Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 8 "Can Self-Control Be Taught?"

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise. The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep. The third week we talked about talking about race with your kids. The fourth week we talked about why kids lie and how we're inadvertently promoting that. The fifth week we talked about intelligence testing for preschoolers for school placement purposes. The sixth week we talked about how having siblings socializes children. Last week we talked about why teens lie to their parents and engage in risky behavior. This week we're talking about how to teach kids self-control.

This chapter, entitled "Can Self-Control Be Taught?" made me want to move to Neptune, New Jersey immediately. Essentially, the whole chapter is a review of a program called Tools of the Mind that has been shown to teach preschoolers and Kindergartners self-control in all the schools it's been used in.

Before Bronson and Merryman start talking about Tools of the Mind they talk about Drivers' Education classes in high schools and how they fail to make teens better drivers than teens are who don't go through Drivers' Ed. Then they talk about the hype and failure of the D.A.R.E. program (and other similar programs) that was so popular in the '80s to keep kids from using drugs. They tell about these programs and how they don't work to talk about how unusual Tools of the Mind is because it does work.

The Tools of the Mind program itself isn't markedly different from most preschool or kindergarten programs, except that it puts the onus of action on the child instead of on the teacher to enforce with the child. Each child makes a play plan, for example, planning out what role they'll play in a make-believe game the kids all play. If the kid gets off track, the teacher refers the kid back to the plan they made for what role they'd play in the game. Because the kid plans what they're going to do, doing it becomes a matter of carrying out their own idea instead of merely doing what an adult tells them to do. They're training kids to use their own decisionmaking skills and motivation to keep on track.

Bronson and Merryman have stats and anecdotes from a bunch of areas of the country in which Tools of the Mind has been tested and used. Of course they Tools kids have higher test scores than the other kids do, but what seems even more impressive is that they kids are more self-directed so there isn't as much chaos in the classrooms. Since the kids get to carry out their *own* plans they don't need to goof off and misbehave. I would love to see information on Tools and how it interacts with kids who've been diagnosed ADHD.

Bronson and Merryman go on to explain why Tools works so well from a neuroscience perspective.Then, and I know we're all going to be happy about this: they talk about both authors have started using Tools concepts in their own lives. Merryman runs a tutoring program, so they talk about how she uses it with the older kids she tutors, and Bronson talks about how he uses it with his preschool-age daughter. I read it and was kind of shocked to realize that that's the kind of stuff my mom did with me (and still does with me, frankly) and that I just instinctively did with my kids because that's what she did with me. (Everything I know AT ALL about parenting I know from my mom.) So it seems like it won't be a stretch to be even more explicit about some of the stuff.

The chapter gives such a glowing review of this program that I started getting sadder and sadder that my own rising Kindergartner wouldn't be able to experience such a wonderful program. Some of the statistics and anecdotes about the success of Tools come from the schools in Neptune, NJ in which it was tested. At the end of the chapter the authors reveled that all the schools in Neptune ended up adopting tools. It's soooo tempting...

Do any of you live in places that are using Tools? Do any of you have experience with it?

Do any of these ideas listed in the chapter from Tools ring true for you?