Teaching Kids Self-Discipline so They Can Grow Up to Reach Their Goals (2022)

No matter which type of discipline you use with your child, the ultimate goal of your parenting strategy should be to teach your child self-discipline.

Self-discipline helps kids delay gratification, resist unhealthy temptations, and tolerate the discomfort needed to reach their long-term goals. From choosing to turn off the video game to work on homework, to resisting an extra cookie when Mom isn't looking, self-discipline is the key to helping kids become responsible adults.

It's important to give kids the skills they need to develop self-discipline as well as an opportunity to practice making good choices.

1

Provide Structure

Teaching Kids Self-Discipline so They Can Grow Up to Reach Their Goals (1)

Create a similar schedule every day and your child will get used to the routine. When they know what they are supposed to be doing, they will be less likely to get derailed by other activities.

A good morning routine helps kids know when it's time to eat breakfast, comb their hair, brush their teeth, and get dressed. A good after-school routine teaches kids how to divide their time between chores, homework, and fun activities. And a consistent bedtime routine will help kids settle down and fall asleep faster.

Keep your child's routines simple. With practice, your child will learn to implement the routine without your assistance.

2

Explain the Reason Behind Your Rules

When it comes to helping kids learn how to make healthy choices, an authoritative approach is best because it helps kids understand the reasons for the rules.

Instead of saying, “Do your homework now because I said so,” explain the underlying reason for the rule.

(Video) How To Teach Self-Discipline To Children

Say, “It’s a good choice to do your homework first and then have free time later, as a reward for getting your work done.” This helps your child to understand the underlying reasons for your rules. Instead of saying, "My mom said I have to do this," your child will understand the rules serve a purpose.

Of course, you don't want to launch into lengthy lectures that will bore your child. But a quick explanation about why you think certain choices are important can help your child understand choices better.

3

Give Consequences

Sometimes, natural consequences can teach some of life's greatest lessons. A child who constantly forgets to grab their jacket as they run out the door won't learn if a parent always delivers their jacket to the school. Facing the natural consequences of their behavior (like feeling cold at recess) might help them remember to get their coat next time.

At other times, kids need logical consequences. A child who plays too rough with their mother’s computer might learn to be gentler when they lose computer privileges. Or a child who has trouble getting up in the morning may need an earlier bedtime that night.

It’s important to avoid power struggles. Trying to force your child to do something won't teach self-discipline.

Explainwhat the negative consequences will be if your child makes a poor choice. Then, let your child make the choice.

Say, "When you pick up your toys, you'll have more time to play outside." Follow through with a consequence if they don't pick up, but don't yell or try to force them into compliance.

Keep in mind that kids need to learn how to make healthy decisions on their own, by examining the potential consequences of their behavior.

4

Shape Behavior One Step at a Time

Self-discipline is a process that takes years to hone and refine. Use age-appropriate discipline strategies to shape behavior one step at a time.

Instead of expecting a 6-year-old to suddenly be able to do their entire morning routine without any reminders, use a picture chart on the wall that depicts combing hair, brushing teeth, and getting dressed. You can even take pictures of your child doing these activities and create your own chart.

When necessary, provide reminders to your child to look at the chart until they are able to look at the chart and do each task on his own. Eventually, they will need fewer reminders and won’t require the chart at all.

Any time your child is learning a new skill or gaining more independence, help them do so one small step at a time.

5

Praise Good Behavior

Provide positive attention and praise whenever your child demonstrates self-discipline. Point out the good behavior you want to see more often. For example, instead of saying, "Good job not hitting your brother when you were mad," say, "Good job using your words to solve the problem."

Sometimes good behavior goes unnoticed. Giving kids praise for making good choices increases the likelihood that they’ll repeat that behavior.

Provide praise when kids do things without requiring reminders. Say, “Great job sitting down to do your homework before I even told you to!” or “I’m so proud that you chose to clean your room today all on your own.” Even saying, “Great job putting your dish in the sink when you were done eating,” can encourage a repeat performance.

(Video) How to Teach Your Children Self-Discipline | Parenting Tips

6

Teach Problem-Solving Skills

Teach problem-solving skills and work together to correct specific issues related to self-discipline. Sometimes, asking kids what they think would be helpful can be an eye-opening experience that can lead to creative solutions.

There may be a fairly simple solution to a behavior problem.A child who struggles to get dressed in time for school may benefit from having their outfit picked out the night before. Setting a timer for five minutes might also keep them on task.

