Ability may carry a child a long way throughout an academic career, but being able to listen, pay attention and complete important tasks is crucial, according to a recent study published online in Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
Despite the push by many to teach children early academic skills as young as the preschool years, researchers in this study found that the biggest predictor of college completion wasn’t math or reading skills, but whether or not they were able to pay attention and complete tasks at age 4.
Findings from this particular study, conducted at Oregon State University, showed that children who pay attention and persist in completing a task have a 50 percent greater chance of completing college.
Megan McClelland, PhD, an OSU early child development researcher and lead author of the study, said that interventions aimed at increasing young children’s self-control abilities have repeatedly shown to help boost “self-regulation,” or a child’s ability to listen, pay attention, follow through on a task and remember instructions.
Simple, active classroom games such as Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light have been effective tools for increasing both literacy and self-regulation skills, according to McClelland.
“Academic ability carries you a long way, but these other skills are also important,” McClelland said. “Increasingly, we see that the ability to listen, pay attention and complete important tasks is crucial for success later in life.”
Just because a young child has difficulty paying attention doesn’t mean he or she cannot be academically successful, says Blitz, director of the ADHD Diagnostic Clinic at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. If a child is having difficulty with behaviors at home, at school or with peers, she adds, parents can seek help for specific behavior management techniques from a child psychologist.