But the researchers still believe their findings suggest schools that value and focus on self-discipline will do a better job of fostering it in their students.
While unclear exactly how schools foster self-discipline, the researchers contend:
But it seems likely that both direct and indirect methods play some role in Catholic schools' success—and that at least some of these methods are transferrable to other contexts. For example, an explicit focus on self-discipline might be reflected in a school's curricula, whether formal or informal. Similarly, a school's discipline policy could enumerate any number of approaches whereby teachers and students could forestall bad behavior. Alternatively, higher levels of self-discipline may be fostered implicitly—for example, through educators' daily interactions with students in the classroom or via well-chosen and well-managed extracurricular activities with mentors or other adults who model self-discipline. With a bit of effort, more non-Catholic schools could adopt such practices and be intentional about their implementation. Indeed, some "no excuses" charter schools are already doing so.
They also suggest the religious emphasis plays a role, saying:
The most obvious feature that Catholic schools and similar faith-based schools have in common is their focus on religion — including such specifically Judeo-Christian values as humility, obedience, kindness, tolerance, self-sacrifice, and perseverance. It is difficult to pin down how or why these values may influence a child's behavior when encountered in this context. Perhaps students are more likely to internalize such values when they know they are loved not only by their teachers but by their Creator, or when they perceive that misbehavior may have eternal consequences. Maybe it's something else entirely. Regardless, one thing is certain: Religion can mold hearts and minds in ways that suspensions, restorative justice, and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports can't begin to match. That doesn't mean that such secular approaches—and schools—don't have their place. Of course, they do. And so, do character education, ethics classes, and civics, all of which can contribute to the development of self-discipline. School leaders should choose the options that best suit their kids and culture.