An Easy Way to Teach Self-Control

With this simple mantra, kids will have more power to resist temptation (whatever it may be!).
By Christina Vercelletto



If you’ve ever had to tell your child she has to finish eating her dinner before she can have a treat, then you know how tough it is for kids to control their impulses. But it can be done — and that’s great. Self-control is what allows kids to focus in school without blurting out answers or bothering classmates. To strengthen the skill, teach them to use if-then plans, says Walter Mischel, Ph.D., author of The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control. These strategies give kids a mantra that helps them resist temptation (to whine) by focusing on the long-term payoff (a cookie). Try one of these plans for common challenges:

The Challenge: Squabbling
If someone asks to play with my toy, then I will take a deep breath and share so we both have fun.

The Challenge: Procrastinating
If I have homework to finish, then I’ll make sure I do it by 5 o’clock. When it’s done, I can go outside to play.

The Challenge: Daydreaming
If I drift off, then I will look at the teacher and focus, so I can answer her questions.

The Simple Secret for Confident, Happy Kids

Photo Credit: norbert schaefer /corbis images

Self Control
Raising Kids
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Age 7
Age 6
Age 5
Age 4
Age 3
Manners and Conduct
Learning and Cognitive Development