Many American parents yell or shout at their teenagers. A new longitudinal study has found that using such harsh verbal discipline in early adolescence can be harmful to teens later. Instead of minimizing teens’ problematic behavior, harsh verbal discipline may actually aggravate it.
The findings obviously can be related to classroom discipline, as well, and are related to previous studies that have shown that:
Authoritarian parents whose child-rearing style can be summed up as “it’s my way or the highway” are more likely to raise disrespectful, delinquent children who do not see them as legitimate authority figures than authoritative parents who listen to their children and gain their respect and trust
As that previous study found:
Authoritative parents are both demanding and controlling, but they are also warm and receptive to their children’s needs. They are receptive to bidirectional communication in that they explain to their children why they have established rules and also listen to their children’s opinions about those rules. Children of authoritative parents tend to be self-reliant, self-controlled, and content.
Some classroom management advice to keep in mind at the beginning of the school year.
As Eldar Shafir, the author of the Science study, told The Atlantic Cities’ Emily Badger: “All the data shows it isn’t about poor people, it’s about people who happen to be in poverty. All the data suggests it is not the person, it’s the context they’re inhabiting.”
Escaping The Cycle Of Scarcity is from The New York Times. It shares some interesting ideas on how to respond to this problem, but seems breathtakingly oblivious to the need for political action to get the its roots causes.
…the chain of causality is circular, and poverty is itself responsible for the low self-control that perpetuates poverty….policies that help the poor begin to accumulate assets may be highly effective…
In other words, poor self-control doesn’t cause poverty — it’s the other way around.
Unfortunately, the research that I cited in that post — though thorough — was not very accessible and did not gain a lot of public attention.
In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night’s sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.
The finding further undercuts the theory that poor people, through inherent weakness, are responsible for their own poverty – or that they ought to be able to lift themselves out of it with enough effort. This research suggests that the reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills. Being poor means, as the authors write, “coping with not just a shortfall of money, but also with a concurrent shortfall of cognitive resources.”
….The limited [cognitive] bandwidth created by poverty directly impacts the cognitive control and fluid intelligence that we need for all kinds of everyday tasks.
“When your bandwidth is loaded, in the case of the poor,” Shafir says, “you’re just more likely to not notice things, you’re more likely to not resist things you ought to resist, you’re more likely to forget things, you’re going to have less patience, less attention to devote to your children when they come back from school.”
These new results also support other research on an overlapping area of study—an emerging field called self-control, says Kathleen Vohs, a consumer behavior expert at the University of Minnesota who published an accompanying commentary piece on the findings in the same issue of Science.* Self-control studies look at the finite ability of individuals to overcome urges and make decisions. They posit, in a similar vein, that when individuals are faced with many decisions that demand trade-offs—such as a scarcity of food, time or money—and do not have a chance to recover from the resulting brain drain, self-control can tank. That depletion, in turn, could lead to decision-making patterns that impede one’s ability to improve their lot in life, she says. “Because the poor must overcome more urges and make difficult decisions more often than others, they are more likely to overeat, overspend and enact other problematic behaviors,” she wrote.
This research, and the earlier study, makes sense to me, but certainly doesn’t negate the importance of doing whatever we can to support our students to develop these traits (though let’s not grade them, please).
But it does reemphasize the value of teachers, schools and families working together to push for the public policy changes in jobs, housing, childcare, etc. to attack the root causes of the challenges faced by our students….
In what is undoubtedly the first time the expression “self-regulate” has been sung on a music video, Sesame Street has put out a music video spoofing “Icona Pop’s hit song “I Love It”" (which I’ve never heard of — a sad commentary on my awareness of pop culture). The Cookie Monster sings about the importance of self-control, and is kicking-off what is a new Sesame Street curriculum on that life skill.
It’s a fun song, and I can certainly see myself showing it to end the self-control lesson in my book, Helping Students Motivate Themselves. Ninth-graders would find it silly enough to be cool.
Interestingly enough, a year or two ago the PBS News Hour did a fabulous segment with Sesame characters on self control, which you can find here. My students really liked it.
I’m continuing to do early versions of “The Best Of The Year” lists so in December, when I do the final ones, I won’t have to review an entire year’s worth of posts.
I write many posts about recent research studies and how they can relate practically to the classroom. In fact, I post a regular feature called Research Studies of the Week. In addition, I write individual posts about studies I feel are particularly relevant to my work as a teacher.
