Recent research linking early childhood misbehavior with later earning potential suggests that some behaviors considered disruptive in school are linked to higher pay in adulthood, which means a one-size-fits-all policy could hold some kids back.
Every class has that kid who will derail the flow of a lesson and launch into a conversation with the teacher that simply won’t wait.
Generally, kids who can’t manage such impulses do poorly in school and in the work force, so educators are increasingly expected to teach social and emotional skills, along with reading and math, to nip problems in the bud.
But the kid who interrupts story time to get the teacher’s attention also may turn out to be the manager who speaks out of turn and saves the company from disaster.
New research, recently summarized in an article for the Brookings Institute, shows that in some cases, bad behavior in school predicts success on the job.
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That’s what Nicholas Papageorge, an assistant economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, and his colleagues found when they analyzed data from a long-term study following individuals born in 1958 in Great Britain.
It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all story.
Researchers found that inwardly-focused behaviors in childhood, such as being depressed, inhibited or withdrawn, predicted lower earnings later in life.
But outwardly-expressed behaviors, such as aggression, predicted higher earnings, at least for some.
Children from low-income homes with those outward behaviors saw no gains on the job, but kids from wealthier homes clocked more hours at higher wages.
That calls into question the role that schools play in identifying and cultivating skills they consider to be productive, Papageorge said.
The researchers looked at two approaches for handling misbehavior, using the example of the kid who interrupts a lesson to have a conversation with the teacher.
The teacher could punish the child on the spot for breaking the rules, or she could offer a rain check to have the conversation at a more appropriate time.
The first approach attempts to eliminate the behaviors that interfere with school.
The rain-check approach, by building stronger teacher-student relationships, tries to make school a more interesting, engaging place where misbehavior is less common and isn’t as likely to derail a student’s education.
Researchers found that while both approaches improve school performance, only the second approach was also associated with higher earnings, allowing kids to keep the feistiness that can pay off later on the job.