DISCIPLINE!!! I am sure most of us hated this word when we were young – and probably still hate it unless it is about disciplining our own kids! Why? Because it reminds us of authority imposed from outside. How about self discipline then? On day 4 of #blogchatterA2Z challenge, I would like to talk about Discipline. This is not so much about disciplining our kids as much as it is about teaching them self discipline and self control – the ability to regulate their actions, behavior and impulses.
Simply put, self discipline is nothing more than keeping your commitments to yourself. It is a life skill and children that are able to learn this skill are better equipped to manage their lives, handle various situations life throws their way and make sensible, healthy choices. Managing school work, employment, money and household chores all require self discipline and adults who do not possess this skill often find it difficult to manage their work and money and lead balanced lives.
Self discipline helps one stay focused on their goals, stick with difficult tasks, and push oneself to continuously do better. Teaching a child to resist distractions, control impulses, delay gratification and regulate difficult emotions takes years of careful parenting.
Sharing below tips on cultivating self discipline in your kids:
Develop a structured routine: creating a routine helps kids to regulate behavior and keeps them away from distractions. It builds habit and creates consistency of behavior. We need to keep in mind that the routine should be simple and easily manageable by the child. With slightly older kids, it is better to develop a routine together. It is also equally important that we follow the routine with our child. As I write this, I also acknowledge that this part of parenting is one of the hardest for me. I struggle a lot in putting in a sense of discipline in my ten year old and a primary reason is that as a household we are not able to follow a strict routine. As an individual I have fairly good self discipline but as a family, sometimes it becomes difficult to hold on to routines. However, we are working hard at it – my son and I keep developing our respective schedules and try to work on those.
Lead by example: the best way is to lead by example, if the child sees you following self discipline, she will too. Children notice our actions and our choices very carefully. Are you not able to control your impulse to eat junk or spend money? Do you not follow any schedule at all? For me, the biggest example was my grandfather. He was a retired professor and had a very strict schedule – mealtimes were fixed and so was his work schedule. At the right time, he would just go into his study and work for hours. He was punctual to the T. Whatever self discipline I have, is a gift from just observing him.
Talk about good and bad habits: start talking about good and bad habits/ behaviours early on. They can learn about putting their toys away after playing or pulling back the covers on the bed after getting up, fairly early. These could start as rules for younger children and then as grow up you could explain to them the necessity or importance of following a certain rule. For example as regards screen time, I tell my son to decide a limit for himself (within reason) and then try and stick to it. He does fall back on that at times, so I do need to keep a check but hopefully we are on the right track.
Help them understand consequences: there are of course rewards and punishments when children follow (or not) rules of the household. I believe more in rewards – for example saying “good job” thrice motivates my toddler to “pick and put” his toys away much more than any punishment I could ever prescribe. (and given his already visible rebellious tendencies, I would rather not go there anyway!). But then there are natural consequences too. For example, my older one is quite forgetful. What I definitely do not want to do is to keep reminding him for various things – he will always remain dependent on me or someone else for the rest of his life. Lose something more than once? Either you don’t get a replacement at all or buy fro`m your own pocket money. Forgot your gloves before running out of the house? Feeling cold will probably help him remember the next time or the next. This would slowly make children understand what is or is not good for them and help them discipline their behavior as they grow up.
Train them to delay gratification: compared to our parents, most of us are quick to gratify our children by giving a variety of toys, food and whatever they may ask for. As a result, our children are not able to wait for results. The ability to delay gratification plays an important part in self discipline. Can a child say no to his friends and go out to play only once he has finished his homework? Or can the child resist eating all the treats and share with his little siblings? Or not hanker after a new toy soon after getting one? For that, one needs to create an atmosphere where delaying gratification is praised and rewarded. These days I am trying to teach my son to learn to save up for something he really wants, rather than just buying it for him.
Encourage children to plan: self discipline involves planning – whether it is creating a daily schedule or creating a study plan for upcoming exams or planning your workout routine for upcoming school matches. This challenge that I have taken up – daily writing, is a huge exercise in self discipline and I know that without planning there was no way I could have done this. You can start by simple things for example asking a child to plan ahead for the next day – which means taking out his clothes for the next day, pack his bag, decide what to take for lunch and so on. Slowly you can get a child to plan for future events. For example, I love doing theme birthday parties and I involve my son in all the planning. You could also encourage them to have a plan on how they want to use their pocket money. Or have them plan an assignment or a project. There are many ways in which you could encourage your child to plan.
Help them avoid procrastination: let alone children, many adults are unable to avoid procrastination and I am sure most of us have fallen prey to it more than once. It is important to emphasize the importance of doing things on time. It is better to be doing important work and prioritise that rather than doing urgent but unimportant work. A schedule helps as discussed above and but most important is prioritising tasks. As kids grow older, and juggle multiple tasks, this skill becomes more and more and more important.
To sum this up, self discipline is an important life skill that everyone needs to master to an extent. I hope you have found my tips and tricks useful. Do comment and share.