self-dis·ci·pline | \ ˌself-ˈdi-sə-plən \
“Correction or regulation of oneself for the sake of improvement “ - Merriam-Webster Dictionary
“The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weakness” - Oxford Dictionary
“The ability to make yourself do things when you should, even if you do not want to do them”- Cambridge Dictionary
So what is self-discipline all about? And what does it actually mean to be a disciplined person? Can a young Child know how to be self-disciplined?
Self-discipline is one of the most important and useful skills everyone should possess, starting form young. This skill is essential in every area of life; contrary to common belief, self-discipline does not mean being harsh towards your child, or living a limited, restrictive lifestyle.
On the surface, self-discipline is about finding compelling reasons to do something and committing yourself to see that task or activity through to the very end (it is getting harder these days with many subliminal messages encouraging instant gratification). Self-discipline is more specifically about your ability to control your desires and impulses in an attempt to stay focused (for long enough) on what needs to get done to successfully achieve that goal.
Possessing self-discipline requires having an internal desire, drive, and motivation that propels you forward toward your goal. Now the important question is how to impart and hone this skill right from a young age. We can see many cases of successful scholars, sportsmen, scientists, entrepreneurs etc, they have build resilience and grit from the disciplined way they conduct their lives. They always persist in their pursuit and not give up easily on the first signs of failure or not able to catch up with their peers in class. Here are 3 positive ways to build self-discipline in your child:
It is important to set boundaries and stick to it. Set tasks for your child to complete, help and guide them as a loving parent, it will help build up their self-confidence along the way. Give them a voice to air their feelings. Parents should help the child understand the consequences of their actions, follow through every time with the agreed-upon consequence when they push the rules. Children work better with a structure in their daily lives and know their limits and boundaries, from simple chores like packing their bags, finishing their drawings, to memorizing lines for their drama plays etc. They need to build up the habit of finishing their tasks to the end and this will slowly build up their self-discipline.
Making a child feel loved and giving them attention is a good motivator for their good behavior. Give rewards for their good behavior; rewards do not have to be monetary or gifts in nature, a positive praise, a hug, a smile, a nod can be an effective positive reinforcement (operant conditioning) to encourage appropriate behavior in the child. Sometimes negative reinforcements (eg withdrawing of privileges , ignoring some behaviours etc) can be used to further aid in their understanding of what are undisciplined behaviours.
A young child will benefit from having problem solving skills. It is important as it will allow the child to find effective ways to overcome any difficulties in their task, and will allow them to learn and persist till they finish the task on hand. Picking up new skills like drawing, drama, music or even languages entails some degree of perseverance, trains discipline, builds up self-control, self esteem and self motivation.
Life is full of challenges and problems; in order to rise above them, you have to act with perseverance and persistence. The future is full of knowledge and information; in order to harness them, you have to problem solve with an analytical mind. And all this of course, requires self-discipline.