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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 May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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