9 Ways to Teach Your Child Self-Discipline


Self-discipline is the art of doing something that you don't want to do but know that you need to do for a long-term benefit. It also involves stopping behaviors that do not lead to the end you hope to achieve.

Research tells us that children who have self-discipline are more likely to succeed in marriage, business and finances.

Things to do:

1. Involve them in something bigger. For example, have them join a sports team, choir or dance team so your child can experience the consequences if he isn't disciplined enough to be at practice.

2. Teach them how to plan. For example, teach them how to how to make lists of things they need to get done and how to prioritize the list. Let them see you prioritize your day or manage your time and ask their advice about your list.

Ask questions that make them have to think through their choices like, "What is your plan?" and then coach them (not tell them, there is a difference!) on their plan. Or ask, "How will you get from here to there (end goal)?" "What will happen if you choose to play instead of doing your homework?"

3. Give them opportunities to make choices with smaller consequences. For example, give them a tomato plant to take care of so that they are able to see the direct consequence of how their choices affect the outcome of whether or not they have tomatoes or a dead plant. Let them succeed or fail based on their effort.

4. Part of self-discipline is being able to control your own actions. Rather than losing their temper and yelling at a friend who has made them angry, having self-discipline means they'd be able to talk calmly to their friend to explain their feelings. So practice with them using methods of calming like breathing deeply, counting to ten or leaving the situation when angry.

5. Demonstrate giving up one thing to have something you want more.Here is an example, talk about how you aren't going to buy something frivolous so that your family can go on vacation. Or how you aren't going to eat candy because it will make you feel bad later.

6. Don't give into demands for instant gratification. If your child wants a toy at the store, tell him that you would be happy to help him figure out how he could earn the money for it when you get home. Delaying gratification keeps us from doing things impulsively. Impulsiveness is the enemy of self-discipline. Self-disciplined kids can choose to forgo immediate gratification. They can make good choices regardless of how they feel.

7. Teach them the power of focusing their energy. You can start this with a three-year-old by asking him how many minutes he can sit still at the dinner table. Set the timer for those minutes and gradually add minutes to each meal time. You can do the same thing with homework for an older child.

8. When a child receives a reward like payment for a job accomplished or even a star on a chart or special treat, talk about self-discipline. External rewards give a great opportunity to talk about internal rewards. The real benefit to a paper route is not the money, it's the building of self-discipline. "You are pretty determined and responsible to get up every morning." "I know you would have rather played the game but I like the way you took time to walk the dog. That shows self-discipline."

9. Establish and maintain habits and routines. Organized and consistent structure breeds discipline. For example, by setting a designated time for homework to be completed each day, the routine will become a natural habit. It takes less mental effort to follow your usual routine which makes it more likely to do it.

Parenting Practice: Choose one of the above items and cultivate the skill with your child this week.

Parenting can be quite the challenge. It is always good to have new tools in your "parenting tool box." Want more personal coaching and problem solving solutions? Sign up for a FREE 15 Minute Strategy Session. We will pinpoint an irksome behavior and plan a strategy for resolving this issue.

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Kathryn Kvols

Author, Lecturer, Parenting Coach

(352) 494-1581

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Kathryn Kvols | Redirecting Children's Behavior

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