Ivory Soap over at Little House in the Suburbs wrote an excellent article today on routines she has taught her children over the years that both ensure their safety and allow her some space. They also have the not incidental purpose of developing self-discipline in her children.
My children are significantly older than hers, with one in college and the other starting high school in the fall, and frankly, I wasn’t as consistent when they were young as she is (Ivory is an amazingly disciplined person, from everything I can tell), in part because I have always (until now) worked outside the home rather than in or from home. It makes a difference. Trust.
All that said, if your teen is struggling with self-discipline you can still help him or her to build some now. Remember, as a parent your job is to get your child to adulthood with his or her choices intact. That means that their grades have to be high enough that they can go on with their education if they choose, they practice safe sex or no sex at all, they have no addictions, and they commit no criminal acts.
Here are some specific things you can do to help your teen develop self-discipline:
- Eat family meals regularly. In front of the TV on TV trays counts, if you are having a conversation with your teen.
- Make your house a place where your teen can hang out with friends — after regular chores and homework.
- Offer to help your teen develop a business: set up a blog, mow lawns, babysit — having one’s own money demonstrates the importance of “showing up”.
- Make sure your teen has privacy and a quiet place to do school work. Check his or her work when he or she is finished, but otherwise, don’t interfere unless asked.
- Talk with your teen about current events, their friends, choices in hair and clothing, and other issues that they might be struggling with. Help him or her to develop an individual path rather than a carbon copy of your path.
- Don’t settle your teen’s disputes with others. Get involved if there is fire or broken bones or blood, but otherwise, let him or her sort it out. Give advice if you’re asked, but DON’T if you’re not.
- The teen brain is not fully developed, and teens often have difficulty understanding consequences of actions. They also have limited impulse control. It’s important to discuss serious issues (not command, discuss) on a regular basis. This helps to normalize the idea that it’s okay to not do something they might be being pressured into, by giving them a larger perspective. Just because your teen’s friends might be doing something doesn’t mean everyone is, and it’s important that your teen see that.
- Finally, develop trust with your teen — in both directions. If you’re shaking your head and thinking to yourself that it’s impossible, seek help, whether through a counselor, spiritual leader, or through the school system. If you and your teen trust one another, self-discipline falls into place. Your teen will sense that you trust him, and slowly but surely, he will strive to live up to that trust. It’s worth it.
- Online Promotion of High-Risk Behaviors (webroot.com)
- Your Kids are Watching… It’s Important to Model Good Driving Habits (cheapcarinsurance.net)
- Understanding the Teen Mind (kcsmatters.wordpress.com)
- Volunteering: Another solution to teen angst? (lisaorchard.wordpress.com)