January Character Trait
Good intentions are just not enough. If we want to change a bad habit, learn something new, or make a positive difference for others, we need self discipline to follow through and succeed.
Self discipline requires motivation, self control, initiative, effort, and stamina. Motivation is necessary, as you must really want to achieve your goal enough to choose to move forward. It can be fueled by example. When children see adults who are motivated to try new things, plan for success, put forth effort, deal with setbacks, and celebrate success, they learn how motivation is important to accomplishing just about anything.
It takes self control to STOP, THINK, and make GOOD CHOICES. In order to achieve a goal, there will be many decisions to make along the way. Some of them will be great decisions that move towards success, while others will detract from the intended target. This is how all of us learn self control. We benefit from good choices and suffer the consequences of the bad ones, which should lead us to learn to STOP and THINK on a regular basis. Over time, making GOOD CHOICES should come more easily.
Initiative is what gets us going to accomplish the task-at-hand. It prompts us to ask questions, probe for answers, and look again when we are not satisfied. Initiative requires an attitude toward work that is positive and productive - the desire to move forward and find solutions or uncover possibilities.
Encouragement is the key to getting children to work hard. Acknowledge and show appreciation for effort (not perfection!), and you will get more and more of it. Talk children into trying something new, support them in the process, and help them see that more effort leads to better results. Words of encouragement are helpful, like:
"You are doing a fine job!"
"You wanted to play on the team, and it's important for you to do your part."
"Keep working at it, and you will get better!"
Stamina is what keeps us moving in the right direction in order to achieve success. It makes the difference between just trying and succeeding. In an age when so much happens so quickly and seemingly easily, it can be difficult for children to learn the value of being steadfast and persistent in pursuit of a goal. It takes more than encouraging words; it takes experience. In school we tackle big projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks, creating a rubric and a timeline, guiding completion one step at a time, putting it altogether, adding the finishing touches, and experiencing the joy of a big job well done!
Involve your children in important projects at home - like gardening - that take planning, time, and effort to accomplish. They want to contribute in ways that benefit themselves and others. It's important for them to feel that they contribute to the family at home, their team at the park, and to their class at school. Stamina, initiative, effort, self control, and motivation are keys to self discipline.