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So How Do You Develop Self-Discipline in a child?

“I never do easy….”

Can you imagine a child who gets up on their own every morning excited to go to school? How about a child who does not have to be told to do their homework and gets straight A’s? What about a child that asks you if you need any help around the house? Better yet, can you imagine your child as a young adult growing into a high achiever and a successful leader in their profession?

Believe it or not, you can have all this with your child! After researching and studying child/personal development then validating the techniques on hundreds of families we are unlocking the key. I believe “Success leaves clues”. So, all we have to do is copy what successful parents do!

At the belt promotion ceremony this last weekend I shared the two principles for developing the self-discipline required for success and happiness in children. The two are:

1. Make them wait for everything – Society and the world is working against you on this one. Start by becoming hyper-aware of how much this has become an instant gratification world. If your child is hungry you just go through a drive-thru. If your child is bored you hand them a video game or your smartphone. Remember in the “old days” if you had a difficult question? You had to go to the library or find an adult who could answer your question. Today kid’s just say “Hello Google?” At the promotion ceremony I shared the “Marshmallow Experiment” where researchers took children and placed a marshmallow in front of them then told them “If you can wait 15 minutes you will get a second marshmallow!” To make a long story short, after the researcher left the room you can imagine what happened. Some kids ate the marshmallow right away. Others ate it later while trying hard to resist. Then a few were able to wait the whole 15 minutes. They followed up with these children as adults using indicators such as grades in school, ACT scores and their salaries. The conclusion: “There is a direct correlation between a child’s ability to delay gratification and their success in life!” So MAKE YOUR CHILD WAIT for as many things as you can, big and small! Just use these simple words often “Can you wait just one second?” And, It is okay (and even good) for your child to be BORED!

2. Make them do things they do not like doing or find hard to do – I used to be surprised by this but not anymore. Almost every week I get a well-intended young mother ask me “Sensei, should I make my child do something they do not want to do?” I try not to show my eyes rolling to the back of my head but want to say “YES, and make them do things they do not want to do OFTEN!” This is what self-discipline and delayed gratification really is: The ability to do things you do not want to do or things that are hard. So just like making them wait for everything start teaching this with all the big AND small things. For instance, if at dinner they says “I don’t like broccoli!” Just say “Thank you for letting me know.” Then make them eat the broccoli. When they want to interrupt what you are doing or when you are talking to someone, just calmly say “Can you wait just a second?” Then a short period of time later return to them with ”Thank you for waiting…..”

The last thing I will leave you with is this: “Children change the moment their parent’s perspective on parenting changes!”

The one thing that prevent parents from applying the teachings above is when their main objectives as a parent is to be their child’s best friend and for them to like them. You cannot be your child’s best friend and their parent at the same time. Friends cannot get friends to do things they do not like. If your main goal is to make sure your child “likes” you then you will not be able to make the difficult and hard parenting decisions. So BE THEIR PARENT and not their friend!

They do not have to like you but if done right they will love you, look up to you, respect you, and in the end thank you for being tough and having high standards.

So when they say “I don’t want to do that” or “I don’t like…” or “This is too hard”, you should smile and say “GOOD!”

Yours for rock solid (and disciplined) kids,


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