Helping Children Develop
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of the primary tasks of early childhood is to develop self discipline.
Parents often find themselves correcting their children for interrupting,
being wild, not following instructions or for not controlling their hands or
mouths. These all require self discipline or self-control. Young children
are by nature impulsive. Some children have ADHD or other
biological factors which increase impulsiveness. Part of the solution for
impulse control is to learn self discipline. A child armed with self
discipline has a tremendous asset for addressing life’s challenges. So
many relational and personal problems can be avoided or controlled when
one has self-control. Here are some suggestions for teaching it to
Teach children to come when they are called. When a parent calls a child,
that child shouldn’t yell, “What?” from across the house, parking
lot or playground. Children can learn to come to the parent, within a few
feet, in order to have a dialog with the parent. This helps children learn
that self-control sometimes means that we must give up what we would like
to be doing in order to do something else.
Teach children to respond positively to correction. Most children don’t
like to be corrected and respond negatively in either aggressive (anger)
or passive (bad attitude) ways. This is unacceptable and becomes an
excellent opportunity to teach self discipline. One of the facts of life
is that people often must follow directions which may not be their
preference. Teach children to respond with a good attitude as well as
right behavior. This requires self-control and helps children learn to
control their impulses. A good response to correction is sometimes
learn but work in this area will help a child develop a skill which will
help them forever.
A number of social skills require self-control. Praise children when they
demonstrate this quality and point out areas they need to work on.
Listening, knowing when and how to interrupt, anger control, reporting
back after completing a task all require self discipline.
Encourage children to take on activities which build self discipline. They
may include sports, music lessons, a paper route, the responsibility of
caring for a neighbor’s pet, memorization of scripture, a clean room, or
a host of other activities.
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.”
Use bed times to teach self discipline. Some children have a hard time
going to bed without creating a battle and this becomes a great
opportunity to teach self discipline to children. After all, it requires a
lot of self-control for a child to stay quietly in bed while parents are
still awake. Set a bedtime, develop a routine which covers all the
necessary bedtime tasks and work at getting your child to stay in bed
without Mom or Dad falling asleep in the room. This requires work on the
part of the parent but will pay off tremendous dividends in the end.
Morning routines, chores, and family schedules become opportunities for
children to learn responsibility and self discipline. Responsibility is
“doing the right thing even when no one is watching.” The rewards
for being responsible are called privileges. The child who is responsible
to get ready and be at breakfast by 7:30 a.m. is allowed the privilege of
staying up until their 8:00 p.m. bedtime. Being able to choose
one’s clothes is the privilege for getting dressed before the deadline.
Simple benefits of life are seen as privileges associated with basic
parents try to give their children an easier life than they had or they
try to make their children feel good at the expense of good character.
Unfortunately, this often translates into more freedom and less
self-control. A wise parent will use childhood to prepare a child for
success as an adult. Self discipline is one of the most important
character qualities a child can develop. Ironically, spoiled children are
not happy; self disciplined children often are!
Self discipline is a primary quality that will
help children be successful in life. More techniques and ideas are
available in the book, Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids.