Aspects of Self-Control (Psychology of Learning)

In teenagers and young adults, the pursuit of love is never-ending. Social media and modern dating culture have created an unhealthy understanding of compassion and empathy. I remember asking my friend to hold my phone for hours at a time so I didn't check the notifications tab for a response from a boy I liked. This can also create potentially dangerous situations for naive people, those who believe the words of a person they met on Snapchat. Most of these situations lack a single, yet vital aspect of  behavior: self-control.

Self-control is a behavioral concept that is learned in early childhood. The general idea of want vs. need can be frustrating for even the most advanced minds. In children, though, self-control is primarily based off of the nature vs. nurture concept. Nature vs. nurture relies heavily on genetic expectations, biological factors, and childhood environment. A child's nature concerns their temperament, risk for mental illness, and addiction status. A child's nurture concerns their parental examples, relationship habits, and psychological understanding of the world around them. Many children with a parent(s) who abuse drugs and/or alcohol grow up in tense or abusive households. This can create a difference in the ability to have self-control. 

If my Dad gets to eat whatever he wants and yell at Mom about it when he doesn't, why shouldn't I do the same?  
If Mom comes home and yells at Dad about not taking out the trash, why should I take out the trash?
If Mom gets to spend a bunch of money at the mall, why shouldn't I do the same?

Releasing a child from this environment can be beneficial for children with an easy temperament. Some children produce effort, resilience, and dedication to escape the feelings of a household that does not suit their needs. Other children fall into this cycle, creating poor habits and making worse choices. 

In the course text, it is stated that Skinner saw self-control as "not an issue of willpower, but as an issue involving conflicting outcomes," (Powell et al., 2016). A few scenarios described are leaving money at home to avoid unnecessary spending, loaning a television to a friend in order to lessen distractions, or any form of manipulating an environment for a desired outcome. In the text, there are four main topics of discussion regarding self-control: physical restraint, depriving and satiating, doing something else (avoidance), and self-reinforcement and self-punishment. These categories all follow suit in creating the same goal--self-management. 

As a child, I faced abuse and verbal torment from my father. It was difficult for me to meet his expectations, even when I did everything that he asked for. I maintained good grades, athletic status, and dedication to my job, and I volunteered on the weekends. That wasn't enough, and he tormented me with the idea that I was never going to succeed. He picked out every single detail he disliked and made it a bigger issue than it should have been. This caused the levels of anxiety in our house to skyrocket. As a teenager, I found that I would never make my father happy, even when I did everything I was "expected to do." I gave up trying to please my father and decided to do whatever I wanted. I snuck out of the house, I tried different drugs, I abused alcohol, and I spent money faster than I could make it. I got yelled at and beaten the same way I did when everything in my life aligned. 

This is a prime example of nature vs. nurture and how it affects self-control. My nature was to have an easy temperament, a good attitude, and dedication to things I enjoyed doing. Once I put off self-management, I saw the other side of the effects of poor nurture. I got myself kicked off my college lacrosse team, I dropped out of school (twice) and I ended up in a difficult health situation. I took out three credit cards and maxed them within a month, and I wasn't eating much at all. It was later diagnosed as mania, which was induced by the amount of anxiety I faced when I was around my childhood home. 

As an adult, I have gotten myself together (as much as a 20-something-year-old girl can). I rent an apartment with my boyfriend, we have a dog and two cats (who are happy and healthy). We both work full-time and manage our money together. Times can be difficult, but having self-control allows us to navigate financial hardships and emotional turmoil. These techniques are useful in creating healthy boundaries as well. When I first started dating my boyfriend, I had a tendency to turn my phone off and go off to class, work, or otherwise. This would create tension in our relationship because my boyfriend would worry that he upset me, and that was why I wasn't answering his calls. He lost control of his emotions and confronted me about it, considering the idea that I was cheating on him. After I explained that I needed to turn my phone off to avoid distractions, I gave him a written schedule of my day-to-day activities and allowed him access to my location to avoid confusion. This created a healthy boundary in our relationship, and it also allowed for both of our needs to be met. I had self-control with using my phone at inappropriate times, and he had self-control with frequent worrying. 

To conclude, self-control is a lot more than putting a box of cookies in the microwave to avoid constant binging. Self-control creates space for healthy habits, boundaries, and relationships. 


  1. I completely agree with you. You had so many interesting points in your post. I believe that self-control is a crucial aspect of behavior that is learned in early childhood. It can be influenced by both nature and nurture, and has a significant impact on personal relationships and decision-making. Utilizing self-management techniques can lead to more positive outcomes and the creation of healthy boundaries. Nice work!


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