Advertising
Advertising

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?

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Sally White

writer, artist & blogger

There are 5 stages of love, but sadly most couples stop at stage 3 There Are 5 Stages Of Love, But Sadly Many Couples Stop At Stage 3 40+ Quotes To Read When Everything Appears To Be Going Wrong In Your Life This Innocent Little Comment on a Child’s Drawing Can Kill Their Creativity Why the Less Your Children Have, the More Successful They Will Be in the Future Is Attachment Parenting a Good or Bad Thing for My Children?

Trending in Psychology

1 Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering 2 How to Increase Your Self Awareness to Be Much More Successful 3 How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind 4 How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected 5 8 Powerful Reasons to Love Your Enemies

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

Advertising

Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

Advertising

No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

Advertising

This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

Advertising

You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

Read Next