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6 Life Skills Your Discipline Strategies Should be Teaching Your Kids

Teach kids these skills to help them become successful adults


When deciding what type of discipline to use with kids, it’s important to look at the skills your discipline is teaching. One of the biggest discipline mistakes parents often make is that they only look at the short-term and don’t focus on the long-term goals. It’s essential that parents make sure their discipline is not only effective today but is teaching kids skills and instilling the values that they will need to become successful adults.

1. Self-Discipline

Two sisters (7-11) and mother gardening, smiling
Maria Teijeiro/Photodisc/Getty Images

The ultimate goal should be for parents to work themselves out of a job. Eventually, your kids shouldn’t need you anymore. In order to assist them with this, parents need to help kids learn self-discipline.

Kids should learn self-discipline in regards to money, chores, homework and time management. In order to teach self-discipline, there should be consistent consequences for misbehavior. There should also be positive consequences, such as reward systems or praise for behaving responsibly.

When parents do things such as nagging kids to do their homework, it doesn’t teach self-discipline. Instead, the parent ends up taking more responsibility for getting the work done than the child. Nagging, begging and pleading with kids to do something often makes a child focuses on his anger toward his parent rather than taking responsibility.

2. Social Skills

Kids need help honing and practicing new social skills. Young kids need to learn how to share and use their words so they don’t become aggressive and to ensure they can develop healthy friendships.

Coach younger kids in basic social skills, such as making eye contact and taking turns in a conversation. Set up practice sessions where kids can practice using social skills. Provide them with feedback and praise.

Older kids often need some fine tuning with their social skills. Role play how to ask for help, speak up when their feelings are hurt or stand up to a bully. Having adequate social skills can make a big difference in a child’s success throughout school and into adulthood.

3. Healthy Decision Making

Kids don’t look at problems the same way adults do. They need help learning problem-solving skills and they need practice making healthy decisions on their own.

Ensuring you have a healthy relationship with your child is a necessary first step in making healthy decisions. Providing kids with daily doses of positive attention can help facilitate a healthy relationship. Having a healthy relationship is a key to ensuring that your child can approach you about problems and together you can work on identifying the best solution.

Guiding kids without making all their decisions for them is an important part of helping them learn to make healthy decisions. Avoid being a helicopter parent and when it’s safe to do so, allow kids to face some natural consequences can be a great way for them to learn from their mistakes.

4. Impulse Control

Kids slowly develop impulse control over time. Parents can help facilitate impulse control skills in several ways. Offering logical consequences helps kids to want to do better the next time so they don’t repeat the same mistake.

Praise can be another great way to help kids manage impulses. Praise kids for thinking before they act, using kind words, using gentle touches and behaving safely. It’s essential that parents teach kids what to do instead when they do behave impulsively and to explain the possible consequences of their behavior.

Pre-teaching can be an excellent way to help kids manage their impulsivity. For example, before getting out of the car, tell your 4-year-old, “When we get out of the car, we’re going to hold hands and walk across the parking lot while looking out for cars.” Shape behavior one step at a time as kids master a new skill.

5. Emotional Regulation

Teaching kids healthy ways to deal with their emotions is a skill that many parents over look. When kids can’t express themselves verbally, they often throw temper tantrums or become aggressive. Teach feeling words to help them improve their ability to express their needs and wants.

Time out can be a great way to help kids learn to calm down. When used appropriately, time out can help kids learn to take a break when they are getting upset or overwhelmed. Ultimately, it can help kids learn to take a time out on their own, before they are told to do so.

6. Confidence

Sometimes parents don’t equate discipline with teaching confidence. And many people don’t see confidence as a skill. However, when parents use discipline and not punishment, kids gain self-esteem and confidence. And learning to be confident means that kids are able to learn from mistakes, accept criticism and use positive self-talk to help them find courage.

When parents establish clear household rules and consistent positive and negative consequences, kids know what to expect. When kids feel safe they feel more confident about trying new activities and exploring their talents. Positive discipline is a great way to ensure that kids learn how to have confidence.

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