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Children with Low Self-Control at Age 5 Engage at Bad Behaviors at Age 12

Is your child impatient, impulsive and difficult to control? It’s important to teach self-control to our kids for a variety of reasons.

Self-control issues during childhood could affect their mental and physical health later in life – and make it harder for them to find success and happiness as adolescents, teens and adults. Low self-control is a common problem among kids these days. It can manifest in many ways such as restless behaviour, low tolerance for frustration, temper tantrums, speaking out of turn, inability to complete a task, school conduct problems, poor grades and impulsive behaviour. Some kids outgrow these bad behaviors with time, but for others, they can become a lifelong pattern.

What kinds of problems do low self-control in children cause later in life? Researchers from Duke University took a closer look at this issue. They followed 500 pairs of fraternal twins in Great Britain to see what their outcome would be as they grew into children and adults. The results were alarming.

Among the pairs of twins at age five, those with lower self-control scores were more likely to engage in “bad behaviors” at age twelve including smoking, drinking and poor school performance. They were also more likely to drop out of school. Not surprisingly, these kids didn’t fare much better as adults.

Researchers also looked at 1 000 children from New Zealand with low self-control scores. Not only did they have psychological issues as adults, they also had worse physical health with a higher incidence of heart disease, obesity, lung problems, sexually transmitted diseases and even gum disease.

Self-control in children can be taught

According to Alex Piquero, a criminology professor at Florida State University, it’s possible to teach self-control to children and prevent these unhappy consequences. The key is to identify low self-control in children as early as possible and take action to get them back on the right track.

Some kids may need counselling to better control their impulses, and the sooner kids get the help they need, the more likely they are to be able to deal effectively with self-control issues later in life.

Don’t assume low self-control is a phase your child will outgrow. Chances are it’ll grow right along with him – into childhood and even adulthood. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if your child has self-control issues.

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