From my parenting experience, I would say that building self-control in the formative years is just as important as teaching obedience and attentiveness. Most parents desire their children to display this characteristic but are stumped in knowing how to teach it to them, especially at the toddler and preschooler ages.
How to Build Self Control in the Formative Years:
We all desire our children to display self control, and we desire it, too, but may not know how to demonstrate it or to teach it to our younger children. These tips are from how we build this habit in our children from an early age.
- Add ‘self-control' to their vocabulary – Many children do not understand what ‘self-control' means, so I would start by adding it to their vocabulary by not only using it, but by pointing out examples of people using self-control, as well as those who are not.
- Start young – You can never start too early when it comes to teaching character traits in your children. You can begin adding the vocabulary to their words even before they begin to speak.
- Incorporate physical things that aid them in gaining ‘self-control' – We have always used the folding of the hands or putting their hands in their pockets to help them gain ‘self-control' when they need it or when the situation requires it. I love having my children put their hands in their pockets when we go shopping. To this day, my oldest old son walks with his hands in his pocket when we are shopping from the years of having it be required.
- Praise them when they display ‘self-control' on their own – Once habits are formed and they begin working toward displaying ‘self-control' be sure to praise them for a job well done!
- Invest in resources that will help you teach character – Our family uses We Choose Virtues because it is fun and easy! (Here is a review about We Choose Virtues) We also invest in wholesome videos and great books that will encourage them to build great character in themselves.
One exercise that benefits young children in learning how to have self-control is in how they play with their toys. This post may help you teach your toddler (or preschooler) to pick up their own toys, while learning how to demonstrate self control while playing.