There are five full days, and five half-days, left of school, and some of our students are beginning to “lose it” a bit — some fights, suspensions, and reverting to throwing wads of paper.
As I was driving home today, I was thinking it was time for a refresher on our self-control lessons (see My Best Posts About Helping Students Develop Their Capacity For Self-Control). You can find the complete lesson plans in my new book. I was trying to figure out, though, what might be something new we could do on the topic.
I was also listening to the PBS News Hour on NPR, and right at that moment they began running a segment on…..self control and young people.
It uses financial literacy as an initial hook, but it’s mainly about the famous marshmallow test and a recent updated study. None of it is new information to regular readers of this blog — you can see my posts on the previously mentions “The Best…” list. However, for teenagers, a short video like this will make for the perfect refresher.
I’ve embedded it below:
Speaking of self-control, a recent Jonah Lehrer column also shares a refresher on the marshmallow experiment (where young children were shown one marshmallow, but told if they could wait they would receive two — learn more about it on my “The Best…” list). He very succinctly summarizes its findings:
Mischel’s conclusion, based on hundreds of hours of observation, was that the crucial skill was the “strategic allocation of attention.” Instead of getting obsessed with the marshmallow—the “hot stimulus”—the patient children distracted themselves by covering their eyes, pretending to play hide-and-seek underneath the desk, or singing songs from “Sesame Street.” Their desire wasn’t defeated—it was merely forgotten. “If you’re thinking about the marshmallow and how delicious it is, then you’re going to eat it,” Mischel says. “The key is to avoid thinking about it in the first place.”
What Mischel’s data demonstrates is that attention isn’t just about information. Instead, it’s also what allows us to blunt the urges of our errant emotions, allowing us to look past the desire to stuff that yummy marshmallow into our mouth. While we can’t always control what we feel – many of our urges are ancient drives, embedded deep in the brain – we can control the amount of attention we pay to our feelings. When faced with a tempting treat, we can look away.