The children found the concept quite interesting when I presented It in assembly on Monday, especially when I told them that the ability to self-control actually is a better indicator of future success than intelligence. They were amused by the Marshmallow Test, which was practised on very young children where they were told that they could eat the marshmallow in front of them but if they could wait for about 15 minutes they would be given two marshmallows.
Compared with the children who wolfed down the first marshmallow instantly, those who showed self control tended to have better life outcomes as measured by exam scores, educational attainment, body mass index and other life measures.
It affects many different areas of our lives; the ability to eat sensibly, to keep calm and not get lose our tempers, and controlling whether we do or say things that we might later regret which may hurt ourselves or others. It even affects whether we can limit the amount of screen-time that our children partake in, as it is now known that children are becoming addicted to screen-time and links are being found to ADHD.
It is something that we have the ability to improve - it is not fixed, but obviously whatever we practise, we become good at and this can work either way! It helps us to overcome obstacles and to persevere. It involves monitoring, standards and ability to live up to moral ideals. Monitoring means keeping an eye on our weight, or our bank balance or our hours of studying. Standards are the ability to know what is right in what situation, so that we don't wear shorts and flip-flops to work. Our moral ideals are our guide to right behaviour or what is appropriate.
The more you look at the concept of self-control, the more important it seems as a useful tool in our lives - a moderating guide in every situation. One of the children in assembly mentioned that when she feels she is about to lose control emotionally she does a 'FOFBOC', which stands for 'Feet on Floor, Bottom on Chair'; this is an exercise we learn about in Mindfulness which is used as an anchoring device and gives us a chance to pause before leaping in to any situation. It gives us a chance to respond, where there is space to make a choice, rather than to just react impulsively.
I don't think self-control cuts out spontaneity, which is an instant response but it does also contain a measure of control - probably if one is mindful we have the ability to do the right thing on the instant!
The chocolate advent calendar is a good test for the children to show that they can wait to open each window on the proper day and not open all the windows straight away to get at the chocolate for instant gratification!
So have a wonderful self-controlled Christmas!
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” ― Lao Tzu