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Imagine your child, creating goals, and then setting out to accomplish them.

If that feels like a crazy thought, consider this: Whether they want to create a lemonade stand or someday change the world, they’re going to have to learn self-discipline to get there. The sooner they begin, the better, especially given how malleable a child is when it comes to learning. Put simply, they absorb new skills much faster than adults do, and have an easier time putting that knowledge into action.

Why is self-discipline so necessary?

Self-discipline teaches your child various things, including:

  • How to make good choices
  • How to wait for something better (delay instant gratification)
  • How to cope with their emotions in healthy ways
  • How to control their behavior without help from you

With so many benefits, it might seem daunting to teach your child self-discipline. Thankfully it’s easier than you think. Let’s look at some things you can start doing right now with your child, regardless of their age.

Talk about Feelings
If a child doesn’t understand their emotions, you can bet they don’t know how to control them. You can start when they’re small, teaching them to verbalize what they’re feeling, but even older children sometimes need help in figuring out what’s going on inside. By making emotions something you talk about easily, they’ll be more confident in understanding exactly what they feel.

Repeat Instructions
By having your child repeat back a set of instructions you just gave them, you verify they were listening, and force them to slow down, teaching impulse control.

Work on Problem Solving Skills
Let your child work out their own problems from a very young age on. When needed, help them brainstorm solutions, especially to more complex issues. By encouraging your child in this way, they quickly learn there is usually more than one answer to a problem. It also promotes thought and consideration before action.

Work on Anger Management
A frustrated child is one step away from a tantrum. Giving them the tools they need to be able to express frustration in safe and healthy ways teaches control over emotions. How to do this? Try showing them some breathing techniques, or safe ways to burn off energy when mad.

Make Rules
Having a set of household rules establishes boundaries and shows the child what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Learning to keep those rules requires self-control.

Play Games
Activities that involve self-discipline like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light teach a child to listen and to control their impulses if they want to win, making self-discipline fun and interesting.

There are many ways to teach children self-discipline. The important key here to be patient, with both yourself and your child as they learn. Remember, you’re guiding them toward their future. Their success tomorrow really does rely on learning these skills today.