New Research: Teaching Self-Control Leads to Academic Improvements

How our brains regulate and manage cognitive processes is referred to as executive function.  As with most cognitive skills, executive function is a skill that grows and develops in children as they grow and develop.

According to this recent and fascinating article in Science Daily, the executive functions that are crucial for a child to develop include the ability to:

  • avoid distractions
  • focus attention
  • hold relevant information in working memory
  • regulate impulsive behavior

But what’s really exciting news for parents and educators is this: “Recent advances in neuroscience suggest that focusing on self-regulation – which includes executive functions and regulating one’s emotions – can enhance children’s engagement in learning and put them on an upward academic trajectory.” 

So how can a parent give their child this cognitive advantage?  One place to start with very young children newborn to age 7 years is in a Kindermusik class where we joyfully introduce and reinforce important executive function skills through stop and go activities, focused listening, ensemble play, gathering time, and circle dances – just to name a few.

Teaching executive function skillsFor example…

Stop and Go Activities like “Walk and Stop” give a child practice in learning to stop and think by learning to stop his/her body in motion.

Focused Listening helps children do just that – focus on a certain sound, often when there are other distractions around them.

Ensemble Play allows children to be a part of a whole.  They each play their own instrument as part of making beautiful musical together.

Sharing instruments during Gathering Time teaches children how to self-regulate by waiting for their turn for a favorite instrument and by handling the instrument gently.

Circle Dances are a beautiful way for children to interact with peers and adults and also have to remember what comes next in the dance.

“The ability to control impulses and regulate behaviors and emotions is a critical function to build into early childhood education, ensuring children’s success in both gaining knowledge and learning life skills.”  – Dr. C. Cybele Raver of NYU Steinhardt

Experience firsthand how music can teach other important life skills, such as sharing and inhibitory control. Contact your local licensed Kindermusik educator at and come visit a class!


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