Motivation and self-discipline go hand in hand. It’s a winning combination that promotes academic achievement. For kids, self discipline is the key to staying in control, focusing on long-term goals and making the choice to engage in school and learning. Without self-discipline, children lose focus on the things that matter, including school. Teaching kids self-discipline is an important step toward their independence and lifetime success.
The Importance of Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is the art of controlling impulses. A child’s self-discipline is the ability to figure out what’s expected of them and then do it, even when other options are more fun. Research has revealed a startling conclusion: “Self-discipline appears to be a better predictor of academic gain than is intelligence (as measured by an IQ test).”
In short, self-discipline matters more on the report card than intelligence. How can this be? It’s because:
- Self-disciplined students perform better than their impulsive peers — by a lot — on all academic indicators, including grades, achievement tests, admission to competitive schools and attendance.
- Self-disciplined students spend more time on homework and watch less television.
- Students who are self-disciplined are better at focusing on long-term goals and making better choices about engaging with their academics.
- Self-disciplined students find motivation to succeed within themselves, rather than through parental prodding, rewards or punishments.
- Children who lack self-discipline are more prone to anxiety, depression and aggression, which negatively impact school performance.
How to Teach Self-Discipline To Your Children
The self-disciplined child does better in school and is better prepared for adult responsibilities and demands. Teaching kids self-discipline does them a favor by putting them on the road toward independence and initiative. In online school, self-discipline is crucial to success, because teachers aren’t physically standing over children all day, prodding them to do their schoolwork.
Try these tips to teach children the self-discipline to get their online work done.
- Structure the Day: A daily routine tells kids what to expect from morning until night. Once it’s established, kids will do what they’re supposed to without being asked. The morning routine establishes times for kids to wake up, comb their hair, brush their teeth, get dressed and eat breakfast. The daily school routine sets up time for lessons, study and breaks. An after-school routine combines fun with responsibilities, such as letting kids play after they’ve done their chores. A consistent bedtime routine, including turning off electronic devices, brushing the teeth, putting on PJs and reading a story, helps kids settle down more easily and fall asleep faster. Parents can help the routine stick by offering timely reminders. There’s no need for nagging, but kids are easily distracted. Gentle reminders of the rules just before the regular time to, say, wash the dishes help to reinforce expectations.
- Explain the Why Behind Rules and Structure: “Because I said so” might seem like a perfectly plausible way to make a child cooperate, but it doesn’t teach them anything. They need to understand why so they eventually start applying logic to their own choices. Explanations shouldn’t be long or boring. A simple, “You should do your homework first so you can have more fun when you play later” will suffice.
- Enforce Consequences: Poor choices create consequences. Adults know that not paying the bills and buying new smartphones instead will lead to unmanageable debt. Kids need to learn the lesson early if they are to practice self-discipline in all aspects of their lives. For parents, this usually means letting them learn hard lessons for themselves. If they consistently forget their jacket, they will never learn to remember it if Mom is always running after them with a jacket. If your child won’t do a chore, impose a consequence. For instance, say, “If you don’t clean your room, you won’t get to play video games.” If your child still won’t clean the room, be prepared to enforce the consequences. With consistency, children learn to make healthy decisions by considering the consequences before it’s too late.
- Help Them Avoid Distractions and Temptations: Kids are kids. They will not pass up a cookie sitting in the open. They will play when work beckons. Parents can instill self-discipline by creating an environment that’s free of temptation. For younger children, that can include keeping favorite toys out of sight when it’s time to brush their teeth. When children are older, it’s important to minimize electronics in the places where they should be participating in online lessons or doing homework. Older kids can also be taught to recognize temptations and remove them on their own.
- Emphasize Problem-Solving: What are the problems your child confronts every day? Work with them to think about their daily obstacles. Problem-solving skills are powerful tools in self-discipline, because they teach children to stay on track toward their goals. If a young child struggles to get dressed in time for school every morning, talk to them about selecting an outfit the night before. As teenagers, children might face more complex challenges that require creative solutions. Put it in their hands to find what motivates them to, for instance, complete their schoolwork. If that doesn’t work, you can try removing a privilege. Make it a partnership that draws out your child’s inner strengths to overcome an obstacle.
- Turn “Must Do” Tasks Into “Get To” Tasks: If your child doesn’t want to do an assignment, look at it from their perspective. Maybe it’s boring. Maybe it’s too hard or it’s not challenging enough. In these cases, build a motivator into the task. Give your budding architect a set of Legos to work out a math problem. Turn a reading assignment into a play to be staged, costumes and all. Children aren’t equipped yet to know that life is full of loathsome chores, but finding a motivation that speaks to their learning styles and interests adds the famous spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.
- Reward Tackling Challenging Tasks: As the researchers into self-discipline learned, persistence trumps intelligence. In fact, people who learn to believe that effort is the key to intelligence are more resilient and less likely to become discouraged. Parents can instill this mindset through careful choices in feedback. General praise or criticism such as “You’re smart” or “I’m disappointed” gives them the wrong idea. Instead, offer praise for effort. And when things aren’t working for your child, steer away from direct suggestions. Instead, try asking, “Can you think of another way to do this?” Help your child learn from failure and employ self-discipline to turn it into success.
- Encourage Children to Practice Planning: Planning promotes self-discipline by teaching children to think about potential obstacles and what to do when they appear. Even encouraging children to “self-talk,” or talk about a possible problem out loud, can improve their performance better than simply having them think about how they would confront a challenge.
CCA Helps Students Learn Self-Discipline
Self-discipline in a child leads to long-term success of the adult. Self-discipline creates the willpower to fulfill responsibilities, put needs before wants and ultimately achieve cherished goals. CCA students graduate with levels of confidence, self-discipline and conscientiousness that put them far ahead of their peers, whether they choose to enroll in college, enter the workforce, seek career training or enlist in the military. Through CCA’s personalized approach to learning, students, parents and teachers work together to craft an education plan customized to the child’s strengths, interests and challenges, restoring the joy of learning and the motivation to succeed. Contact CCA to learn how we can support and encourage your child’s self-discipline, for success in school and in life.