We all know too well that our children do what we do, not what we preach. That’s why when they see us practicing self-discipline in our daily lives — especially in areas of nutrition, exercise, sleep, time, stress management, finances, emotional intelligence — they tend to develop self-discipline and carry it into adulthood. The opposite also applies.
You can look at this two ways: 1. that’s a lot of pressure; or 2. that’s motivation to improve self-discipline in challenging areas of your life! I don’t know about you, but both work for me. And who couldn’t use a little more self-discipline in one or more of the areas mentioned above, particularly if it meant your child would mimic you long-term?
Tuned in parent Tina in Virginia contributed some fantastic tips in the tip jar for us parents and the kids.
Self-discipline for kids starts with the parents. Since parents are setting the example, the following are a few self-discipline tips for us first.
Break down goals into bite-size, flexible pieces.
Parents, and primary caretakers in particular, have a hard time keeping up with time as it is (I barely have time to shave both legs). Therefore, break your goals up into small pieces and make them as flexible and mobile as you are!
You’re pulled into a dozen different directions all day long, so requiring yourself to write for an hour everyday at the same time and place, for example, might not be as sustainable for you as it is for some. It’s about keeping it easy and light at first to get momentum going.
Habits are formed when we do something over and over. If the goals are too ambitious and/or rigid, we’re less likely to meet them enough to form a habit.
This is an exercise in self-discipline in and of itself. And it’s a vital component to your success. There’s nothing else to it. Like Nike says, “Just do it.” (Remember the kids are watching.)
Don’t take temporary failure so seriously.
When you mess up, when you fail in an area of self-discipline, your reaction, how you treat yourself is crucial . . . to your own morale and to that of your children. Do you give up? Do you engage in negative self-talk? Do you talk to the kids about failure being a natural part of trying, learning, and trying again?
How parents treat their own failures and the failures of their children factors big in the emotional make-up impressionable minds. And being cognizant of this can help us remember not to take our own shortcomings too seriously.
Now on to the kids!
Give children small tasks to build responsibility.
The littles love being helpers. Even as early as age two, Tina’s toddler started helping with the laundry. She matched the socks; later she learned to fold and put them away. She has other developmentally appropriate tasks around the house, like cleaning up her toys before getting more out and helping her parents recycle.
Responsibility is a building block of self-discipline and it ties in with parents setting the example. For if Tina’s daughter had watched her recycle over and over, when Tina asks her now four-year-old to sort paper and plastics, the preschooler doesn’t need much help, for she has already learned the responsibility of recycling from watching her parents.
Make it fun!
Find things they are interested in and start with those as self-discipline exercises. If the kids are in sports (that they like), committing them to brief practice sessions at home is good an example.
Make it rain rewards!
Positive reinforcement for a job well done has been proven time and time again to work. And never underestimate the power of stickers on a reward chart or shiny, noisy coins dropping in to a piggy bank. However you choose to reward the kids, be sure you do it right after they successfully demonstrate discipline, so the connection sticks.
Practice self-discipline as a family.
Exercise and meditation, activities that the entire family can benefit from, are an ideal way to be accountable to other members of the family, get in that quality time, and set a great example for the kids. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with starting a tradition! Makes getting up ten minutes early worthwhile. It’s so hard, I know, but do it a couple of times, and you become addicted.
Self-discipline is a process. Start small. Be consistent. Don’t give up. And success is imminent (for you and the kids)!
Thank you for being tuned in parents, and a special thanks to Tina in Virginia for sharing these helpful tips! I would love to feature your tips, stories, recipes, and more! Pay your knowledge forward here.