At The Dojo, one of our fundamental rules is called the Zero Rule - that rule just means that we should do what we know we’re supposed to do, without anyone having to tell us. It’s a simple rule for kids to understand, and when they follow that rule, they’re demonstrating self-discipline and responsibility.
As you’re teaching your kids how to develop their own discipline, here are 5 simple ways to help them develop that important skill:
1. Start small
When you first started driving, your parents didn't give you the car keys and turn you loose on the interstate during afternoon rush hour on a Friday. You probably learned to drive on your neighborhood roads or in a deserted parking lot.
From there, you worked your way up to two-lane roads, highway driving, and eventually tackled that on-ramp to the interstate. The same is true when you're building a sense of discipline in your child. Don't throw him into rush hour traffic.
Start by selecting one task that is relatively easy to do, easy to remember, and can be done every day. A few ideas on places to start are: putting dirty clothes in the hamper, putting shoes in the same place each day (or night), clearing his or her plate from the supper table, or turning off the lights when leaving a room.
Pick one task, and after a few successful days of that, add another one, and then another, until your child has a good routine established.
2. Set the example
We've all heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Well, it's true. As parents, we know that we can tell our kids something until we're blue in the face, and they may never do it. Slip up with a bad word one time, though, and you can bet you'll be hearing it fly out of your kid's mouth at the most inopportune moment.
What kids see us do is what they will do. While you're trying to instill discipline in your child, model that behavior for them as well. Instead of coming home from work and crashing on the couch right away, change your work clothes, put them away, and put everything in its place.
Take a few extra minutes each day to demonstrate simple ways that you are disciplined in your approach, and your kids will begin to follow suit.
3. Be consistent but flexible
The Rock is famous for his work ethic and strict diet, and he's also notorious for having some of the best cheat days. His sushi Sunday and giant pancake stack are glorious examples of how not to eat on a daily basis.
But, he would argue that those cheat days every once in a while are necessary. It's hard to maintain that strict discipline at home as well. Sometimes we have those days where we just don't feel like picking our dirty socks up off the floor. Our brains have turned to mush, and we've had enough, so we just don't do it.
That happens with our kids, too. Be consistent in reminding your kids that they need to stick to the rules, pick up after themselves, feed the cat and dog, etc. If, scratch that, when, your kids have a bad day and just can't seem to get it together, cut them some slack, show them some grace, and let them know that it can happen to the best of us.
They'll be more mindful of their tasks the next time they feel like skipping them.
4. Track progress and reward success
Voltaire said, "The biggest reward for a thing well done is to have done it."
And while it's true that you feel great when you do something good, that feeling doesn't go a long way when kids think all they're doing is boring stuff that seems like work. So, that's where the next two steps come in to play.
Kids, and adults too, love seeing that they're making progress. Whether it's a magnetic chore chart, a school behavior clip chart, or leveling up in a video game, seeing that progress is important. Hang a chart or whiteboard in a common room and check off a box every day when your child completes a task.
Set a goal for your child to complete certain number of tasks, or to complete one task a certain number of times. You may even be surprised to find that your child enjoys completing tasks because he gets to check off that box. Giving someone a sense of completion is a great motivator.
Your kids have worked hard to reach the goals you set for them, and you worked hard setting them up for that success. Take time to sit back and celebrate that success. That celebration will look different for everyone.
Maybe you have a family movie night and you let your kids pick the movie and you make their favorite movie snacks. You could go out for ice cream as a family, or maybe you let your kids pick a family activity out, such as bowling or mini golf. Perhaps you reward the kids with a fun, homemade trophy or medal.
Whatever you decide, make it a moment to remember for your kids. Stop. Take time to recognize the awesomeness of what your kids have accomplished. High fives all around.
5. Enlist help from a coach or mentor
So now you have all these great ideas, but you still may not be sure how to take your first steps. That's where a coach can help. The best athletes in the world have coaches and mentors, so why not you?
Enlist the help of one of our coaches. We've been through these same steps with hundreds of families and have helped them develop the right formula for their children to thrive in a fun but disciplined environment. Schedule an appointment with one of our coaches today to get started.