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Self-discipline and kids? Don’t you think that these are two separate worlds? Sometimes, well, just sometimes, they might meet! But most of the times, self-discipline is very, very difficult to be seen in children.
It can be really embarrassing when children throw tantrums, either at home or outside. Screaming for that second round of pizza or ice cream, throwing things on the floor if the new compass box does not reach your child, or even gobbling up his favorite dessert in front of guests- all of us have witnessed these scenes, at one time or the other.
But it is important to know that self-restraint or self-discipline is one of the most important skills that you could be teaching your child, a skill that will stay with him and lead him to success all through life.
Just as charity begins at home, teaching constraint starts when your child learns how to exercise it. And when you demonstrate self-discipline in day to day situations, your child will pick it up by observing you. By teaching them self-control, kids can take the right decisions, be they big or small, even in the most stressful of situations.
Lets’ say you are serving your family a special desert, some guests arrive and suddenly you realize that the delicacy is in short supply. If your child has learnt to be disciplined, he will not demand a second helping. Otherwise, his screams are sure to bring the house down!
With kids who are tiny, up to the age of 2, who usually respond to scolding with temper tantrums, a timeout usually helps. Teach your child to take off some time alone, teach him that it will help him better, rather than by throwing a temper tantrum. If your child is prone to throwing tantrums, keeping him in seclusion in a pre-designated area, like a kitchen seat or the lounge for a brief time will help.
For ages 3 to 5, timeouts can still be used as disciplining tools, but instead of you fixing the time range, let your child end the timeout himself, and this he will usually do, once he has calmed down. Your child’s sense of self-control will be enhanced and if you praise him for demonstrating discipline even in difficult situations, his feeling of self-esteem will only grow.
For children between ages 6 and 9, who are better able to appreciate good or bad behavior, encourage them to think carefully before responding to each situation. If they can walk away from a stressful situation instead of giving in to an outburst, they will be able to effectively handle their stress.
For ages 10 to 12, teach children to analyze the situation, as this age group usually understands feelings well. Again train them to take their time before responding.
For teenagers, encourage them to visualize the bigger picture, give vent to their feelings in a constructive way and to talk it out rather than keeping stress pent up inside. Sometimes, it could be necessary to even get your teen to forego certain privileges to help him understand that self-control is an important quality, a skill necessary to be learnt, early in life.