Top Students: Does Self Discipline Trump IQ in Children and Teens?

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Today I received the following question about children’s self discipline vs smarts from Mary in Charlotte, North Carolina:

“I have a quick question–since the Powerful Word this month is Self Discipline, my husband got into this discussion about our son (age 14) and daughter (age 11) who have very different study habits. We were just wondering, can kids with great self discipline do better in school than kids who are the smartest?”

Hi Mary-

Here’s a quick answer to your quick question!

People often point the finger at unprepared teachers, boring lesson plans, inadequate books, and overpopulated classes when it comes to student underachievement.

Interestingly, research has actually shown that:

  • Self discipline predicts academic performance more robustly than did IQ.
  • Self discipline has also predicted which students would improve their grades over the school year.
  • American children, in particular, have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short term gratification for long-term gain, such as academic success.
  • Compared with more impulsive peers, highly self disciplined 8th graders earned higher GPAs and achievement test scores, were more likely to gain admission to selective high schools, had fewer school absences, spent more time on homework, watched less TV, and started their homework earlier in the day.
  • Highly self disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic performance variable in one study, including report-card grades, standardized achievement test schools, admission to a competitive high school, and attendance.

As you can see, the Powerful Word, self discipline, has long lasting and important effects! So encourage your children to attend those character-based Power Chats with open ears and continue your family meetings!

Just a quick note: I’m so glad that your family is benefiting so much from the curriculum. We’re all very impressed that you and your spouse are engaging in discussions about the powerful word of the month. Congratulations on making character development a family affair!

Keep your questions and comments coming! Thanks, Mary!

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Reference: Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents (Duckworth & Seligman)

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