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Intriguing Study On Self-Control

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There’s a column in today’s Los Angeles Times about a study that was done to see what young people needed to have more self-control in their spending habits — Break bad shopping habits to avoid a debt hangover.

There were two things in particular that I thought would be applicable to my classroom — support from friends and the role of rewarding yourself.

As readers know, I’ve been working with my students on goal-setting. In thinking how I could apply the results of that study to this effort, I came up with two ideas:

* The study highlights the important role of having a friend who gives “emotional support” to your achieving your goals. Each Friday, students share their goals for the week and how they’ve done in the previous week. I’m thinking I should be more strategic in how that time is spent, and maybe have students choose their own partners. Perhaps the time should go something like this:

1) Share your goal from last week and if you met it. Share what you did to meet it, if you had any problems achieving it, and what you did or might do to overcome those challenges.

2) Provide positive feedback to your partner (I’d obviously have to do some teacher modeling on this point) on his/her goal and what they’re doing to achieve it. Offer helpful suggestions, too.

* The same study also talks about the importance of rewards, but in a very different way than how they’re often discussed in schools. The author of the study suggests that people “bribe” themselves with a reward, ranging from a bubble bath to giving yourself permission to “slack off later.” Joseph Grenny goes on to say:

“By declaring intentional goals and giving yourself an award for achieving them, you increase your chance of success. The one place where incentives always go right is when you are incentivizing yourself.”

After explaining it a bit, I wonder what my students would come up with how they could reward themselves?

Any other ideas on how to apply this study to the classroom, or even if it’s applicable, are welcome.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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