Today’s blog is a guest post from Erica Fener, who shares some tips for building discipline into young people. I hope you enjoy it.
Erica—you work with students of all kinds, in addition to your own children. Talk to us about how teachers, coaches and parents can cultivate self-control in kids. Give us some strategies that could work with kids of almost any age.
One of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is to exercise a bit of restraint. While you don’t want to deny your kids or have them think of you as just arbitrarily “mean,” we must employ strategies to teach our children self control, if they’re going to be the most well-rounded people that they can be.
1. Be Reasonable: Maybe one of the biggest tips for teaching your children self control is through the magic of leading by example. But just like you do with your older kids, your spouse, your parents, and everyone else you come into contact with, you need to be reasonable in your expectations and in your demands. If you had a plumbing issue you wouldn’t yell at the mailman to come and fix your pipes, right? If your kids see you making unreasonable demands on others, then they are likely to exert the same behavior in their own lives. So even if you might like for your children to be perfect little tykes straight out of the gate, that is neither reasonable to demand nor expect.
2. Offer Rewards: It’s often parents who haven’t learned the reward system who have the brattiest kids that act out in public and have no filter on what they say or do. You don’t just throw money or material things at a problem. When you give your kids “things,” they are likely to keep throwing tantrums once they have stopped finding use for your gift. One of the best tips for teaching your children self control is giving them your attention. Give them hugs and your time rather than plopping them down in front of the TV or a video game.
3. Think Like a Kid: Another great way to reach out to your kids is to think like your kids. How did you first learn how to behave? It’s useful to hearken back to the ways that you learned things. Simple playing, exercises, games, and other juvenile interaction are the ways by which we all learned how to carry ourselves in the world. Your kids need to do the same thing in order to lead a well-balanced life.
4. Practice: Your kids are going to try things and they are going to “fail.” We all did when we were younger. Rather than ignoring that fact and filling your kid’s head with delusions of grandeur, or dwelling on these things and making your kid feel terrible, why not use this as a learning exercise? Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. “Practice makes perfect” is what they teach our kids in school. Why did they not reach their goal and what can they change next time?
5. Don’t Cave: A final tip is to never cave and never let them see that all they need to do is wait you out to get what they want. This is maybe the most fatal flaw of all when kids are out of control. Parents’ time is valuable and they have so much else to do. Your kids, on the other hand, have all the time in the world. Don’t let this pressure weigh too heavily on you and your child’s relationship and cause your will to buckle. If you make a statement to them that one behavior is unacceptable, then stand behind it. Enforce your rules, make sure that your children are punished, and make sure they understand the consequences of ever repeating that behavior. If you cave once, your kids will think that they always have the upper hand. Keep the ball in your court and your kids will grow up well adjusted and balanced.
Erica L. Fener, Ph.D., is Vice President, Business Development Strategy at Progressus Therapy.