Kids Need to Develop Self-Control

Kids who have little self-control are up to three times more likely to become adults with poor health, financial difficulties, marital problems or a criminal record.

This is yet another study in which the results are self-evident. Let’s face it, people of all ages who simply act without thinking, who do not stop to consider the consequences of a behavior or who do whatever they feel like no matter what are certainly going to find themselves in jeopardy. They are more likely to make bad choices.

But, this study does remind us that we need to help our children to be kids with high levels of self-control. Now, you all know that this is easier with some kids than with others. Some kids are born risk-takers while their cohorts may be cautious. But whatever personality type, all kids deserve to learn how to control themselves, how to make good decisions and how to increase the likelihood of a successful and happy adulthood.

They need to learn patience. That means that you don’t always respond instantly to every request. Let’s say your two-year old is trying to get your attention while you are chatting with a neighbour. You can reach down to him, touch his arm and say, “just a minute darling’ and continue the conversation. Because he’s young, only make him wait a minute at most. Then turn to him and pay attention. As he gets older you can ask him to wait longer.

When children want a new toy, article of clothing or sports equipment don’t always provide it immediately. You might ask him to wait until next month when it will be his birthday or you work with him to save or earn money to get it himself. And if it’s just not affordable or necessary for him to have, bite the bullet and say no. Doing without something is not life threatening and does teach that kids they can’t have everything they want. That’s just not realistic. Waiting to get something or saving to get it, teaches kids that everything doesn’t come to them immediately.

And help them learn to assess the consequences of decisions. If young Simone decides to sleep in, then she will be late for school. It’s not up to you to save her; it’s up to you to let her learn that sleeping in has consequences. Later sit down with her and help her work through how she could handle mornings more effectively.

The task is to teach kids patience, have them wait to get things they want, allow them to deal with the consequences of bad decisions and help them learn how to think through their choices in order to make good decisions.

A Few Things Happening with Parenting Today

While you are reading this newsletter I am basking in the sun in Maui. I will be checking my email from time to time but mainly will be touring, golfing, visiting with friends and relaxing. Ahhh.

I’m planning on being in Calgary Alberta in the late winter or spring. Stay tuned for more information. The dates for this trip are still flexible so if you want to take advantage of the fact that I will in Alberta, just get in touch.

For those who plan way ahead I will be in Washington state and Oregon in June 2011 and in Ontario and New England in late September and early October of 2011.

Contact me and let me know whether you would like a Beyond Childcare presentation, a speaker for a parent conference or professional development workshop. I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in News, Preschoolers, School-Age, Teens | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Kids Need to Develop Self-Control

  1. lara says:

    Great ideas Kathy. What others ways can we teach our kids (school age) patience – eg. ‘count to 10 before you get angry’? Also do you have any content about how to teach school age kids to turn the other cheek if another child is being manipulative? (eg. “if you play with Sally, I won’t be your friend anymore”…)

    • kathy says:

      You are correct, besides modelling there will be times when our child needs an outlet for his impatience. Counting to ten works for some kids (but if they are really upset it’s too passive) so have them punch a pillow, run around the yard/house/block, do jumping jacks, grab a skipping rope – – you get the idea.

      On the other topic, manipulative kids are often bullies and are not going to respond to being ignored. They are interested in gaining power over your child (and possibly being them most powerful in the group) and typically you need to intervene. If it’s happening as school, it is best to discover if there is an anti-bullying strategy and whether the teacher knows what is going on. If a strategy exists, the school needs to implement it, if it doesn’t or isn’t being used ask for it and involve your parent committee.
      It’s important that the whole group be engaged as the bystanders who simply sit and watch need to support the victim. But that’s not easy so they need to know that they will all act.
      The book by Barbara Colroso, The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander is a great resource.

  2. Pam Burt says:

    Thanks for this on kids with self control issues. I look after two children, one is 7 and the other just turned 9. The 7 year old gets annoyed very quickly and comes at you with arms and hands punching me! I have a bruise still from a week ago. This was after a swimming lesson so I didn’t have a pillow or anything handy! She has also done this another time in which this time not only was there punching but she bit me. Someone suggested a balloon but I don’t always think that would really work? But what do I know! I just grab her by the arms and hands so she will quit, she usually starts kicking then. Need to know how to fix this! Thanks

    • kathy says:

      You first need to determine whether anyone, her parents or you are hitting her. If anyone is using physical punishment on her she has learning that hurting others is just fine when angry or frustrated.
      Try to figure out when she lashes out. Is she over-stimulated, hungry, bored or pressured? If you can discover what prompts the hitting then you can change the situation and end the problem.
      She may be a very active kid who needs a lot more exercise. For example, swimming lessons are important but maybe she then needs time to simply play in the pool and get rid of her energy. Is she playing outside, running, jumping, climbing and rolling every day?
      Holding and letting her know that her behavior is totally unacceptable is a good first move but getting kicked as a result is not a good outcome. I would let her know that hurting others is not permitted and take her home.
      What do her parents say about this? Is it a problem when she is with them? You and her parents need to work together to end this behavior.

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