Guiding Children into Mastering the Art of Self-Discipline

Among the many lessons a parent can teach a child, perhaps self-discipline is the most important.

It’s crucial to teach a child self-restraint and responsibility, especially during the school-age years. But parents don’t always know the proper strategies to employ to harness their child’s self-discipline. Luckily, we rounded up three useful parenting tricks for you.

Imposing Rules the Right Way

The common mistake of parents is that they make rules without explaining the reason behind it. How could a child follow something he does not know the value of? If you give out orders without giving context, your child will most likely disobey you.

He has to know the advantages of following orders and the consequences of breaking the rules. He must know why specific commandments are in place at home and in school. You have to talk to your child the way signage providers communicate their ideas.

If you properly educate your child about the dos and don’ts you’re trying to impose on him, there’s a greater chance he would change the way he approaches your set of rules.

You also have to avoid holding your child by the neck. When you are just giving orders to keep him disciplined, you are not teaching him responsibility and self-reliance. You are only instilling fear in him, and that could lead to feelings of resentment towards you in the long run.

So ask yourself this: Are duties being carried out of fear of getting yelled at, being grounded, losing television privileges, or are they performed out of the initiative, out of desire, out of a free will?

Understand that you have to guide him to make sound decisions, not box him in a set of rules. When you don’t give him enough freedom, how can he exercise his willpower? He develops self-control and discipline when you give him enough space to explore it on his own.

The Positive Points of a Reward System

Don’t leave a good deed unnoticed. If you see that your child has tried cleaning up his mess in the kitchen or finishing his homework before bedtime, acknowledge that effort and reward it accordingly.

There have always been various debates about the efficacy of utilizing a reward system in raising a child. It is said that rewarding a child for good behavior will make him reliant on rewards. Without a reward system in place, the child will lose intrinsic motivation to carry out his duties or maintain good behavior.

However, research suggests that using a reward system is advantageous in sustaining your child’s positive behavior. Though the researchers confirmed that one-time rewards are not effective in reinforcing consistent behavior, they found out that continuously rewarding a child can yield favorable results. They said employing a reward system can turn a behavior into a routine. It then becomes a “repeated practice,” meaning you don’t have to remind your child to keep his room clean or pick up his toys. You don’t have to provide rewards to keep them in check because it’s already part of their system.

It is an effective way for him to develop self-discipline and responsibility because it becomes easier for a child to make the right decision even without extrinsic rewards. You don’t rely on a reward system to sustain good behavior; you use it as a tool to harness self-discipline.

Process Praise versus Person Praise

Veteran with his family

For a child, praises are just as important as rewards. However, for fear of inflating a child’s ego, parents have this habit of withholding compliments from their child. But not recognizing your child’s efforts and not offering that well-deserved “good job” will only do more harm than good.

Giving your child a pat on the back every once in a while is an effective way to sustain his commendable behavior or performance. When he receives some form of approval from you, it motivates him to accomplish his tasks and do a better job next time around. In fact, according to a study, children perform better when praised for their efforts rather than their intelligence. They tend to have a more enthusiastic approach to learning and an increased desire for improvement.

But is there a right way to praise your child? Yes, there is. To avoid giving out compliments from becoming counter-productive, you must employ the “process praise” and not the “person praise.” In the process praise, you recognize the effort, the specific work, or the choice of strategy of your child, not his level of intelligence.

Because when you always praise your kid for how smart he is, being smart becomes a label, he will try to protect. He starts to develop a fear of making mistakes. Worse, an encounter with failure would make him doubt his intelligence.

But if you use the process praise, failure is seen differently. If you compliment his “process” of performing a task, when your child faces failure at some point in his life, he will take it more constructively. For him, a setback would only mean he lacked effort or a good strategy. But if he puts more effort and thought into it next time around, the outcome would change.

When you teach your child the value of putting forth the work and trying until he gets it right, then you are training him to be hardworking, resilient, disciplined, and strong-willed. When you give him enough fuel to believe in himself, it will be easier for him to navigate the world on his own.

To put it simply, self-discipline is a process that you guide your children towards. So, by following these three steps, you can teach your children the most important value there is.

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