“It doesn’t stop at doing homework, watching TV, or playtime, it’s a life skill.” Shailesh, a pranic healer and trainer with 12 years of teaching experience across the globe, asserts that self-discipline is something that human beings keep learning at every step of life and these lessons determine how healthy or unhealthy our lives will become. Self-discipline affects all the major energy chakras in our body positively, which leads to a healthy and prosperous life. “Don’t you want your children to remain healthy?” he asks. Is your answer yes? Then read on.
8 points to master the art of teaching your kids self-discipline
a) Make their routine
Shailesh says that parents are the authority for kids, but every child is a separate soul. Parents do not have the right to mentally overpower or dictate another soul, even if they have given birth to it. It’s the same reason why he says that we are responsible for planning a good routine for our children. However, at the same time, without dictating, we should follow the routine with them.
• Make a routine that you think will work for them. A routine comprises of time to wake up, study, play, and so on.
• Follow it with them for a few days. Basically, we demonstrate discipline to them.
• Authority works best after establishing a routine.
b) Explain yourself
"Make sure that there is no negativity in them regarding the schedule. These are the first steps." Shailesh says that the first steps towards self-discipline are making a routine and explaining it to children. He believes that children need to be explained why a certain format is workable and good for them. Also, the discussion provides room for inputs from them. This reduces the negative feeling that they have regarding discipline. Starting young ensures that they grow up with an internalised idea of discipline or simply, self-discipline.
• Explain to them why you make them choose a certain seemingly stricter route than the visibly easier choice.
• If they get into the habit of understanding consequences and reasons, they will be able to choose better for themselves.
c) Get them to accept feedback
"Which means that you will have to call a spade a spade even if it hurts your little one,"says Akriti. She regularly gives feedback to children learning languages in her training institute and knows that it’s not easy for them to receive negative comments.
•If they get into the habit of accepting feedback (the truth) at home, they find it easier to do the same outside. This helps them make better choices since they know that wrong choices/acts will lead to negative feedback. "Point to be noted is that negative feedback does not mean negative or harsh words!" Akriti adds.
• Telling them that everything that they do is right will restrict the development of self evaluation and therefore, self-discipline.
• Tell your child that he/she has not done his/her worksheet properly and that it needs to be erased and redone. Start at homework and follow the format for the rest of the things.
d) Solve problems with them, not for them
"So what if your child has the toughest project to work on or the most difficult poem to learn?" Shailesh says that assistance for basic chores is the first negative step towards self-discipline. Self-discipline means doing by self!
• Teach him/her how to do it rather than doing it for him/her.
• Make children understand that the best solution to problems lies with them and that you are always there for suggestions and feedback.
e) Good behaviour does not imply self-discipline
"A well-behaved child might not necessarily be self-disciplined," says Shailesh, adding that while good behaviour could be a manifestation of fear of reprimand or, an often repeated practice, self-discipline implies good behaviour and control when alone.
• Internal discipline has very little to do with behaviour (at least at the outset).
• Being impatient with parents when it comes to completing tasks, wanting to extend playtime, or demands for eating junk food are all forms of negative self-discipline. Even well-behaved (at least in public) children do these things, no?
• Appreciate good behaviour, but if even well behaved children have unnecessary demands and requests for extending/altering routine, remind them that it doesn’t fall under good behaviour.
"Use ONLY positive words with children and trust that they will learn," says Shailesh.
f) Things don’t replace your time
"If you are pressed for time, do not compensate that by getting more things for your child," says Shailesh. Kids take such things for granted and it also displays indiscipline on your part. He/she should understand that mom and dad work hard for a living which is why they have very little time to spare.
Make the little time spent with your children high on quality. Read books, go for walks, and play with your child. Do not indulge him/her in material benefits because that's where the seeds of indiscipline are sown.
Ensure that routine is followed even when you are not around. This means talking to your children and not scolding them if they overrule a certain rule. If they don’t fear your reactions, they will tell you the truth.
"Truth is the foundation for self-discipline!"
g) Reward without money
"This is in direct correlation with the point on replacing time with money, but this has a twist," says Shailesh. What’s the twist?
