Can We Teach Kids to have Self Control?


The preschooler who whines, the seven-year-old who talks incessantly, the ten-year-old who verbally jabs his brother, and the fourteen-year-old who can't get out of bed in the morning all have one thing in common. They lack self-control. Self-control is the ability to limit behavior rather than give in to present desires. It means that you consider a future benefit more important than your present impulse.

One of the primary character qualities preschool children need to learn is self-control. Bed times, cleaning up messes, following instructions, and learning to not interrupt are just a few ways they begin to learn it. But self-control is an important character quality for anyone, adult or child. Most of us wish we could have more of it in our own lives.

We All Would Benefit from More Self Control
Whether you're trying to have a daily quiet time, exercise regularly, or cut down on sugar, self-control becomes a determining factor in your success. Self-control helps a person say no to temptation and choose the right course of action in difficult situations. It helps people take a stand for righteousness instead of getting sucked into doing something they shouldn't do. 


Proverbs 25:28 describes it well: "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control." Self-control enables people to organize themselves and others, think before they act, save money and time, and make right choices even when unwise opportunities look attractive.


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One dad explained self-control to his son this way, "It's irritating when you interrupt me while I'm talking. It's as if you poke me with your finger over and over again. I love you and I try to overlook it but I'm starting to get bruised. As you develop self-control you'll be able to give up the desire to just talk whenever you want so that instead you can love me and care for our relationship. That's what self-control means: choosing to stop yourself and be more sensitive to others."

Self Control in Practical Terms
Self control puts off present benefits for future rewards. When kids learn to wait, for example, instead of pushing for what they want immediately, then they start to grow in this important area of the heart. You might require your preschooler to wait five minutes before getting that snack, or you might teach your seven-year-old to not talk for a few minutes. Developing specific strategies with kids to learn to look forward to future benefits can provide them helpful patterns of thinking now when the temptation to demand gets intense.

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Work on self-control with your children now and you'll give them a valuable character quality they'll be able to use for the rest of their lives.

This parenting tip comes from the book, Good and Angry: Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. Click on the link to order it now from our web store in paperback or get the eBook from Amazon or other online retail outlets.


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Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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2 comments:

  1. This is in an interesting post. I am drawn to the concept of teaching this discipline to my children. I have a 3 and a 7 yr old and have in recent months begun to discuss and encourage my 7yo in this. Yet, with the 3yo I could use some guidance. In your post you mention two examples; make your child wait 5 minutes before a snack' or 'require silence for a few minutes'.... But to me these to me actually seem more like 'obedience' exercises, versus activities that specifically teach the concept of taking control of one's own desires. Especially with a young child in mind, can you suggest any additional activities or perhaps even verbiage/scripts that might be helpful to guide their hearts in this way in the younger ages?

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  2. Hi Julie, Thanks for your comment. It seems that often with young children we use parental control to develop self-control. We define a character quality as a pattern of thinking and acting in response to a challenge. For children to develop self-control they need to practice a pattern of delaying personal enjoyment for future benefit. Restricting oneself comes with practice along with determination. With preschoolers we need practice sessions that may look like obedience, but they are building the internal strength to be self-controlled. Take bedtime for example. Enforcing a bedtime is initially obedience, but as children learn to stay in bed at night they develop the self-control necessary to do it on their own as they get older. Since preschoolers learn many things through play, we suggest playing self-control games. Follow the leader is a self-control game, as well as Simon Says and other “Stop and Go” type games. Here’s another fun one: Have your child walk next to you without holding your hand. Your child’s job is to pay attention to you and do what you do. In this game you can walk fast, walk slow, make sudden turns, jump, stop, any kind of random movement and your child’s job is to follow. This is a fun game, it can get pretty silly, but it develops skills of responsiveness to others and self control. Character is built overtime as we practice new patterns. Joanne

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