Whether your children struggle with self-control issues relating to anger, cravings, talking or physical habits, look for ways to teach them how to discipline themselves at home, school and in public places. Children will find success once they have the tools to evaluate each situation and adapt their actions to deal with the resulting impulses.
Know the Consequences
Children may control their actions once they learn to consider the punishment they’ll receive for misbehaving, notes the Kids Health from Nemours website. If your child knows that he’ll lose video game privileges if he continues to interrupt a family member on the phone or your teen knows he’ll forfeit his cell phone for a day if he curses angrily at a sibling, the kids may think twice before acting. Enforce punishments consistently so your children know that there will be consequences if they misbehave.
If your child has trouble reacting to heated situations calmly, the Great Schools website recommends teaching her how to cool down before responding in an unacceptable way. Give your child a spot in the house where she can retreat if she’s having an argument with a family member. Provide self-control techniques, such as taking deep breaths, focusing on an object in the distance or counting backwards from 100, to help her calm down if she’s in a public place where she can’t remove herself from the situation.
Teach your child how to use a “feelings gauge” to control behavior, as suggested by the University of Rochester Medical Center. The self-discipline tip requires the child to gauge his feelings and recognize when he’s about to reach the “hot zone” and have a tantrum or resort to a nervous habit, such as biting his fingernails. Once the child recognizes the escalating feelings, he can use cool down methods to reduce his anger, frustration or apprehension.
The Clearing House on Early Education and Parenting of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests teaching your child how to communicate what she’s feeling so she won’t have to resort to yelling, crying, biting or hitting to get your attention. If your child pushes her siblings for taking her toys, for instance, show her how saying, “Stop; that’s mine,” may help her keep her toy, while shoving merely gets her into trouble. Teach older children that it’s more satisfying to discuss and resolve the situation instead of slamming a bedroom door and remaining angry.
For children who have trouble using self-control when it comes to snacking, the University of Michigan Health System suggests removing the child’s favorite snack foods from the house while he’s learning to monitor his habits. The site recommends scheduling meal and snack times and teaching the child to keep his mind off of food with diversions, such as playing outside or reading a book, until the craving passes or until it’s time to eat.
- University of Michigan Health System: Children with Low Self-Control Likely to Become Overweight Preteens
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Teaching Self-Control Skills to Children
- Clearing House on Early Education and Parenting: Dealing with Biting Behaviors in Young Children
- GreatSchools: Teaching Elementary Schoolers Self-Control
- Kids Health from Nemours: Teaching Your Child Self-Control