The Character Construction Site:
May

Value: SELF DISCLIPLINE

Introduction
The personal-value-developing process works better when parents focus on values and consciously try to help, teach, and set examples all along the way.  Their children will still develop their own values-but they will do so because their parents showed them that it was an important part of their development.

Definition of Self Discipline
Physical, mental, and financial self-discipline.  Moderation in speaking, in eating, in exercising.  The controlling and bridling of one’s own appetites.  Understanding the limits of body and mind.  Avoiding the dangers of extreme, unbalanced viewpoints.  The ability to balance self-discipline with spontaneity. 

Guidelines

  • Teach by example.  This month, make up your mind to control your temper, to save, to live within your means, to eat moderately, and so on.  Make a point of all of these things- and talk about them and why you do them. 
  • Count to ten.  Count out loud this month in front of the children to show that each family member is struggling for better control.
  • Maintain a family schedule. 
  • Use the term of self-discipline frequently and connect it to examples of everyday behavior.
  • Set up deals.  Add motivation to your child’s efforts to discipline himself or herself to accomplish goals.  Offer a reward and look for opportunities to praise your children as they consciously try to discipline themselves to do things. 

Family Activities
 

Elementary

The Work-Before-Play Award or W.B.P. Award
Give an award once a week for times in the past week when children have done homework before friends came over or done chores or practice before going out to play.  Tell instances where you did what was needed before doing what you wanted to do.  Discuss how much more you can enjoy playing if you’ve done the work first.  You can make the W.B.P. index card and give it out at the family dinner awards ceremony.

Delay Gratification
Help your children understand the discipline, and pleasure, of waiting for and anticipating something.  One of the tendencies that works so strongly against discipline is giving children too much and making it too easy for them to get what they want.  Work out a “save up” program for children who want a new bike or a new toy.  Help them see how the discipline of planning and saving and waiting will bring results that impulsiveness and “splurging” would destroy.

The ”Choose the M or the A” Game
This game teachers that some things are okay in moderation but bad in excess —while other things are bad in any quantity or form.  Make up, on three sheets of plain paper, a large M for moderation, a large A for abstain or avoid, a large N.L. for no limit.  Explain the terms.  Then go through the list below and ask them to pick one of the three signs for each of the items you mention.  Add items of your own and stop to discuss or ask questions about any on which the answer is not clear.

Eating (M), Taking Drugs, (A), Reading (NL), Exercising (M), Watching TV (M), Caring for others (NL), Name-calling (A), Smiling (NL), Drinking alcohol (A or M- your call), Drinking before driving (A), Playing at friends’ houses (M)

Memorizing
Have your children memorize these short phrases to encourage their self-discipline.  “Just do it” and “Mind Over Mattress.”  You can modify the second one to “mind over menu” or “mind over messy room” and so on. 

Teach Your Children How to Set and Reach Goals
On the first Sunday of every month, encourage children to set a goal for the month ahead.  Weekly goals can also be set.  They can write or draw a picture of the goal and it for help staying on task. 

Praise
Express honest and specific praise every time you catch them trying to learn to discipline themselves.  Instead of “Why don’t you ever help me with the dishes”, try “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your clearing the dishes off of the table after dinner.”  You are more likely to get a repeat performance with the latter. 

Junior High

The ”Choose the M, NL or the A” Game

This game teachers that some things are okay in moderation but bad in excess —while other things are bad in any quantity or form.  Make up, on three sheets of plain paper, a large M for moderation, a large A for abstain or avoid, a large N.L. for no limit.  Explain the terms.  Then go through the list below and ask them to pick one of the three signs for each of the items you mention.  Add items of your own and stop to discuss or ask questions about any on which the answer is not clear.  Add any issues that are current in your life with your teenager.

Eating (M), Taking Drugs, (A), Reading (NL), Exercising (M), Watching TV (M), Caring for others (NL), Name-calling (A), Smiling (NL), Drinking alcohol (A or M- your call), Drinking before driving (A), Staying our until curfew (M), Dating the Same Person (M). 

Memorizing
Have your children memorize these short phrases to encourage their self-discipline.  “Just do it” and “Mind Over Mattress.”  You can modify the second one to “mind over menu” or “mind over messy room” and so on. 

Learn to Make Decisions in Advance
Help adolescents actually think through in advance some of the decisions you can predict they will have to make over the next few years.  Think through with them (verbally) a situation in which they might feel considerable peer pressure to try drugs, to get drunk, to become sexually involved.  Be specific in actually describing the scenarios and ask them to be specific in mentally rehearsing exactly what they would say and do in those situations. 

Suggest that your adolescent actually make a list (in a private place-perhaps in the back of his journal or diary) of the decision he has made in advance (e.g., not to do drugs or drink, not to become sexually involved, to finish high school and stay academically on course for college).  These can be effective safeguards and “route markers” for the right path of discipline and moderation.

Agree on Policies for Discipline
Give your teenagers the limits that provide security, convince them of your concern, and give them opportunities for the exercise of discipline.  Sit down with your adolescent and decide together on some guidelines and standards that will help him exercise discipline and moderation as he moves into and through the teenage years. 

  • ·Decide on a curfew.  There is really no need for extremely late hours.  An amazing amount of problems occur after midnight.
  • ·Limit the number of nights out.  Limit television, limit things that need moderation.  A mutually agreed-on limit will help a teenager to exercise discipline more easily. 
  • ·Date one person no more that twice in a row.  Require a date with someone else before a third date occurs with the same person. 

Introduce a Simple Planning System
This can help adolescents manage their time and energy-and also promote the development of spontaneity as a companion to discipline.  Try for yourself and teach your adolescent children the following basic daily planning system:

  1. At the top of a planning page list one single priority for the day for work (or school), one for family, and one for self.
  2. Then put a vertical line down the middle of the planning page, list the things you need to do that day (including the three priorities) by time (hour) on the left-hand side.
  3. Leave the right-hand side of the page blank-then watch for spontaneous or serendipitous things (unplanned happy accidents) that are better or more worthwhile than some of what is on your list.  Try to meet the three priorities and to do one or two spontaneous things each day. 

Discuss this system together after a week or two.

These exercises were excerpted and adapted with the authors’ permission from Teaching Your Children Values by Linda and Richard Eyre, Simon and Schuster, Fireside, 1993.  For more information on their tapes, books and Homebase organization call (801) 581 - 0112.  This is an excellent book with a twelve-month values plan.

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