How to Teach Children Self-Control: 5 Self-Discipline Strategies for Kids

Kindergarten can be an exciting time for both parents and children. The transition to full-day school brings new skills, new friends, and new opportunities and experiences, but while some kids make the transition with ease, others really struggle with the adjustment.

And who can blame them?!

While daycare and preschool offer a quiet, calming, play-based environment with small teacher/child ratios, kindergarten classrooms are loud and chaotic. The school day is filled with multiple transitions, and while the curriculum is still fun, the educational component can be challenging for little minds and hands.

Teaching children self-control is one of the most important things a parent can do for their kids. Some studies suggest that a child’s level of self-discipline at a young age can predict how successful – and happy – he will be later in life, and while some might argue against such findings, the facts remain the same: if you take the time to teach your child strategies for self-control now, you will be setting him up for long-term success at school, work, in his personal life, and beyond.

Here are 5 strategies and activities to teach children self-control.


Be clear about rules and expectations

This is especially important in young children. By explaining what the rules are, what’s expected, and what is and isn’t appropriate, and taking the time to give your child regular reminders, you are setting him up for success. The easier the rules are, and the more consistently you reinforce them, the easier it is for your kids to meet your expectations.


Remind! Remind! Remind!

The younger a child is, the more easily he can (and will) be distracted, so taking the time to give him reminders at regular intervals will go a long way in helping him learn the art of self-control.

Use positive reinforcement

Reinforcement is a fabulous technique parents and caregivers can use to increase the likelihood that a child will repeat a desirable behavior, and while both positive and negative forms of reinforcement can help with teaching children self-control, research tends to suggest that positive reinforcement is the most effective.


Always follow through!

As parents, we often hear about the importance of being consistent and following through with consequences. If you fail to follow through, your child won’t take you seriously, learn accountability, or figure out the difference between right and wrong. And while this makes perfect sense, what many parents forget is that the same holds true for rewards. If we neglect to make good on our promises, we take away the motivation our children need to make positive changes to their behavior, which can significantly impact our ability to teach our children self-control and self-discipline.


Follow a predictable routine

We all know that kids thrive on consistency, and getting your children used to a predictable routine will not only help with the transition to full-day school, but also help set expectations as to what is expected throughout the day. By setting clear boundaries around different activities – learning, independent play, outdoor time, quiet time, eating, etc. – you can help teach the different types of self-regulation needed in the classroom and beyond.

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