• Give children specific tasks to do in order to develop self-discipline. Common examples are getting up on their own for school, brushing teeth without reminders/not cheating for brushing, or bathing.
• If they tasks are completed without reminders, offer a reward that is non-monetary. One reward is cooking their favourite food at home. Another is allowing them 15 minutes extra playtime, every two days. Another one can be permission for a play date at home or permission to go over to a friend’s place.
"I told my son that he can wear his favourite party t-shirt at home as a reward for dressing up quickly for school,” says Akriti. Whatever be the reward, it needs to be non-monetary and should make the child feel good about maintaining discipline. Slowly, discipline converts to self-discipline automatically.
h) Self-control comes with a positive attitude
"There is bacterial life even in a dirty drain." In a very philosophical way Shailesh explains that there are positives even in the worst scenarios.
• Parents should make the child look for positives even in their mistakes and follies. This happens when parents view mistakes as just mistakes and not as deeply ingrained negative values in their children." Parents have a habit of blaming and guilt trips, which blow mistakes out of proportion!"
• Objectively view the situation; highlight the learning to children.
"I was late to work whole of last week because I would go to bed later than usual,"says Pankaj, a marketing executive and father of two girls. When Pankaj highlighted his mistake and the consequences to his daughters, he made it a point to mention that he takes this as a positive rather than a negative learning. Positive is that going to bed on time makes work better and negative is blaming excessive work for the delay. When kids understand that even mistakes carry certain positives, they don’t hesitate in disciplining themselves.
All the above-mentioned points on inculcating self-discipline in your child are possible only when you are involved and have a clear idea on the rules that you want your child to follow.
Here’s a self-discipline chart to give you a few ideas and get you started:
1) Switching on the TV the minute mom leaves the room is lack of self-discipline. Holding on to the parent’s word is self-discipline.Your role:
• Go easy on punishment and get affirmative. Come back to the room, switch off the TV and don't say a word.
• Carry on with your usual chores, but don’t leave the room. Your child will wonder why you're not reacting to his/her behaviour.
• When he/she looks at you confusingly, explain your actions and convey that trust is most important between parents and children. You trust that he/she will always obey you, even behind your back.
Even if this doesn’t work the first time, the idea of trust, behind the parents back, will definitely remain. Admonishing or shouting at your child will not help!
2) Eating healthy food for meals and eating junk food just as a small snack is self-discipline. Asking for junk food all the time is lack of self-discipline.Your role:
(Caution: this does not imply taking extreme measures. Take this step in moderation!)
• Eat junk food with your child over an entire Sunday or any holiday.
• After every meal, ask your child if he/she feels well, healthy, or energetic. Tell him/her that you don’t. Your acceptance will convey honesty.
• Briefly talk to your child about the health benefits of nutritious food.
• Let your child eat the regular healthy food over the next week. You will notice that the demands for junk food have reduced and he/she has acquired a little self-discipline about food.
Just dictating healthy food habits doesn’t work, does it?
3) Sleeping on your own, without fuss at bedtime is self-discipline. Throwing tantrums before bedtime is lack of self-discipline.Your role:
• Stop asking your child to sleep at bedtime for a few days. He/she will feel sleepy during the day especially at school. Ask him/her if he/she feels sleepy in the afternoon and most likely the response will be a 'yes.'
• That’s your cue to talk to your child about going to bed on time and this time, he/she will listen.
4) Answering papa‘s phone when it’s ringing in front of you is lack of self-discipline. Taking the phone to papa and telling him that he has a call is self-discipline.Your role:
• Talk to your child about personal belongings and the rules around it.
• Take your child’s favourite toy and play with it. Don’t be mean, but don’t involve your child in the play for some time. When he/she says that he/she wants to join, you can ignore the request just once. The second time, tell your child that using mamma‘s and papa’s phones is exactly like playing with his/her toys without asking/involving him/her.
These are indirect and tricky ways, but are a good means to let your child remember discipline even behind his/her parents back. Just remember not to go overboard or be hurtful when employing these techniques because your child’s self-respect and happiness are paramount. Right?