More complex problems may require a series of trial and error type interventions. A teenager who isn’t getting their homework done may need several changes before they become more motivated to get their work done on their own. Try removing a privilege. If that doesn’t work, try having them stay after school to see if they can get their work done before they come home.

Keep trying different solutions until you can find something that works while keeping your child involved in the process.

7

Model Self-Discipline

Kids learn best by watching adults. If your child sees you procrastinating or choosing to watch TV instead of doing the dishes, they’ll pick up on your habits. Make it a priority tomodel self-discipline.

Pay attention to areas where you might struggle with discipline. Perhaps you spend too much money or lose your temper when you're angry. Work on those areas and make it clear to your child that you seek to do better.

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(Video) self discipline | book audio

8

Reward Good Behavior

A reward system can target specific behavior problems. A preschooler who struggles to stay in their own bed at night may benefit from a sticker chart to motivate them. An older child who struggles to do homework on time and get chores done may benefit from a token economy system.

Reward systems should be short-term. Phase them out as your child begins to gain self-discipline.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of rewards that don’t cost money. Use extra privileges, like electronics time, to motivate your child to become more responsible.

Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.

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FAQs

How can self-discipline help you achieve your goals? ›

Self-discipline delays short-term gratification for long-term reward. Having self-discipline helps us to overcome laziness and procrastination and prevents us from taking things for granted. It directs us to choose what we want now and what we want for the future.

How does self-discipline affect goals? ›

Self-discipline allows you to stay focused on your goals. It enables you to stay in control of yourself and of your reaction to any situation. Self-discipline is like a muscle: the more you train it, the stronger you become. Lack of self-discipline can cause low self-esteem.

At what age do children develop self-discipline? ›

Children don't actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses.

Can self-discipline be taught? ›

We aren't born with self-discipline; it's a learned behavior. And just like any other skill you want to master, it requires daily practice and repetition. It must become habitual. But the effort and focus that self-discipline requires can be draining.

What are the five pillars of self-discipline? ›

The five pillars of self-discipline are: Acceptance, Willpower, Hard Work, Industry, and Persistence. If you take the first letter of each word, you get the acronym “A WHIP” — a convenient way to remember them, since many people associate self-discipline with whipping themselves into shape.

What are the 3 types of self-discipline? ›

Three types of Self-Discipline

Here are examples of three types: active discipline, reactive discipline, and proactive discipline.

What are the 3 types of discipline? ›

The three types of discipline are preventative, supportive, and corrective discipline. PREVENTATIVE discipline is about establishing expectations, guidelines, and classroom rules for behavior during the first days of lessons in order to proactively prevent disruptions.

Why discipline is key to success? ›

The single most important attribute to becoming successful is self-discipline. It helps you stay focused on reaching your goals, gives you the gumption to stick with difficult tasks, and allows you to overcome obstacles and discomfort as you push yourself to new heights.

What are 3 benefits of self-discipline? ›

Benefits of Self Discipline
  • Feeling of being in control of yourself.
  • Higher rates of goal achievement and success.
  • Overcome addictions and procrastination.
  • Feeling more motivation towards your goals.
  • Higher satisfaction of accomplishments.

How do you exercise self-discipline? ›

Five Daily Exercises That Build Self-Discipline
  1. Take a Cold Shower Every Morning. Cold showers suck. ...
  2. Meditate for 10 Minutes a Day. Meditation might seem like an odd way to build discipline. ...
  3. Begin Your Day With 100 Push-Ups or a 1-Mile Run. ...
  4. Make Your Bed. ...
  5. Eliminate Distractions. ...
  6. Quit Complaining.
14 Jun 2018

How can I improve my child's behavior? ›

How to handle difficult behaviour
  1. Do what feels right. What you do has to be right for your child, yourself and the family. ...
  2. Do not give up. Once you've decided to do something, continue to do it. ...
  3. Be consistent. ...
  4. Try not to overreact. ...
  5. Talk to your child. ...
  6. Be positive about the good things. ...
  7. Offer rewards. ...
  8. Avoid smacking.

How do you control impulsive behavior in children? ›

  1. Impulse Control Techniques That Work for. Children. ...
  2. Teach Your Child to Label Feelings. ...
  3. Ask Your Child to Repeat the Directions. ...
  4. Teach Problem-Solving Skills. ...
  5. Teach Anger Management Skills. ...
  6. Establish Household Rules. ...
  7. Provide Structure and Be Consistent. ...
  8. Practice Delayed Gratification.

