Disciplining our kids is a real challenge. We question ourselves, trying to meet that balance of being effective without being harsh, adjusting for our individual children’s unique personalities and challenges. But perhaps we overlook the most important aspect: self-discipline.
I read an article about John D. Rockefeller recently. While he was a controversial character, one thing his biographer knows for sure is that he was able to command the attention of a room because he possessed remarkable self-discipline. He believed he had to be his own tyrant.
“In dealing with employees, no matter how far down the ladder, he never lost his cool, even when they presented him with grievances… Rockefeller listened far more than he talked in his meetings with the men at the top as well, and this air of almost supernatural calm only heightened his influence in the boardroom.”
I’ve been thinking about self-discipline a lot lately because I made a couple of changes to my schedule.
Firstly, I was done with feeling like a tired old lady, so I began lifting weights again three times a week. Not surprisingly, my energy level has shot up.
Secondly, I decided that taking a car to a destination less than a mile away was more candypants than I care to be, so I made a rule with myself (and my 15-year-old son, a biking enthusiast) that “I don’t take the car to WalMart“.
Self-discipline is crucial when it comes to meeting our goals, but I believe it also helps us parent our kids more effectively. I’m not perfect in this. I lose my cool sometimes. And when I do, I know that I’ve lost my kids’ respect, and probably their attention. If I want to raise self-disciplined children, I surely need to model this quality myself.
“The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
Maybe you want to get up early in the morning so you can have time to exercise, or work on a project that’s important to you. Maybe your goal is to consistently cook dinner instead of spending money on takeout. Or perhaps the house is a mess because … Facebook.
Assuming those goals are reasonable, the problem may be a lack of self-discipline. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies.
“If I want to be great I have to win the victory over myself… self-discipline.”
– Harry S Truman
Here’s a great resource: Crystal Paine’s ebook: 21 Days to a More Disciplined Life.
Here’s the interesting thing about willpower: It’s a finite resource. (If you want to read more about the many studies that have proven this, check out the book Willpower.)
People who accomplish a lot in their lives aren’t born with more self-discipline than the rest of us. They know that willpower is a finite resource, and therefore they have learned to create habits and routines that make meeting their goals easier. They’ve organized their lives so that they don’t have to exert as much willpower.
One way to do this is to make fewer decisions. Telling your workout buddy that you will be lifting heavy iron things on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays means they’re expecting you to show up. Saying, “I don’t drive to WalMart” is a rule. Now, I’m free not to make a decision every time.
I need to create some rules for myself when it comes to my life as a mom so that exerting self-discipline is easier. I heard one mom say that when she’s tempted to yell, she instead whispers. Not surprisingly, the kids listen better. Do you have any of these rules? I would love to hear about them.
(One area where we need self-discipline as moms? Our cell phone addiction.)