Regular readers might remember the lessons on self-control I’ve done with my students (see “I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One)). I just learned about some related research that I’m going to try-out in my class.

I was very intrigued to read an article today titled Dogs Offer Clues to Self-Control. That article, I think, is actually a little weird. However, a link in it led me to a much more useful study called The Physiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control.

Through various experiments — with dogs in the article and with people in the study — researchers found that people (and dogs) who had been put in a situation where they had to demonstrate self-control for a longer time would more easily give up trying a complicated task they would be given afterwards. They concluded that self-control is a “limited energy resource” that can get depleted.

Researchers connected that limited resource to a loss of glucose — the subject’s brain used glucose more quickly than it could be replenished when it was exerting self-control for that period of time. Researchers conclude that eating food that releases glucose over an extended period of time, like complex carbohydrates, could serve as an effective way to gain more glucose and, therefore, self-control.

Off-and-on, I keep graham crackers in my classroom for students to eat who have arrived too late to eat the free breakfast offered at our school. Of course, teenagers are always hungry — whether they ate breakfast or not. I’ve noticed that the students who tend to have the most self-control challenges are the ones who seem to ask for graham crackers the most. I haven’t really kept track of if they have bigger problems during the days when I don’t have crackers to give than when I do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the case.

I’m going to try to be more intentional about having the crackers, along with peanut better and trail mix. If it can help stop a couple of my students from “bouncing off the walls,” then it will be well-worth the expense.

Any other suggestions of inexpensive complex carbohydrate food to have available?