You may have heard about the late David Foster Wallace’s amazing commencement address from several years ago at Kenyon College. A video, using his audio, was unveiled on the Web, and has since been seen millions of times. Here’s the video (you can read the transcript here). Here are previous posts where I’ve also highlighted particularly notable commencement addresses:
This is a great entertaining video, and it got me wondering if it could be a model for some class projects — would it make sense for students to create similar videos demonstrating the historical transitions in, let’s say, the rule of law, or how children were treated (or, as one reader suggested, changing scientific beliefs)? You’d want to be very, very careful (and I’d probably avoid it) with using it to examine racial and gender attitudes, but there may very well be other attitudes that would be worth examining. At the very least, the video will offer a few minutes of enjoyable entertainment:
What a great video to help teach “Perception” to IB Theory Of Knowledge students:
Here’s another short video that would be great to teach “perception” in IB Theory of Knowledge classes. Thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip:
The PBS News Hour aired an impressive report on project-based learning in a Kentucky school district. I’m embedding the video below, but it might not come through on an RSS Reader:
Rick Wormeli shared these two very useful videos of education researcher John Hattie:
I’m adding this excellent video on how African men are stereotyped in Hollywood movies to The Best Geography Sites For Learning About Africa. It’ll be a great way to also get my ESL students to start talking about how they feel their cultures have also been stereotyped.
The wonderful StoryCorps stories on NPR are great pieces to read and listen to on the radio. They also have converted a number of them into short video animations, and many of them (though not the one I’ve embedded below) are closed-captioned.
Here is one of my favorites — with the late, great Studs Terkel:
NASA released this video showing temperature changes in the world since 1880 and including 2012 — it’s an updated version of one they’ve released in previous years. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Learn About Climate Change.
What A Great Video To Show The Importance Of Modeling & Support:
Dan Pink was interviewed on CBS, and it really gets at some key elements of motivation and goal-setting. There’s nothing new there for people familiar with his work, but it’s a great piece to show to colleagues and to students. I’ve embedded it below, though am not sure if it will show-up in an RSS Reader:
“Sometimes the only thing worse than losing a fight is winning one.”
In organizing, that can mean your group gave so much to an issue campaign that you’re left with burnt-out leaders and a hollowed-out organization, or perhaps you burned too many bridges with potential allies along the way (it could mean many other things, too).
I was reminded of this saying when I overheard a teacher commenting that he “never let a student have the last word.”
The vast majority of the time, I don’t believe a teacher can ever truly “win” any kind of power struggle with a student. The teacher may “win” in the short-term, but the relational toxicity left behind will be long-lasting. Learning struggles and classroom management problems are likely to escalate and continue.
Dr. William Glasser suggests that most classroom management problems relate to students’ needs for power and freedom. Instead of getting sucked into power struggles with students, perhaps we should spend more time helping them feel and be powerful.
A year ago I wrote about a newer study suggesting the ability to resist texts was the new “marshmallow test (the famous one that you’ll read a lot about in previous paragraph’s links). I also included a brief comment about it in my new book, Self-Driven Learning.
Just in the past week, others have begun to pick-up on that study and new similar ones. Those articles provide much more substance to the idea, and I’ll certainly be incorporating them in a new supplemental lesson plan related to the marshmallow experiment.
Here’s a interesting infographic from Kaplan on “How To Teach English.” The bonus is that, along with the infographic, they published this comment from my co-author and colleague, Katie Hull Sypnieski:
I’ve previously posted, and written in my books, about a study that showed the value of having students write a few sentences after lessons about how what they just learned can be connected to their life (see “Relevance” & Student Learning). I’ve also posted a comic strip that humorously highlights the impact of seeing relevance can have on a student.
We just finished a unit (on Jamaica) in our ninth-grade English classes and, before we began our next one on Everest, I thought I’d apply a version of this kind of reflection to see how it went.
First, I gave each student a sheet asking them to list what units and life skills we had studied so far this year, and how we studied them (you can download this sheet and, in fact, all three sheets I used in the exercise here). Then, after they had completed it, I gave them a sheet asking them to list their personal, academic and professional goals. After that sheet was done, I had them clear their desks, put the first sheet on their left and the second sheet on their right with space in the middle for the the third sheet I then gave them. That sheet said “List ways how what we have studied and how we have studied them this year can help you achieve your goals.”
In other words, how what we have done (on their left) can help them achieve their goals (on their right).
I’ll share some examples in a minute of what students came up with, but it’s safe to say it was an exceptionally successful reflection. After people made a list, they made them into posters, which they will share with each other tomorrow.
Though I shouldn’t have been surprised — since this is what happens all the time when I ask students to write what they think are the most important things they have learned in class — it’s the life skills lessons that seem to stick (those are the ones found in my books on helping students motivate themselves.
Here’s a sample of what they wrote:
Self-control can help me with my career by helping me not get angry.
Self control can help me by remembering to use condoms.
You need grit to succeed in college because it’s probably going to be kinda hard.
