[Video Link] The gist of what Sam Wang says here in this Big Think video is that the best way to teach young kids self-restraint is through elaborate play that requires a lot of steps, like having a tea party.
According to Princeton neuroscientist (and parent to a four-year-old) Sam Wang, Chua is definitely right about one thing: teaching your kids self-discipline is good parenting. He cites numerous longitudinal studies demonstrating that self-disciplined toddlers are more likely to grow into persistent, positive, healthy, and satisfied adults. Wang and co-author Sandra Aamodt explore this and other developmental issues with humor, scientific rigor, and reassuring pragmatism in their forthcoming book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain.
Happily, it seems that we can have our cake and eat some of it, too. “An important point here,” says Wang, “is that willpower [i.e. self-discipline] training in children is most effective when the child is having fun.” Intense stress is a poor learning tool at best, and potentially harmful to the developing brain, especially in sensitive children. Gently guided play, a powerful approach exemplified by the school program “Tools of the Mind”, can incorporate self-discipline training into the imaginative play that children naturally engage in and enjoy.
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