Of course, not every child who shows self-discipline in a learning system has vulnerability, compulsion or control issues. So what sets apart a healthy sense of self-discipline and an unhealthy one? Moderation is good, but more important is flexibility.
What counts, writes Alfie Kohn, is the ability to choose whether and when to exhibit grit and perseverance in a task, or follow each and every rule, rather than simply doing these things compulsively. This ability, rather than self-discipline or self-control per se, is what students would truly benefit from developing in a learning system, and in life. “It’s becoming clearer,” Kohn writes, “that what can be problematic about self-discipline isn’t just a matter of how much but what kind.”
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