I frequently work with families where academic performance is deteriorating, and parents are tired of battling and arguing with their child over homework. Often, these same families have trouble getting their son or daughter out of bed and off to school in the morning. Other responsibilities, such as helping out around the house, have long been abandoned as a futile battle only ending in screaming matches.
Depending upon the age of the child, this situation now requires considerable effort to turn the negative momentum around. For many parents, they wonder where they went wrong, and are confused about what to do next. Some become hopeless, and simply stop trying.
Why This Is A Failure of Self-Discipline!
If we focus on this child, who is now failing, and ‘diagnose’ the end result of years of poor choices, we can get lost and overwhelmed. We might see only the end result: ‘opposition’ or ‘negativity’ or ‘sadness.’ All of these are almost inevitable, if months or years of poor choices have accumulated to the point of a crisis.
However, looking back over time, we can see the obvious failure to instill self-discipline. Self-discipline is the ultimate buffer or protector of your child’s future!
With self-discipline comes the reward of that discipline and good effort. With those very rewards of good effort, life creates a self-pleasing cycle that generates more and more positive results. How could we possibly ignore the importance of this critical trait? I believe we are simply missing the important early cues.
What Poisonous Patterns (Cues) Are We Missing?
Many of us are lucky. Our children are bright, talented and capable. With these wonderful traits also come certain tendencies, which will undermine their long term success. These are poison to the growth of self-discipline! Here are a few of those patterns we must look for:
- Little effort put into homework
- Good results (grades) despite poor effort
- Disdain for school or academics or chores or any responsibility
- Procrastination of homework or projects
- Offering excuses (that we believe or allow)
- Letting them ‘off the hook’ when they complain or resist their ‘responsibilities’
- Putting sports, play, video games or TV BEFORE homework or responsibilities
- Expecting them to get it done, because they said they would
- Believing that it is the teacher’s job to educate about discipline
- Great grades come easy, so little effort is practiced.
- Sleeping in till the last moment before the bus
- Lies and deception over work assignments
- Great kids and great relationships, but poor efforts.
What Can We Do If We See These Patterns?
First, we must recognize that self-discipline usually needs to be taught. And the first way that we teach is through what we model. Just this week, one of my coaching clients complained about her daughter who was often missing the bus. Yet, when we discussed how to change the morning routine, Mom refused to consider getting up earlier so MOM could MODEL being prepared. Without a change by mom, there is no way to set up a system that will correct this behavior.
Secondly, self-discipline is predictable if we have a clear system. It is not predictable, if we rely upon lectures or discussions or ‘good relationships’ with our children.
The system must not be complex, but instead, the system should reflect how the real world works. In other words, the system should reflect reality. In the world of reality, we are rewarded not for our IQ. Not for our talent. Not for our charm. Yes, these are all huge advantages, but ONLY when combined with sustained effort.
Therefore, the system we adopt must hold our children accountable to their best effort! Not provide rewards for little or no effort. If we do so, we will sow the seeds of thinking that I deserve it all, even though I give very little. You can more about my systems for teaching self-discipline at www.TerrificParenting.com.