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Self Discipline A Lifelong Gift

The Gift of Self Discipline

As parents, we put our kids through plenty of rigmarole.  Brush your teeth, clear your dishes, pick up your dirty clothes, sit down and do your homework, do your music practice, call me before you leave.  A constant stream of commands flow out of our mouth.  I have never said so many declarative sentences as when I’ve been a parent trying to keep three young ones in line.  And what is the hopeful payoff in the end?  A sense of self discipline, their OWN voice barking orders in their head when mom and dad (or teachers) aren’t around.

I really do grow tired of giving directions so much, but I know it works.  Despite the annoying repetition, I do notice that in many areas my girls need less and less direction over time.  I may still need to initiate the action, but they can go on auto pilot for many tasks now.  Some, I will admit, still don’t sink in very quickly.  For one daughter, I’ve resigned to repeating myself about manners until she graduates from high school.  After that, she’s on her own! Thankfully, my girls do many things without nearly that level of attention from me.

For example, one of my daughters is just starting piano lessons.  She has dabbled a little bit with my help and had a few random lessons from one of my aunts when we are in her town.  But it was high time she got her own teacher here and started weekly lessons.  For now, she is excited because it is new and she has a keyboard in her room.  However I know that even the most enthused and talented musicians eventually can’t stand practicing at times.  They would rather do anything else but that some days.  However, because they have good self discipline, they do it regardless of their other wishes.  I even told my daughter something to that effect. 

I didn’t want to scare her too much into thinking she shouldn’t like practicing, but I did want her to understand reality and that her dad and I expected her to practice even when she didn’t feel like it.  When she was older and able to do many more things as a musician, she would appreciate that practice time she put in.

Another one of my daughters is really taking off with the reward system her dad set up about making beds.  Remember the post about Daddy’s Discipline?  For the last week or so she is the only one who’s really making an effort.  We’ll need to work with the other two a bit to get their motivation back on track, but it’s nice to see that at least one of them has quickly begun developing a good habit. 

I don’t remind her about the daily check at all before it happens.  In fact, she’s the one who asks me.  She may hit a wall at some point and not feel like doing it as much, but I know it won’t take her long to get herself back on track.  She now has more free time in the evening because she puts in a little work each day.  I think she notices that payoff.

I have even seen some good things with my youngest daughter’s self discipline. Granted, she is just five and has her own strong temperament issues.  Ahem.  But aside from that, she has taken to the routine of school extremely well.  Because of that, she has also answered the challenge of the recent supper chore rotation.  The first week she got the unlucky draw of the hardest of the three jobs – clearing the table.  The other two jobs are setting the table and sweeping.  Clearing involves taking dirty dishes to the counter, dirty napkins, putting away food, and spraying and wiping down the table. 

The first night I had to help her more and she took longer.  But darnit if she didn’t insist that she could do it all each night after that.  When I told her it was time to do her job, she patiently went about each step until it was done.  She did this without complain for seven total nights.  I was amazed.  She has done well with the other two jobs, but I have been most impressed with her ability to put her nose to the grindstone and do it all when the other two had gone off to play.  This gives me hope about working through her feisty temperament.

How do you think your kids are progressing with their self discipline?  Some kids pick up habits and self discipline more quickly than others, but that doesn’t mean they slower ones are hopeless – just different.  Do you see differences like that with your kids?  What has worked and not worked when teaching your kids about self discipline?

Self Discipline A Lifelong Gift

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2010). Self Discipline A Lifelong Gift. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Jan 2010
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