How To Help Your Children Build Self-Control

Nothing is more important than intelligence when it comes to doing well in school, right? Many might believe so, but studies suggest that self-control is the single most important predictor of academic success. So how best to build your child's self-discipline to ensure success in the classroom?

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Start Young

Begin showing children consequences of their actions when they are very young (about two years old or so). Putting them in a timeout for misbehaving, for example, is an effective way to demonstrate consequences.

When they are in preschool, have your child perform a simple task like putting their shoes away or hanging up their coat. Tie this in to rewards to show a child that they will get what they want only when they have done what is expected of them.

Other ways to begin building self-control in young children is to have them follow directions, come when they are called, establish bedtimes and follow morning routines.

Play Time

Encourage your children to participate in activities that will help them build self-control. Playing a sport or learning a musical instrument, for example, are certainly helpful.

Video games can also help to build self-confidence and control as children master different levels and challenges, though it's best to regulate the amount of time spent playing, not to mention the types of games played.

Play in which children dress up and act out being 'adults' is thought to build self-control. Hours spent at imaginary activities can help develop the type of self-regulation needed to perform tasks later on in life, such as in school and work.

Feelings and Choices

As children get older, it is important to help them learn to identify how they feel and appropriate behaviors to communicate these feelings (for instance, taking deep breaths and counting to ten to think about one's reaction is better than an impulsive outburst).

Teach them that they have choices about how they will react to certain situations when they are feeling sad, angry or confused. Giving them choices helps children to establish self-control.

The National Association of School Psychologists suggests role-playing or picture-drawing as ways to perform these exercises. But whatever method you choose, talk to your child throughout the process. Ask questions and encourage them to do the same.

The time will definitely be well-spent: studies are showing that self-control at a young age can have effects on not only schoolwork but on careers and relationships later on in life. So, an averted temper tantrum now just could have more of a lasting effect than you might have imagined.

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