Self control can help me with the military because if I have self control I won’t have to worry about losing my anger and snapping at one of my teammates or my drill instructors.
Patience and self-control can help me get along with my brothers and sisters better.
Writing, reading, typing and speech can help me with becoming a lawyer.
Grit is going to help me in my own business on the days I just don’t feel like working.
Taking personal responsibility is a step to me becoming a good husband for my wife and a good father for our kids.
The life skills we learned will connect to my career because I will have to have patience to be a teacher to younger kids.
Reading better will help me get the credits I need to graduate.
As always, I’m eager to hear suggestions from readers on how to make my lessons better!
A few minutes ago I published a post that repeated my admiration for Carol Dweck’s work, one of numerous posts I’ve written sharing that perspective.
However, I did publish one a couple of years ago that was critical of an op ed piece she did in The New York Times questioning extensive research that found self-control to be a limited resource that needed to be replenished. Dr. Dweck suggested that operating under that belief was contrary to her rightfully admired perspective on having a growth-mindset. In other words, it only needs to be replenished if you believe it can be depleted.
As I wrote in that post:
I’m all for having a “growth mindset,” which is another concept that Professor Dweck is known for and which I use with my students. However, especially with adolescents, it seems to me that we need to recognize that our students are not Supermen or Superwomen, and it’s unlikely that many — if any — have an unlimited level of self-control. My students and I have found Professor Baumeister’s research very useful and I have often seen it work effectively. The key, of course, is that we need to help our students develop effective strategies to replenish their capacity for self-control.
So why am I bringing this up now? Well, another researcher whom I admire, Heidi Grant Halvorson, has just written a widely-seen article with the title How You Can Benefit from All Your Stress. She makes an argument for stress similar to Dr. Dweck’s on self-control.
Comments on that piece make many of the same points I would make in a critique, though more eloquently than I would.
I believe that there are much more effective coping ways I can help students at our 100% free lunch (who also receive free breakfast and dinner) school to deal with stress than encouraging them to look at it as a way to grow (and an extensive lesson plan in my new book provides even more details).
I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that:
your mindset about stress may be the most important predictor of how it affects you.
We’re all familiar with the saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, than every problem looks like a nail.”
Short bouts of moderately intense exercise seem to boost self control, indicates an analysis of the published evidence in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The resulting increased blood and oxygen flow to the pre-frontal cortex may explain the effects, suggest the researchers.
They trawled medical research databases for studies looking at the impact of physical exercise on higher brain functions, such as memory, concentration, planning, and decision-making, in three groups: 6 to 12 year olds; 13 to 17 year olds; and 18 to 35 year olds.
They found 24 relevant studies published up to April 2012. Nineteen of these, involving 586 participants, addressed the impact of short bouts of exercise.
….12 of the 19 studies looked at self control, and the analysis indicated that short bouts of exercise did improve this higher brain function across all three age groups, registering a small to moderate impact.
This is particularly important for children and teens, because well developed higher brain functions are important for academic achievement and other aspect of daily life, say the authors.
“These positive effects of physical exercise on inhibition/interference control are encouraging and highly relevant, given the importance of inhibitory control and interference control in daily life,” they write.
This study has prompted me to plan to ask “sixth period” teachers of some of my ninth-grade students who happen to have P.E. during fifth period if this reflects their experiences. I know that it’s a very rough period for many of our students and teachers, but it would be interesting to see if they’ve noticed a difference among the students with P.E. immediately preceding their class. If so, this could be a pretty important scheduling issue to take into account for some of our students.
I’ve always had an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class at the end of the day and, though I emphasize recruiting non-IB Diploma candidates to take the course, too, few of those students have self-control challenges. It’s a different story for some students I have earlier in the day, though my double-block ninth-grade class is always the first two periods of the day so I don’t know if they would be different if they had P.E. prior to entering my class.
What has been your experience with students immediately following P.E. ?
I regularly highlight my picks for the most useful posts for each month — not including “The Best…” lists. I also use some of them in a more extensive monthly newsletter I send-out. You can see older Best Posts of the Month at Websites Of The Month (more recent lists can be found here).
These posts are different from the ones I list under the monthly“Most Popular Blog Posts.” Those are the posts the largest numbers of readers “clicked-on” to read. I have to admit, I’ve been a bit lax about writing those posts, though.
Here are some of the posts I personally think are the best, and most helpful, ones I’ve written during this past month (not in any order of preference):
A new study finds that the more power people feel they have, the more self-control they exhibit. Researchers:
…speculated that power holders may be willing to wait for the larger rewards because they feel more connected with their future selves, a consequence of experiencing less uncertainty about their futures along with an increased tendency to see the big picture.