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How to Teach Your Child

Self-Discipline, Part 1 of 3

 

By Dr. Judy Flury

 

Here’s a riddle for you: what is one of the most important success skills for children to learn, but also one if the hardest for parents to teach?  The answer is: self-discipline.  Very few traits are more essential in order to attain any measure of success and achievement.  Unfortunately, while it’s not too difficult to figure out how to teach courtesy, or respect, or empathy, or other important character traits, self-discipline is harder to teach.

Before we look at some powerful strategies that you can use to help your children develop this vital trait, let’s start with a good working definition of what the term “self-discipline” actually means.  We’ll define self-discipline as the ability to (1) make yourself do the things you know you are supposed to do, without anyone making you do them; and (2) making yourself engage in actions that you know are good for you and that will result in positive consequences for your future (not following rules, like in #1 above -- but rather “going above and beyond” actions), even though you don’t want to engage in these actions (because they’re “too hard”, or because you’d rather be doing something else.)

Robert Brooks, Ph.D., a HarvardMedicalSchoolpsychologist and child development expert, defines self-discipline as “taking ownership, accountability, and responsibility for our behavior.”  He notes that it is one of the most important qualities that we can help our kids develop, and that self-discipline is what “will give (children) the ability to think before they act, improve their relationships with others, enable them to perform better in school and at work, and to become good problem-solvers.”

Dr. Brooks recognizes that many of today’s kids seem to lack the self-discipline of previous generations, and are more impulsive and less self-reflective. He notes several circumstances that make teaching self-discipline such a challenge for today’s parents.  Today’s kids, according to Dr. Brooks:

 

  • Have not had to experience much delayed gratification. Instead, their lives abound with instant gratification from technology that gives them what they want, when they want it;
      
  • Are stimulated nearly every moment of every day, from forces such as the media, technological gadgets, and video games;
      
  • Have far less leisure time with their parents, due to the rushed pace of family life today. In addition, many of today’s kids are over-scheduled with extra-curricular activities, leaving them no time for self-reflection, or for the opportunity to think before they act.

How can we attain any measure of academic, social, or occupational success without self-discipline?  Common sense tells us that we can’t, and science backs us up. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 next time! 

                 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 



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