How to Teach Kids Life Skills – Self-Discipline

In this post I will be going over how to teach kids about self-discipline.  While this post will focus on helping kids learn about self-discipline, many adults may find it useful as well.  Self-discipline is something most people struggle with regardless of age.  How many people struggle with obesity?  Overeating?  Smoking? Procrastination?  All of these can be overcome with self-discipline.

Being successful requires self-discipline

So why is it so difficult to have self-discipline?  Well, most of the things that require self-discipline are for our benefit but are also really hard or unpleasant or takes too much time.  Humans are not patient.  We generally take the path of least resistance that provides us with the most near-term pleasure with the least near-term pain.  We need to learn that long-term pleasure will last much longer even if it requires a little unpleasant action.  Once we start to do these things it gets easier.  Self-discipline is like a muscle; when we work on it consistently it gets stronger.

As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, the 4 steps to teaching kids life skills are: define the word, discuss what the definition means, use examples, and discuss why it is important.  If you need more detail on the process, please go back and read Part 1.

Let’s apply the process to self-discipline.

  • Define the word/topic in words they understand
    • Self-discipline means “Doing something to improve ourselves even if we don’t want to.”
    • During this step, simply have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.
Many good things come from having self-discipline
  • Discuss what the definition means in more detail
    • Choose wisely: making wise decisions is the key to self-discipline.  It’s snack time, cookies or an apple?  Watch TV or read a book?  Sit on the couch or go for a walk?  Help kids make the right choices when they don’t know what they are.  Be a good example by making good choices yourself.               
    • Think before you act: most of the time we know what the correct choices are.  Even so, we often talk ourselves out of it.  All we think about is the delicious taste of the chocolate chip cookies.  We don’t think about the sugar crash, spoiling our dinner, or the potential for weight gain.  Before acting on something, be sure to think through all of consequences and benefits.  This will help in making good, healthy decisions.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
  • Use examples in everyday life
    • Example of self-discipline in karate: giving your best effort when doing pushups.  They are challenging, they make us sore, and we hate doing them.  However, overcoming these things and trying our best to do good pushups will ultimately make us stronger and better at karate.
    • Example of self-discipline at school: your teacher asks the class to read quietly on their own for the next 15 minutes.  You do not enjoy the story the class is reading.  However, you really enjoy drawing.  Reading the story, the teacher asked you to read instead of drawing on a piece of paper under the book takes self-discipline.
    • Example of self-discipline at home: after dinner your dad tells you to go to your room and finish your homework.  In your room you have lots of toys and other things that are much more fun than homework.  Doing your homework rather than playing with your toys is an example of self-discipline.
    • During this step, have the kids repeat the definition after you 3-5 times then have a short discussion on the topics above.  Feel free to replace the examples with ones of your own.  Substitute a different activity for karate if they don’t practice karate.  Be sure to ask them for an example first before providing yours.  Do this 2-3 time during the week.
Being healthy is one of the many benefits of having self-discipline
  • Discuss why it is important
    • Why is it important to have self-discipline?  Having self-discipline makes us smarter and healthier.  Without self-discipline, you won’t be successful in life and will likely be unhappy and unhealthy.
    • During this step, briefly go over all steps 1-3 before going into this step.  Be sure to ask the kids why they think it is important before providing them with the answer.  Do this 2-3 times during the week.

Remember, it only takes less than 5 minutes, 2-3 times a week to go through these steps.  Feel free to comment or contact me with questions.

Stay tuned for my next post which will be on how to teach kids respect.

Published by masterelmore

I have been involved in martial arts for over 30 years. I own and operate a studio in Seattle. I am also a father to an awesome kid. My websites provide information, tips, and videos on parenting and martial arts.

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