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Teaching young kids self-control good for growth

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study's conclusion is interesting (How well will a kid fare in life? Study offers clues; Oct 8).

It was suggested that self-control in children as young as three years of age may determine how a child will grow up.

Young children who fared badly in self-control were likely to grow up to be social misfits and even criminals.

But, it was noted that early intervention could influence the children in a positive manner.

If this is correct, then helping young children to develop positive and wholesome self-control at an early age becomes significant in childhood education.

Parents should also pay close attention to this.

In my general medical practice, I have encountered children who are allowed to throw tantrums, grab medical instruments indiscriminately, and behave rudely and disrespectfully.

These children are not corrected. Some are pacified by their parent or grandparent handing over a mobile phone for them to play games.

If this indicates a lack of self-control and a pandering of selfish impulsive behaviour, then it does not augur well for the child's development in later life.

There seems to be a lack of will by the caregivers to implement discipline and instil self-control in these children.

There is no call to abuse the child, but there certainly needs to be firm discipline, the inculcation of moral values and a disapproval of rudeness and disrespect.

This would mean the involvement of parents, grandparents and teachers. It involves good modelling on the part of the caregivers, the transmission of positive values, and the teaching of proper behaviour and self-control whenever the opportunity arises.

Saying "no" to children, regulating what they are exposed to in the digital age and teaching them what really matters are paramount in the quest to nurture self-control in young children.

As we embark on developing better pre-school education, curriculum and infrastructure, let us not forget that true wholesome education is not just the development of mental capacity, but also the development of the whole person.

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 15, 2017, with the headline 'Teaching young kids self-control good for growth'. Subscribe