Clearly impulse control is a vital skill for a child to learn, and many parents have impulse control high on their wishlist for the growing child. Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator who is part of the team that develops Musikgarten curriculum, has this to say: "Children need impulse control to be successful at learning, at making friends, and doing complex movement tasks. Without it, the future is bleak. Impulse control has three ingredients – the ability to calm, the ability to wait, and one last skill that develops more slowly – inner speech. Inner speech is a kind of self-talk children use to guide their actions. Because inner speech is out loud until age 8 or 9, we can hear children use it to direct their actions. In music, this inner speech or self talk is developed when words are linked to movements like “head, shoulders, knees and toes” or song stories that are acted out while singing. In each case, the words are practiced and, through repetition, become automated. By age 4 or 5, this inner speech or self talk becomes strong enough to override temptations and they can use it to control their impulses. Later, children will need this inner speech to guide their silent reading. Without it, reading and writing fail to develop well."
In Musikgarten we start to develop inner speech from the earliest ages. Even before a child can speak, they are building their listening vocabulary and can offer ideas through gestures. When this is mired back to them, they experience their own thoughts for the first time.This form of conversation and listening builds a foundation for developing inner speech or self-talk once children reach the stage of rapid language development.
By linking music, movement, and language together for children, Musikgarten strengthens the children's ability to organize their listening skills and their ability to control their behavior. When we add movements or drumbeats to songs, then drop off the words so the form is being held only by the movement or the beat, we are placing an intense demand on their inner speech to hold the focus, developing impulse control.
Another thing children love about Musikgarten is that I invite them to make up music and movement stories. Pooling their ideas for turning a poem into a song, or creating new verses to a movement-based song, they learn to work in a group, to share ideas, to link their language with movements, and become comfortable with speaking up. Studies have found that a strong vocabulary and an ability to engage in classroom discussions by the time a child reaches school age are strong indicators of higher success rates in academic learning.
Parents ask me how they can teach inner speech and impulse control. The short answer is by modeling! Sing and talk to your baby or toddler as often as you can; singing (with whatever vocal talent or lack of it you have) is far more interesting to your young one than your speaking voice! And sing along with your Musikgarten CD too! For older children, encourage inner speech by listening for it (remember it is out loud until around age 8) and affirming the process you hear. Coach your preschooler by talking out loud to yourself about planning dinner, shopping for groceries, or drawing a picture. As you help your child master the lyrics on the Musikgarten CDs you are helping to build impulse control and prepare for a successful decade of school life.
And remember: it's not too late to invite a friend to join our classes!