What causes lack of self-control? ›

Being the subject of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect. Preexisting mental illness. Family history of mental illness. Personal or family history of substance abuse and addiction.

What happens when you don't discipline your child? ›

In fact, failure to discipline children often results in kids who are unhappy, angry, and even resentful. To those around them, a child who is not disciplined will be unpleasant company, and a child without discipline may find it difficult to make friends.

How do you regulate a dysregulated child? ›

Practice mindfulness and breath-centered yoga

According to a 2021 study , a breath-centered meditation practice may help children with emotional dysregulation difficulties stemming from ADHD and reactive aggressive disorder calm themselves and focus their attention.

How do I teach my ADHD child self-control? ›

Tips to Help Your Child Manage Impulsivity
  1. Raise Your Child's Awareness of Impulsiveness. Sometimes just being aware of an issue can diffuse it. ...
  2. Suggest Alternative Behaviors. Provide your child with tools to combat impulsive behavior. ...
  3. Take a Deep Breath. ...
  4. Praise Patience.

What can I do if my 10 year old is out of control? ›

Here's what parenting specialists and FBI hostage negotiators say can help you deal with out of control kids:
  1. Listen With Full Attention: Everyone needs to feel understood. ...
  2. Acknowledge Their Feelings: Paraphrase what they said. ...
  3. Give Their Feelings A Name: “Sounds like you feel this is unfair.” It calms the brain.

What are the four components of self discipline? ›

Four elements to success:To succeed in having self discipline, you must have these four key elements to let self discipline develop and flourish. The four elements are self control, motivation, persistence and goals.

What is self discipline examples? ›

Self discipline is the ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right. An example of self discipline is when you make sure you get up an hour early before work each day to get to the gym.

What are the qualities of self discipline? ›

Here are 10 habits of highly disciplined people that you can start emulating today:
  • They Commit. ...
  • They Avoid Temptation. ...
  • They Take Care of Themselves. ...
  • They work at developing habits. ...
  • They set boundaries. ...
  • They revel in routine. ...
  • They lead with their mind over their mood. ...
  • They clearly define their goals.
15 May 2018

How is self-discipline developed? ›

How to Develop Self-Discipline. Self-discipline is like a muscle: the more you work on developing it and using it, the stronger it will become. However, it's just as important not to start out with goals that are too ambitious. Instead, set small goals, and increase the level of challenge slowly over time.

Is self-discipline a learned behavior? ›

Despite what many may think, self discipline is a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in your day-to-day life.

How do you discipline a stubborn child? ›

How to Cope with a Stubborn Toddler
  1. Pick your battles. If your child tries to defy you in a fairly trivial situation, it can be helpful to let her do what she wants. ...
  2. Avoid saying “no” too often. ...
  3. Know your child's triggers. ...
  4. Don't give in.
8 Jun 2017

What are the two basic goals of discipline? ›

What are the goals of discipline? Discipline protects your child from danger. Discipline helps your child learn self-control and self-discipline. Discipline helps your child develop a sense of responsibility.

What are positive discipline approaches? ›

The most effective positive discipline strategies are redirection, positive reinforcement, "time-in" (carving out quality moments with your child), single-word reminders, and selective ignoring of objectionable behavior.

Does discipline equal success? ›

Discipline is the key to success. Create a schedule and rhythm in both your life and work, and be disciplined to stick to it: Make time each week to plan the week ahead. Schedule time each day to plan your day ahead.

Which is better discipline or motivation? ›

Despite the fact that self discipline and motivation are both important for success, it is absolutely wrong to think that motivation is prime. Motivation is what will give you the start and then self discipline alone will be responsible for keeping you going.

Is discipline a moral value? ›

Discipline is an important behavior in life. It is a character trait which is crucial for expressing many other attributes in life. It refers to orderliness in life, which is essential for success in one's life. Additionally, it demonstrates respect to physical and moral laws in society.

Why is self-discipline so important? ›

The possession of self discipline enables you to choose, and then persevere with actions, thoughts and behavior, which lead to improvement and success. It also gives you the power and inner strength to overcome addictions, procrastination and laziness and to follow through whatever you do.

