Preschoolers who concentrate, follow directions and persist with a difficult game are much more likely to succeed in school, according to an Oregon State study that followed children from preschool through age 21.
Parents were asked to watch how long the children would play with one particular toy while at home, while teachers were instructed to give the class a task and then monitor which toddlers gave up and which ones kept persevering until they had completed it.
“Our study shows that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn’t math or reading skills, but whether or not they were able to pay attention and finish tasks at age four,” said researcher Megan McClelland. These skills can be taught, she said.
This reminds me of the Stanford marshmallow study: Four-year-olds who could delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow did much better in later years than the kids with less self-control.
To what extent can parents teach persistence, concentration and self-control to their children? How much of that reflects inborn personality and temperament?