Best Predictor of Happiness in Children?


Dr. Sax began his talk on Friday, March 15th, with this pop quiz.

"Which of the following, measured when a child is 11 years of age, is the best predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction roughly 20 years later, when that child has become a 31- or 32-year-old adult?”

  1. IQ

  2. Grade point average

  3. Self-control

  4. Openness to new ideas

  5. Emotional Stability

What would you pick?  

Friendly people do seem to be less swayed by the stresses of life.  

Some parents raised a hand for IQ.  IQ can be a predictor for wealth, but not for happiness.  

How about being open to new ideas?  Nope.

High test scores?  Not many hands went up but many parents in our area spend hours of every year and dollars of every paycheck to supplement their children’s knowledge base with tutors and test prep so they will score well on exams.  

If you guessed self-control, you joined the hands of the majority in the dining room.  

If you want your child to be healthy and wealthy and wise, then your first priority should not be measures of cognitive achievement, such as high grades or test scores, but measures of Conscientiousness, such as honesty, integrity, and self-control.” (pg 121, The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax)

How can a child be taught self-control?

At Ambleside, teachers hold each child accountable for their actions by  using the ten habits from Charlotte Mason’s pedagogy as a rubric. A detailed list of these habits is here.  

Small habits like hanging up a backpack, walking quietly in line to the music room or attending to a classmate when they are narrating become larger tasks like yielding to another’s request for a game at recess or adding to a narration with tact, not disrespect, toward the first speaker.  

Childhood self-control strongly predicts adult success, in people of high or low intelligence, in rich or poor, and does so throughout the entire population, with a step change in health, wealth, and social success at every level of self-control.”  (pg 123, The Collapse of Parenting by Dr. Leonard Sax)

Dr. Sax’s visit to our school last month left us encouraged and motivated to be better examples of self-controlled adults, to give our children every hope of taming their own will and developing their own self-control.

- Debra Christenson, Ambleside School Board Member

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