The chunk of gray matter that makes us uniquely human--the frontal lobe--provides us with good things like social skills, learning skills, language, and impulse control (what psychologists call executive function). It's the last part of the brain to fully develop, which accounts for the feral behaviors of the little animals we call children.
On Monday the NY Times reported on a recent study that showed that children in daycare were slightly more disruptive in class, and this behavior persisted through sixth grade.
Like so many people I share the roadways with, with a strong sense of entitlement that wipes out any ability of impulse control, the Id is allowed to scream and kick and bite unfettered. With either both parents working, or living in single-parent households, the adults in kids lives are either too wore out from work and household chores, or in the case of daycare, they have too many critters to herd to have time to pound some Super-Ego into their thick noggins.
Loudell Robb, program director of the Rosemount Center in Washington, which cares for 147 children ages 5 and under at its main center and in homes, said she was not surprised that some children might have trouble making the transition from day care to school.
“At least our philosophy here is that children are given choices, to work alone or in a group, to move around,” Ms. Robb said. “By first or second grade, they’re expected to sit still for long periods, to form lines, not to talk to friends when they want to; their time is far more teacher-directed.”So what happens when kids are asked to sit and focus? Another recently published study shows that they are better able to learn things.
Attention span and reasoning may get higher marks than intelligence, especially in math.
"Preschool curricula that focus on development of these skills and self-regulation are needed in a big way," Blair says. "There is a federal push to learn our numbers, our letters and our words, but a focus on the content, without a focus on the skills required to use that content, will end up with children being left behind."
So it seems that teaching some impulse control might be as helpful as teaching the "3 R's." Back to the Times article:
“What the findings tell me is that we need to pay as much attention to children’s social and emotional development as we do to their cognitive, academic development, especially when they are together in groups,” said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group.
And we need to teach Ellen Galinsky that social development is a part of cognitive development, just like academics and emotions.
We are ambulatory brains, and nothing more.