Children who are taught self-control skills, such as monitoring and controlling anger and other emotions, face significantly fewer school disciplinary referrals and suspensions, says a study.
Researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center found that mentoring kids has a significant impact on their behaviour in the classroom.
The study's principal author Peter Wyman, associate professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center, said: "It is exciting that adult mentors, who are not mental health professionals, taught children a set of skills that significantly strengthened the children's ability to function well in their classrooms and meet school expectations.
"This study suggests that with appropriate guidance from a trained adult, young children are capable of learning a great deal about their emotions and skills for handling their emotions effectively and those skills can have direct, positive benefits for their functioning in school."
Children in a school-based mentoring program were about half as likely to have any discipline incident over the three-month period of the study, researchers observed.
They also had a 43 percent decrease in mean suspensions as compared to the control group, which did not receive mentoring of the self-control skills.
Children taught the new skills also had a 46 percent decrease in mean office disciplinary referrals as compared to the children in the study's control group.
The research evaluated the effectiveness of the Rochester Resilience Project, the brainchild of Wyman and Wendi Cross, associate professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the Medical Center, to address the needs of young children with emerging behavioural and social-emotional problems by providing an accessible school-based intervention.
The boffins also noted that the mentoring improved peer social skills for girls but not for boys.
They said: "We found that girls benefited more than boys in terms of improved peer social skills, and the reasons are unknown. We note that all mentors were female. It is possible that congruence of child-mentor pairs on sex and other characteristics may influence the extent to which children perceive mentors as valid models for assisting them with social skills."
Other study authors included C. Hendricks Brown, professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Miami; Qin Yu, research associate at the University of Pennsylvania; Xin Tu, professor of Biostatistics and Psychiatry at the Medical Center; Shirley Eberly, research associate in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at the Medical Center.
The article has been published online by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.