How to Teach Kids Self-Discipline

IN THE NEWS: Self-Discipline


Self-Control in a World That Screams 'Now!'

Hectic schedules, high-tech gadgets and a culture of immediacy make it harder for today's parents to teach kids self-discipline and self-control. Slow down, experts advise, and teach your kids about choices, decision-making and the value of patience.

By Sandra Whitehead

You see it every day. American kids don't want to wait. Indeed, many don't seem able to wait - for anything! And while many parents say they're trying to instill patience and self-control in their children, you can see their frustration levels rising.

Children have never been particularly patient; self-control is a learned skill. But changes in our culture have created a generation of kids accustomed to getting what they want, when they want it - whether it's the latest iPod; costly lessons in sports, dance and music; or even a new car when they reach driving age. There are simply more "things" available to kids today, and more parents with money to spend on them.

The trouble lies in how this instant gratification has affected children's character and values. The nonprofit research organization Public Agenda identified the problem in its 2002 report, "Easier Said Than Done." Based on its poll of 1,607 U.S. parents of children ages 5 to 17, the report claimed that only 34 percent of parents believe they've succeeded in teaching their kids self-control and self-discipline - that is, the ability to wait, to think before acting and to understand potential consequences of their actions.

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