm more aware of when I'm actually using it or should be using it than I was in years past, too. But I really don't think I thought about it in any consistent manner before that. For instance, I kept hoping that martial arts training would teach me discipline, as if something confined to two hours a week could do that all by itself without any other thought on my part.