Self-control is one of the major factors to living a productive life. Self-control keeps us from over-eating, over-spending, over-watching, over-anything really. It helps us stay cool under pressure and keeps us from saying things we might regret. Self-control can help keep us focused when we have something we need to finish. Self-control can help us escape the negative consequences of our impulsive decisions.
But learning self-control doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind while you’re helping your kids develop self-control in their own life.
Chances are you’ve learned some self-control throughout your life, and in some cases this becomes second nature. You’ve learned not to say everything that comes to mind. You’ve learned you don’t need a third donut (everyone needs two). You resist another pair of shoes to add to your wardrobe. But because these decisions are second nature to you, your kids don’t see the process of making the wise choice of having self-control in those moments. When your kids are around, talk to them about your self-control decision-making processes—what was going through your mind and how you came to the conclusion you did. This will help your kids understand how they can make wise choices about self-control in the future.
Kids will never learn self-control if they’re not given opportunities to practice it. Let them wait. Give them responsibilities. Give them choices. Ask questions and guide them through a decision-making process in a way that allows them to take ownership of their choices. This will give them the confidence to make choices on their own as they mature in this area.
As kids are learning self-control, they will not always get it right. You’ll discover they spent all night on the Xbox or talking to their friends on Face Time instead of doing a project. When that happens, offer them grace and forgive them. That doesn’t mean you swoop in and finish their homework or project for them. In fact, letting them suffer the natural consequences when the stakes aren’t so high is one of the best things you can do. Help them learn self-control before consequences show up on permanent records. Constantly remind them they are still learning, and while they are learning, they are still deeply loved.