Five keys to nurturing self-control
5 keys to building your kids’ self-control that you can begin right away.
Foster good habits.Every time your kids engage in a good habit (like brushing their teeth, putting toys away or completing their homework, especially when they don’t really feel like doing it), they build their self-control muscle just a little bit more.
Encourage responsibility.In an age-appropriate way, allow your kids to be responsible for their own behavior. In other words, if your child loses a toy that you have repeatedly asked him/her to put away, don’t rush out and buy a new one. Assign reasonable household chores and make it their responsibility to remember to do them (although an occasional reminder is OK).
Enforce limits.Part of how kids learn self-control is to experience what happens when they do not exercise their self-control. If your child responds in a disrespectful manner toward parents or siblings, then an appropriate loss of privilege will help your child or teen learn that exercising self-control and making a respectful choice is always the best way to go.
Hit the pause button.Remember, self-control can be seen in the ability to stop and think before making a choice.
Stop talking and pause all action for a moment.
• Think:Once your child has paused, she gives herself the chance to do something important: think. Thinking flexibly means looking at a situation from a different perspective. What follows are four questions your child can say to herself that will help her think flexibly about any situation, build self-control and increase the chances of making a good choice. Customize this list with your child, write it on a piece of paper, and memorize it together so these thoughts become automatic:
What is a good way to handle this?
What would God want me to do?
Is it really a big deal?
Should I check with a parent?
Encourage delayed gratification.This is the ability to expend effort on a task with no immediate reward. Eating a candy bar, for example, is immediately gratifying. Eating vegetables is often less immediately gratifying (at least from a child’s viewpoint), but the payoff is the long-term reward of good health. Be on the lookout for ways your kids can engage in tasks that require delayed gratification, such as saving money, practicing a musical instrument, exercising, studying for tests or (for younger kids) completing puzzles.
One final note: When you see your kids working hard on tasks that require delayed gratification, make sure to let them know that you are proud of their effort. A little encouragement goes a long way.