But scientists claim that children who have low levels of self-control at three are more likely to have health and money problems and a criminal record by the age of 32, regardless of background and IQ.
Researchers from Britain, the US and New Zealand analysed data from two large studies in which children completed a range of physical tests and interviews to assess genetic and environmental factors that can shape their lives.
They found that children with low self-control were more likely to have health problems in later life including high blood pressure, being overweight, breathing problems and sexually transmitted infections.
They were also more likely to be dependent on substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs, more likely to be single parents, have difficulty managing money and have criminal records.
'Mastering self-control and managing impulses are some of the earliest demands that society places on children,' said lead researcher Dr Terrie Moffitt, of King's College London and Duke University in the US.
'Our study shows, for the first time, that willpower as a child really does influence your chances of a healthy and wealthy adulthood.'
The researchers firstly looked at data from around 1,000 children born in New Zealand between April 1972 and March 1973.
The participants' self-control was assessed by teachers, parents, observers and the children themselves and included things like having low frustration tolerance, lacking persistence in reaching goals, being over-active and acting before thinking.
Dr Moffitt's team then found that when the participants reached their early 30s, this impulsivity and relative inability to think about the long-term gave them more problems with finances, including savings, owning a home and credit card debt.
The children with lower self-control scores also scored highest for things like sexually transmitted diseases, weight problems, having high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.