Teaching Your Kids The Lifelong Skills Of Self Discipline And Organization

While other kids were getting an award for kindness and sharing in my daughter’s Pre-K class, I thought I had achieved next level parenting when she received the award for self-discipline. Come to find out, one award does not mean you can check that off the list of parenting to dos. Self-discipline and organization are lifelong skills you will continue to teach as the tasks and expectations around your child increase with time.

Here are a few tips on how to foster these skills:

  1. Not all activities have to be fun activities.

Throughout life we will have to do things we don’t want to do or things that aren’t fun. The earlier you introduce this, the sooner it becomes part of their DNA. Start small with little children as their attention span wains. Watch for areas of interest while they complete the task. Is there a sound effect they like with putting blocks away? Is there an activity they mimic, like brushing hair or teeth? Encourage these first and make them part of their activities. With older children you can frame tasks as respect for their belongings and their space. Designate a time for them to complete the activity and encourage them to get it done within that time frame. It’s amazing how gratified my 11y/o is by finding stuff in her clean room.

  1. Give them ownership of the task.

Few may love a well-organized space more than me. However, if I wanted my children to learn how to be organized, they would have to develop the skill on their own. Provide age appropriate direction at the start of the task, being clear on your intention (the why) and your expectations (the how). Now, take a deep breath, don’t hover, and realize, this developmental milestone is more important than it being done exactly how YOU would have done it. I stopped organizing my daughter’s craft bins and board game shelves a few years ago. Instead, the expectation is that she has to clean up so she knows where it was for the next time. Oh, the sweet relief that comes with not having to be the keeper of where every glitter pen or board game is stored.

  1. Be consistent and follow through.

If you asked your child to pick up their blocks one day, you need to do it the next time they play with them too. Added brushing hair or teeth to their routine? Keep at it. When children abandon the task and we pick it up for them or skip it to save us a few minutes we weaken the skill building muscle. Also, if you set consequences for completing a task, you must be willing to follow through. Yes, that may mean you will have to awkwardly cancel a play date, withhold dessert, or take away their phone (gasp!).

  1. Get buy in from all contributing adults.

You don’t have to do this alone, and you shouldn’t. You and your partner should be in sync on how you build these life skills with your child. Relatives and babysitters should also be informed and encourage the same behavior when in their care. Moreover, you and your partner can be a collaborative force when it comes to self-discipline and organization. My husband has not only come up with some creative ways to get our girls to do chores, but he’s also the one that whispers to me “does it matter?” when I am two steps away from intervening with our 1y/o putting puzzle pieces in the block container. He’s right. She’s putting her stuff away. We will get to sorting…eventually.

  1. Be a self-discipline and organization role model.

We have a finite amount of time with these amazing little people to mold and shape who they become, and they are watching us. No, one junk drawer is not going to set them up for a life of crime, and we certainly don’t have to be perfect. But we should be honest and share the efforts we make to be self-disciplined and organized. My oldest daughter, like me, LOVES lists. I’ve encouraged this as she gets older as it keeps her focused on the task at hand and provides that rush of gratification when she crosses it off . With these little eyes on me though, I know I could be doing better by tackling that pile of mail more than once a month and improving my tardiness. If we expect our kids to grow into these skills, we need to model how it can be done.  

Self-discipline and organization are skills truly worth developing for a successful future.

Children will learn that while these may not be fun, the results can be very satisfying and often make the people they care about very happy.

Rachel Montgomery
Born in New Hampshire and raised in Florida, Rachel got to Texas as quickly as she could. She has spent the last 20 years in this amazing city as a student, wife, mother, friend and professional. She met her husband, Jonathan, here in Austin and the two share all things Longhorns, as well as a love of football, traveling, and being amateur foodies. When not carpooling the social butterfly, Claire (11), or watching the world through the eyes of a toddler, Diana (1), you can find Rachel researching, planning, and booking their next travel adventure. She is an unapologetic Patriots fan and a firm believer in self-care; eat clean, train dirty, and never under estimate the power of a fresh mani/pedi.

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