Self-discipline is essential to a child’s development, and it is among the most important life skills for a child to learn due to the role it plays in creating a foundation for the development of many other essential life skills. When children are self-disciplined, they’re better able to learn and apply the skills needed to build their character, and eventually become a responsible adult.
The Importance of Self-Discipline
A child who’s mastered self-discipline will have a significant advantage, not only in childhood, but throughout his or her entire life. Self-discipline affects many aspects of a child’s behavior, from demonstrating good manners and social skills, to being able to manage emotions. Children with self-discipline are in control of themselves and the choices they make.
Self-disciplined children have learned to control outbursts and impulsive behavior. They’re able to make responsible decisions, without being instructed to do so, and can take responsibility for their actions. Self-disciplined children are motivated by a sense of self-determination and responsibility, rather than the fear of punishment.
A child that lacks self-discipline, even if he or she seems otherwise well behaved, will always choose the self-gratifying option, over what he or she knows is the right choice. A child’s lack of self-discipline can manifest itself in any number of behavioral problems. Among other things, such behavior can include being disruptive, rude, impatient, inconsiderate, and lazy.
Don’t Demand. Teach
Parents shouldn’t expect children to simply know the difference between a responsible decision and an irresponsible decision. This is why it’s important to help children understand why the things they’re told to do are important to them. Bestowing a sense of responsibility, motivated by self-interest, on the child, will help him or her to become more self-disciplined.
Give Children the Opportunity to Be Responsible
Children can’t develop self-discipline if they’re never given the opportunity to make responsible decisions for themselves. When parents micromanage a child’s behavior, the child can become dependent upon the parents’ instruction. When faced with a situation in which the child is acting without the guidance they’ve come to expect, the child will lack the necessary skill set to make a responsible decision, on their own.
Reward the Effort, Not Just the Result
Associating rewards and achievements with self-discipline is an effective way to help a child develop his or her sense of self-discipline. Rather than praising a child solely for completing a task or reaching a goal, focus that praise on the commitment and hard work that he or she put into the accomplishment. This helps the child to feel rewarded, not only for the end result, but for the self-discipline exercised in achieving that result.
Children will benefit from maintaining a regular schedule and routine. This routine may include any number of activities that require a child to consistently demonstrate self-discipline. Playing a sport, practicing an instrument, working an after-school job, completing household chores, or caring for a pet, are just a few of the many activities that can help a child to develop self-discipline.
Lead by Example
Ultimately, teaching a child self-discipline is largely dependent upon a parents ability to exercise self-discipline. Parents naturally want their children to be happy, but all to often, parents try to achieve this by doing things for their children, rather than letting their children work to do things for themselves. While pampering children may feel good in the near-term, the long term result will be a spoiled and unhappy child; whereas a child that’s been taught self-discipline will be happy, because he or she is equipped with the strength of character and determination to face all of life’s challenges with confidence.