Parents have their work cut out for them when it comes to raising their children. They must teach them my life skills, such as team-building, protect themselves, and, generally, be a good human. However, most of these abilities come down to one thing: self-control. Young children are, by nature, extremely impulsive. Therefore, many parents wonder how to teach kids self-discipline. If it is your case, you are in the right place. These ten tips will help you in teaching kids self-control.
What Is Self-Discipline?
Self-control for kids manifests in many different ways. Children who have developed this ability are capable of managing their emotions, such as anger, and stop themselves from reacting impulsively to desires and feelings. They can also make good choices since they understand why it is in their interest to make such a decision, even if the right option includes difficult or unpleasant feelings, such as delayed gratification. Finally, since they understand how and why to make a choice beyond “because someone told them to,” they are willing to take responsibility for their choices.
The Importance of Teaching Children Self-Discipline Skills
Before answering the question: “how to instill self-discipline in young children?” it is essential to respond to why doing so is critical for educators. Self-discipline is crucial for a child’s development. Children who self-regulate will have an easier time interacting with their peers or adults. In addition, they will grow into adults who can manage their responsibilities, whether at home or work, without succumbing to pressure or procrastination.
It allows them to develop many life skills, such as:
- Self-confidence: since they can control their impulsivity, they will feel more confident taking on new challenges.
- Strong moral character: they can easily distinguish between a right and wrong choice and are more resilient to peer pressure.
- Self-reliance: their ability to make the best choice allows them to become more independent.
- Responsibility: they can assume the consequences of their choice.
Lack of Self-Discipline Examples
Not teaching kids self-discipline can potentially lead to difficult situations, such as:
- Children who have difficulties behaving in a group because they cannot take turns or respect other people’s conversation.
- Children who cannot regulate their impulse to binge-watch their favorite shows, eat their favorite foods, etc., even if they are aware that their behavior can have negative consequences (i.e., they will be tired or sick).
- Children who succumb to peer pressure even if they are aware that their actions are wrong or dangerous, such as stealing, consuming drugs or alcohol, etc.
- Children and young adults who cannot manage their time and their money because they systematically prefer immediate gratification.
10 Tips for Teaching Self-Control
Now that you know why self-control is necessary, you are probably curious about how to teach kids self-discipline. If so, keep reading! These ten self-control activities for kids will help them build and nurture their skills and strength of character. Do not hesitate to adapt them to your children’s age and personality for the best outcome.
#1 - Join a Physical Activity
Sports are an excellent way for children to make friends, stay active, and burn energy, but they are also a great instrument for teaching kids self-control. Sports oblige children to control their emotions and feelings, for example, if they are scared when it is their turn to play or get angry after losing to another team. They also encourage them to regulate their interactions with their teammates and adversaries, respect other children’s strengths and weaknesses, and abide by the rules of the game. Finally, it invites them to get out of their comfort zone, especially if you pick a challenging and fun sport like an obstacle course for kids.
#2 – Set Up a Routine
Like any other skill, consistency is essential for teaching kids self-discipline. Children thrive on a routine where they know what to expect and which can make them feel secure. Over time, they will be able to assume more responsibilities and build their autonomy in a safe environment. Here are some ideas to create a routine for your child:
- Keep it simple and realistic, and adapt it to your children’s age and needs.
- Keep practicing until your child has mastered every element and can do them alone and without a reminder.
- Consistency is critical. Repeat the same routine every day.
#3 – Help Your Child Understand Why
“Because I said so” is an easy answer for tired parents, but it will not help if your goal is teaching kids self-control. If you are wondering how to teach kids self-discipline and how to make good choices by themselves, they need to understand why you are demanding this particular choice. Your answer can be short and straightforward, such as why it is good for them to make the right decision. As much as possible, try to avoid negative emotions.
#4 – Teach Them that Their Choices Have Consequences
Once your child understands why they should make one choice rather than another, it is a good idea that their decision, good or bad, has consequences. Once again, consistency is key to establishing reliable patterns and teaching your kids to rely on your word – and, later, model your behavior. You must follow through every time. Here are some examples of consequences:
- Natural consequences: i.e., if you do not eat a nutritious dinner, you will be hungry later.
- Logical consequences: i.e., if you do not pick up your toys, you will not be allowed to play with your friends later.
#5 – Give Truthful Feedback
Being honest with your child, even if your feedback is negative, can help them grow and accept constructive criticism more easily. Sugarcoating everything will not improve their self-discipline and make better choices. However, remember that negative feedback does not need to be harsh. Here are some examples of honest feedback:
- Do not always tell them that everything they do is great if you know they have not given their best effort.
- Make them start their project over if they are not doing it correctly or up to the standards (in the case of homework, for example).
- Teach them to receive negative comments with grace and how to improve the feedback by making better choices.
#6 – Support Good Choices
If negative feedback for substandard choices and exercises is important, noticing and praising good behavior is just as essential when teaching kids self-discipline, especially if you know that it is something they struggle with. You can establish a reward chart so the child can visualize their progress and take pride in how much they have accomplished. Good behavior is not always rewarded with attention – therefore, make an extra effort to praise your child if you notice that they exercised self-control and discipline under challenging circumstances.
#7 – Give Them the Tools to Solve Their Problems Alone
As its name suggests, self–discipline is something that children should learn to exercise alone. It is closely related to independence, autonomy, and problem-solving attitudes. When teaching kids self-control, the best course of action is to encourage them to adopt a can-do attitude instead of systematically asking for help. Keep them involved in the process and encourage them to find solutions to their issues, even if it takes some trial and error. Teach them that mistakes are part of the process rather than a failure and think outside the box if necessary.
#8 – Model Self-Discipline
Children learn best by example, and particularly by observing those closer to them: you. They are more likely to model the same behavior as you than to listen to your words if your actions do not back them. They will also notice if you are expecting a dramatically different behavior on their part than the one you indulge in. Therefore, if you are wondering how to instill self-discipline in your children, your best bet is to start with yourself. Be truthful about your struggles if you fall short of expectations rather than denying your shortcomings.
#9 – Encourage a Positive Attitude
It is easy to focus on the negative and wallow in self-pity or embrace defeatism. However, it will not encourage your children to learn from their mistakes and build self-discipline. Instead, try to find the silver lining even in dire situations so the kids can embrace the growth process. One of the best self-control activities for kids consists in trying to find something positive they can find for every mistake they make, such as a lesson they learned, and model this behavior yourself.
#10 – Adopt Baby Steps Towards Self-Discipline
Building self-discipline takes years of consistent work. Having unrealistic expectations is more likely to discourage the child, especially if they are young and have issues with impulsivity. Instead, try to find age-appropriate and realistic ways to build self-discipline. For example, young children may need a visual reminder to accomplish each step of their routine correctly. Take the time to perfect every step and reward good efforts instead of rushing through the process, which would set up the child for failure in the long run.
Learning how to instill self-discipline in children requires time and consistency. However, the long-term rewards are well worth the effort. One of the best ways to develop self-control is to encourage children to start a fun and challenging activities such as indoor obstacle courses for kids, which can help them build character while being physically active.
Contact us to find out more about how to teach kids self-discipline.