What is the purpose of disciplining a child? ›

Disciplining your child means teaching them responsible behaviour and self-control. With appropriate and consistent discipline, your child will learn about consequences and taking responsibility for their own actions. The ultimate aim is to encourage the child to learn to manage both their feelings and behaviour.

What is the best way to learn self-control? ›

Here are eight tips to increase self-control:
  1. Find more motivation. ...
  2. Get a good night's sleep. ...
  3. Self-regulate to improve self-control. ...
  4. Exercise to increase self-control. ...
  5. Get digital self-control support. ...
  6. Understand your emotional intelligence. ...
  7. Avoid decision fatigue. ...
  8. Set SMART goals.
1 Sept 2022

Why do people lack discipline? ›

Lack of willpower, motivation and ambition are also causes for lack of self discipline. A weak state of health can contribute to the absence of this important skill. This means that you need to take good care of your health and body, eat healthy food and exercise your body.

What is the difference between self-discipline and willpower? ›

Willpower is a rather sudden and momentary burst of focused energy, while self-discipline is structured, well thought out and consistent. Willpower, in the moment, is more tangible and seemingly more powerful. The reality is that the power of self-discipline dwarfs that of willpower.

What are the 6 common behavioral disorder? ›

Early Childhood Behavioral and Emotional Disorders

attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) autism spectrum disorder (ASD) anxiety disorder.

What are red flags in child development? ›

Can't support head (by 3 months) Doesn't babble or try to imitate sounds (by 4 months) Doesn't bring objects to mouth (by 4 months) Doesn't push down with legs when feet are on firm surface (by 4 months)

How do you discipline a child who doesn't care about consequences? ›

Punishment for Kids Who Don't Respond to Punishment

Embrace natural consequences: When the punishment is specific to the offense and logical, kids have a better chance of modifying their behavior. Praise the right actions: Don't just punish the wrong behaviors. Make a habit of praising good decisions.

What causes poor impulse control in kids? ›

Lack of impulse control is quite common in young children; however, there are many instances in which impulsivity is more than an issue of immaturity or inadequate sleep. Several mental illnesses and mood disorders can cause a lack of impulse control, such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even various phobias.

What does ADHD impulsivity look like? ›

Behavior signaling the possible presence of ADHD, hyperactive-impulsive type: The child is often talking and interrupting, cannot sit still at mealtimes, is often fidgeting when watching television, makes noise that is disruptive, and grabs toys or other objects from others.

What causes impulsivity in kids? ›

In addition to ADHD, there are also mental health issues, like phobias and mood disorders, that can lead to impulsive behaviors in kids. Lack of sleep can also cause impulsive behavior, as can stress and frustration. When kids are struggling with something in school or in everyday life, they may act out.

At what age is self-control developed? ›

Children don't actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses.

How do I fix lack of discipline? ›

6 Small Things You Can Do When You Lack Discipline
  1. Forgive yourself. You aren't perfect. ...
  2. Realize that discipline is an illusion. While discipline is a common concept, it doesn't actually exist. ...
  3. Focus on motivation. What's your motivation for pursuing the goal or habit? ...
  4. Make it easy. ...
  5. Focus on enjoyment. ...
  6. Repeat.

What is self discipline examples? ›

Self discipline is the ability you have to control and motivate yourself, stay on track and do what is right. An example of self discipline is when you make sure you get up an hour early before work each day to get to the gym.

What are the qualities of self discipline? ›

Here are 10 habits of highly disciplined people that you can start emulating today:
  • They Commit. ...
  • They Avoid Temptation. ...
  • They Take Care of Themselves. ...
  • They work at developing habits. ...
  • They set boundaries. ...
  • They revel in routine. ...
  • They lead with their mind over their mood. ...
  • They clearly define their goals.
15 May 2018

Videos

1. 3 Tips to Beat Temptation | Self Control | BUDGE Podcast
(BUDGE Podcast)
2. How To Teach Self-Control To A 5-Year-Old
(Nicholeen Peck - Teaching Self Government)
3. How to teach your kids Self Discipline ? (In Tamil)
(happymom happykiddie)
4. 5 Tips to Practice Self-Discipline as a Teacher
(Areej Tayyem)
5. The Neuropsychology of Self Discipline Audiobook By Steve DeVore VaJaro
(Humbled Aura)
6. Controlling Your Anger as a Parent - How to Stop Yelling and Get Along Better With Your Kids!
(Twenty Tiny Toes)

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