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How to Develop Kids’ Self Control Without Scolding Them

How to Develop Kids’ Self Control Without Scolding Them

If you were sitting in a room with a 5 layer chocolate cake and told not to touch it, could you resist the temptation? Would you sniff it? Maybe even skim some of the icing off with your finger? According to Laura Markham Ph.D. of Psychology Today[1], “Only 30% of 4 year olds can manage their emotions, anxiety and impulses to resist temptation.” Why should that matter? How you deal with self-control when you are four will determine whether or not the adult you can resist the urge to taste that chocolate cake.

Self-control is also known as self-restraint, or “the ability to regulate one’s thoughts and behavior in the face of temptation and impulses,” according Wikipedia[2]. Self-control mastered in childhood prevents problems arising in adulthood.

Why it’s difficult to learn self-control

In today’s instant-gratification society, anything you need is at the touch of a finger. You switch on the television with a remote. You don’t have to wait for your favorite program, you stream it. You buy passes to by-pass the long lines at amusement parks. Microwaves heat your food up instantly, and when your out and hungry, you grab some fast food. Fast, convenient and no waiting, but at what cost?

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Kids enter a world where waiting is minimal and tempers in these volatile times run high. People scream at each other on television, from their cars- and even in public. They rage at their governments by destroying other people’s property. Kids grasp concepts by example and society provides a poor one. However, scolding your child for their lack of self-control will do no one any favors, as this necessary soft skill needs to be learned.

Why learning self-control is essential for kids

Kids need to start learning self-control when they are young. The prefrontal cortex of the brain, the part used to regulate self-control[3], develops slowly in children and they, in turn, have the ability to take in this soft skill in stages in accordance to their growth.

A toddler, though unable to understand complex issues to them like waiting for cookies to finish baking in an oven, can be distracted, setting a foundation for building self-distraction as a coping mechanism for self-control. However, a five year old can sit in a time out to calm down and know why they are in that time out, and a teen can be taught to think twice about a reaction if the consequences mean losing that Friday night at a friend’s house.[4]

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How to help your kids learn self-control

1. Be a Good Role Model

You are the best model for your child to learn self-control. They will take their cues from how you act and react to situations. Do you lose your temper in the car and shout at other drivers? Keep calm and your child will learn to do the same.

2. Develop Trust Bonds

In order for kids to learn self-control, they need to know you have their back. If they already know they have dinner at home at 6, they will feel less compelled to grab that candy at 5:30. They trust you will feed them at 6, and having that sense of trust is essential in developing self-control. Provide a safe, warm, loving environment in which they can learn and thrive.

3. Teach Through Games

Younger kids learn self-control techniques best through play[5]. Games like Red-Light Green-Light or musical chairs teach them that have to control themselves. They have to stop themselves from grabbing that chair while the music is still going, or stop and freeze when they hear that “red-light” command. They are playing yet learning vital impulse control at the same time.

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4. Use Delayed Gratification

Waiting is essential for self-control. Bake with your kids. With a timer to set- they have anticipation. The cake/cookies/brownies will be done by X amount of time. This helps them practice delayed gratification. You can use this too by not buying them something they badly want and tell them they must wait for their birthday or Christmas.

5. Tell Them About Consequences for Actions

Teaching kids they have consequences for their actions is essential in self-control. Instead of scolding them for their bad behavior, tell them you are taking away their electronics/favorite toy/ for X amount of time because of the behavior. Yelling does no one favors and only escalates the situation, but losing television privileges for a week will make them think twice next time.

6. Use Meditation

Recently, some schools have adopted the practice of using meditation to help with lack of behavior issues, instead of suspension and detention and their successes are astounding[6]. Much like a time-out, but focused, meditation helps children to master self control, gain inner calmness, and alleviate anxiety. Regular meditation also teaches the practitioner not to react impulsively to situations.

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You can start your kids mediating- a minute a day to begin with. There are audios available for mindful meditation- guided with a voice to help kids think about their life, or just use soft music or silence. Have them focus on their breath- breathing in and out. And set a timer. Sometimes using an object to direct their focus on helps as well, like a candle or a rock.

Save your larynx, and stop yelling at the kids for their lack of self-control. Instead teach them this essential soft skill, by incorporating lessons of impulse control, delayed gratification, consequences into your daily life. Be a good role model and develop a trust bond and begin meditating. It will make your life easier and less stressful and help build a stronger foundation for your kids and their future- and maybe even help them resist the temptation to eat that chocolate cake!

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: 8 Steps to Help Your Child Develop Self Control
[2] Wikipedia: Self Control
[3] Standford.edu: Self Control and The Developing Brain
[4] KidsHealth.org : Teaching Your Child Self-Control
[5] Parentingscience.org: Teaching Self Control
[6] Newsweek.com: The Movement of Meditation Replacing Detention in Schools

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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