…..”How Children Succeed” is an important new book written by Paul Tough. In it the author compiles recent research that points to the essential contribution of NON-cognitive skills to children’s success. Many researchers and educators are now grouping together these skills “under the rubric self-regulation.” Self-regulation is what supports “an inclination to persist at a boring and often unrewarding task; the ability to delay gratification; [and] the tendency to follow through on a plan,” all so necessary to academic achievement and beyond. According to Tough, researchers are finding that non-cognitive factors such as “curiosity, self-control, and social fluidity” do more to lead to desired outcomes than more traditional pre-academic skills.

…..More than anything else, what impairs the capacity to self-regulate, and therefore succeed, is stress and the complex series of chemical reactions in the body that it elicits. At this physiological level is where solutions are found. We can give the “brain-body” – our physiology – the exact antidote it needs to eradicate the effects of stress in just a few simple ways.

1. Teachers: Please regulate your students’ day by giving them short sensory breaks between academic demands. They can get up briefly to stretch, or stay in their seat while you guide them to notice their feet on the ground and their breath in through their nose. Taking deep breaths in through the nose while feeling planted in their seat with their feet on the ground helps to discharge stressful chemicals and release in the brain what is needed for relief. This is how we move the “getting tired or overwhelmed brain” – in other words, the “no-brain” – into the “yes-brain” that is ready to do a little more with greater ease.

2. Parents: Please encourage your children to have healthy fun when they FIRST come home from school, not AFTER they have done their homework. Fun is NOT a reward! It is a necessary part of life if we want our brain-body to keep working for us! The reason it is taking our children so long to get their homework done is because they are in their “no-brain” right after school. Their brain is tired and overwhelmed. That biochemistry needs to be shifted through movement, play, nature, or being with animals (NOT sitting in front of a television or video game). If when our children first get home from school they are supported to jump on the trampoline or dance to fun music, they will soon shift into a more relaxed, comfortable state that is more capable of doing homework. If they do 15 minutes and then need another sensory break, PLEASE give them what they need. Homework needs to be cut in half anyway! Have THAT important conversation with your children’s educators… please!

3. Teachers AND parents: Heed the above advice for you as well. Your success as teachers and parents depends upon it. And the success of your students and children is impossible without yours! Regulate your day with sensory breaks of noticing your breath and feet on the ground. Have more fun! When you get home from work, grab your kids, put on some fabulous music, and dance WITH them. I just did this with my son tonight and he laughed like he hadn’t laughed in days. He called out many times, “I have the best mom in the world!” (I could cry right now just writing this…) THAT is worth more to me than a perfect report card. It’s the relationship we have with our students and children that will lead to the success we are looking for. Let’s support them in developing a healthy relationship with themselves first, through self-regulation. That will make relationships with others and every other form of success not only possible, but inevitable.