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.
Photo Credit: norbert schaefer /corbis images