One of the most important developmental accomplishments in childhood is the emergence of self-discipline. Studies have found that a child who has self-discipline is often much more prepared for whatever challenges life throws their way, and that self-control is best learned in early childhood. Every parent wants their child to be the best they can be, and the question often asked is “what parenting style is best in order for children to thrive, have good self- esteem and show appropriate self-control?” Many experts have found that an authoritative parenting style is best at helping your child achieve self-discipline. An authoritative parenting style is one with expectations, rules and structure. However, it can’t be confused with a dictatorial style. Authoritative parents communicate well with their children, offer support, flexibility and allow for mistakes.
Here are some other suggestions for teaching self-control to children:
- Encourage activities that practice self-discipline: Start by having your children participate in chores. Chores can start as young as 3 years old and teach children to be responsible and disciplined. Other activities such as sports, a job, caring for a pet, music lessons and following family routines- such as morning and bedtime schedules all encourage self- control.
- Give your child an allowance: Teach your children to earn what they want. Encourage children to save their money and make it last. Allowance can help curb impulsive behaviour and provides children with the opportunity to learn how to plan ahead and be goal oriented.
- Think about the future: Talking about the future and encouraging children to have goals helps teach self-control. By achieving goals set out for themselves, children learn to prioritize and work hard. Future thinking children don’t expect things to happen right away. They know that they need to work hard, practice and be positive; this takes self-discipline.
- Develop social skills: From a young age children must be taught not to interrupt, to listen when being talked to and how to control their emotions by reacting to feelings appropriately (i.e. it’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to hit). Other skills that are key to developing self-discipline are the ability to share and wait your turn (playing board games are a great way to teach this).
- Set limits: In this day and age of electronics, it is important to set limits to how much time your child can be on a computer, play electronic games, talk on the phone and text.
Teaching self-discipline in children takes time, effort and a plan. As parents it is your job to think about the type of people you want your children to become. What qualities do you want them to possess? Once you’ve answered these questions, ask yourself “how should I parent my children so that they achieve these qualities?” Self-discipline is one of the most important qualities that a child can develop. Children who have self-discipline have a much greater chance of school, relationship and social success. As a result, they will lead happier more accomplished lives.