Helping Your Child Learn to be Self-Disciplined


By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.


There is probably no more important trait to help your child obtain then how to be self-disciplined. To be self-disciplined your child must also become patient and learn to control impulses. Learning to able to control his or her temper and appetites (moderation) become companion abilities as well.

Don’t get discouraged. You didn’t learn self discipline overnight. Here are some ideas for helping your child understand the importance of self-discipline.

·        Self-discipline needs to be seen as worth it. So start when you child is young by delaying play until the “work” your child has to do is finished. If your child needs to make the bed or feed the pet make sure these jobs are done before T.V., playtime, or ice cream. By doing this the child will obtain that good feeling of accomplishment and associated this feeling with activities that are leisure. Leisure will also be viewed as enjoyable but only when the “have to’s” are done.

·        Show your children how to be self-disciplined by modeling this trait. Never allow yourself to believe that you have a right to be undisciplined while expecting you child to tow-the-line. How can your child be expected to discover the thrill of accomplishing a difficult task by sticking to it in a disciplined manner if he or she never sees the parents delay gratification and get the job done?

·        Open up a savings account for your child and help them to deposit a certain amount of there money in the bank on a regular basis. Let them watch their account build and earn interest. When the amount is large enough take them on a special buying trip and make that purchase of a new bike, CD player, baseball glove, new dress etc. If getting to the bank is to difficult create a family bank and keep track of their deposits in a small notebook. They will learn, as they watch their account grow, how important self-discipline and delayed gratification are.

·        If you can afford lessons in music, dance, karate, or some other skill, get a commitment from your child for a certain amount of time at a specific time each day or week before you sign them up for the lessons. Make sure they live up to their commitment. If you do not hold them to their promise they will not learn to be self disciplined and will not improve the skill you are paying for them to obtain.

·        Make a few phrases part of your vocabulary. A phrase like “Mind over matter” or “Do it now” or “Practicing procrastination will not improve anyone” or “Practice makes Perfect.” Even though such phrases do not cause a child to develop self-discipline they are deposited in the brain for future reference when the child decides to work on disciplining themselves.

·        Be honest with your child. Self-discipline is neither fun nor easy but it is worth the effort. Tell them stories about people like Cornel Saunders who had an idea. With little money and a Chicken Recipe that he thought was good he went from restaurant to restaurant with the proposition that he get a percentage of the profit if his recipe was used. He made visits to 1008 restaurants with his Chicken Recipe before someone bought his idea.

·        Teach your child how to make and keep goals. One idea is to get cards or a small notebook and have your child set up long term goals with steps they need to take to reach these goals. Have your child set up short term goals and indicate what steps they will take to reach them. Have them set up daily goals and prioritize these goals indicating which ones are more important to complete and with ones can wait another day if not accomplished today. Have them indicate what they plan to do when goals are accomplished. (They can even prioritize their fun activities.)

Your patience and persistent example coupled with teaching the concepts of Self-discipline will eventually pay off. In the mean time here are a couple of quotes that may be of help.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

-- Will Rogers

"First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."

-- Epictetus

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

—Helen Keller