Start teaching your children about self-discipline. It is a trait that will give them a better chance for success later in life.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. Proverbe 1:3
One of the purposes of Solomon’s teachings in Proverbs is stated in this verse: to teach people how to live disciplined and successful lives. I find it interesting that he links disciplined and successful together; the two most definitely go hand in hand!
I’ve seen many adults who suffer from a lack of self-discipline, and I think it’s safe to say that the roots of that deficit go back to childhood.
Self-discipline is like any other character trait; it must be nurtured in order to grow. Adults who strive to learn it don’t just suddenly wake up one day and become self-disciplined; it is often a very slow, painful process.
If we can start teaching our children, even when they are very young, how to have self-discipline, we will give them a foundation that they can build on as they grow, one which will save them a lot of headaches, and lead them to success as they face relational and personal challenges.
Try these guidelines:
- Teach children to come when they are called. When you call your child, he should’t dawdle, yell “what?” from across the house, parking lot or playground. 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.
- Praise children when they demonstrate self-control in listening, not interrupting; controlling anger; or completing a task. Let them know when they need to work on self-discipline in a certain area.
- Get your kids into activities that require them to build self-discipline, such as sports, music lessons, walking the dog, memorizing Scripture, etc.
- Use bed-time to teach self-discipline, if your child doesn’t go to bed without a battle. After all, it requires self-control to stay quietly in bed while parents are still awake. Develop a bed-time routine and work at getting your child to stay in bed without Mom or Dad falling asleep in the room.
- Provide a structure. I’m all for spontaneity and fun, but in the overall scheme of things, kids need a routine so they can become self-disciplined. Set household rules and stick to consequences when rules are broken. Kids will then learn what to expect and be encouraged to make better choices. Morning and after-school routines are just as necessary as bed-time routines. It gives kids a way to learn how use their time for chores, homework, and fun.
- Rewards can be a great way to hone in on specific self-discipline problems. A preschooler who keeps getting out of bed may respond to a sticker chart to motivate him. An older child who doesn’t want to do homework and chores may need to see logical consequences from his lack of discipline, such as no video games or TV. Remember that reward systems should be be phased out as kids master skills.
Teaching Self-Discipline is a Process
Self-discipline is a process that takes years to refine. Your strategies should change and grow as your child does. A 4-year-old will need a gentler, more visual strategy, followed by lots of praise. A 10-year-old may respond better to logical consequences that result from his lack of self-discipline.
Most importantly, never forget that kids learn the most by watching you. If they see you procrastinating or choosing to watch TV instead of finishing your work or housework, they will pick up your bad habits. Show your kids a good example of what it means to stay on task and make good choices.
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Not to mention wondering if you are doing the right things to help your children grow up to love and honor God?
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