You’re so tired of caving to every little temptation. But you don’t know how to develop self control! These 5 tips will change your thinking in no time
Have you heard of the marshmallow experiment?
The basic idea is that they put kids into a room and set a marshmallow in front of them.
Then, they promised the kids that if they let the marshmallow sit there for fifteen minutes without eating it, they would get a second marshmallow.
Some kids were able to stare at that delicious marshmallow for the full time and resist the temptation.
Others, of course, popped that delicious morsel right into their mouths, too caught up by their impulses to wait for the reward.
Well, those researchers followed those kids for 40 years to see how their ability to resist instant gratification played out in their lives.
As it turns out, that was the key to nearly everything. According to the study (here), the “resister” kids “achiev[ed] higher scholastic performance and cop[ed] better with frustration and stress.”
Who doesn’t want that for their kids???
But even if you are 100% certain your kids would have been in that group that grabbed the marshmallow as soon as the door closed, that’s ok.
There are things you can do as a parent to improve their self control skills.
How to Help Your Kids Develop Self Control
With better self control, we can lose weight. Save money. Develop better relationships.
Basically, we can build the life we’ve always dreamed of having.
None of us wants to see our kids unhealthy or in a terrible debt situation.
And the best thing we can do is give them the tools when they are kids, so they’ll be used to better self control by the time they reach adulthood.
5 Tips for Learning the Importance of Self Control
1. What You Want Most
I used to hear the words “self control” and thought it meant the same thing as “no”.
But then I read this saying, and it changed everything.
“Never give up what you want the most for what you want now.”
Isn’t that fantastic?? It reframed EVERYTHING about my decision making.
Now, how can we help our kids to understand this?
Well, it’s as simple as saying, “No, we can’t stop for kid’s meals today. Remember, we wanted to go on that fun trip to the beach in a couple of months? Let’s save the money for that.”
But over time, they’ll begin to adjust to this idea.
Especially if you…
2. Practice All The Time
Remember that each day is another chance to practice your new habit.
Don’t expect any of you to be great at self control right off the bat.
There will be whining when you announce that you’ll be skipping the kid’s meals today.
Because self control is like a muscle that needs to be toned.
You might find it helpful at first to try to funnel money they would have spent at the concession stand, dollar store (or wherever your kids like to blow money) for the week into a fun activity this weekend.
That’s slightly more instant gratification than waiting for a vacation a few months away.
Then stretch it out to a month. Etc.
That will help your family to build up stamina to wait longer and longer for the big reward.
It’s always good to have something fun to look forward to. So always have a bigger goal in mind.
(Your big thing does NOT have to be a trip to Disney World. We much prefer frugal fun ourselves.)
3. Learn to Deal With Emotions
How often do we deal with a lull in the action by handing our kids a screen to occupy them?
Heck, we grown ups do it ourselves!
Technology these days is amazing.
When you’re mad, you vent on social media (sometimes before you have the whole story). If you’re happy, the first thing you do is get a photo or video.
Sadness calls for retail therapy (just a click away!).
I’m not judging. In fact, I’m sharing those examples from my own personal experience.
But I wonder if it’s a healthy habit we’re reinforcing?
The next time you or your kids have the opportunity to experience an emotion like boredom, disappointment, sadness, etc. catch yourself before you grab that screen.
Then, take a long walk (or do a more intense workout if that helps), read a book, or actually talk to a friend.
Look for an emotional release that you can work through rather than hiding from.
Learning to deal with these emotions instead of hiding from them makes us all a little more human.
And it will help your little humans get better at self control, too.
4. Think Big
Learning about hedonic adaptation gave me the starting block I needed to launch myself on the race to debt freedom.
It’s a simple concept.
According to Wikipedia, it’s “…the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”
It’s kind of like thinking that a little more money would make your life so much better.
But when you get a raise, it’s not long before you’ve adjusted all of your spending to the point that you’re right back where you started.
Before long, you find yourself thinking, “If I could just get another raise, I’d be happy.”
And for kids, it’s like this is on steroids!
If I bring home a gift for my 4 year old after being gone all day, she loves it.
Until the next time I have to run errands.
You can bet she’ll meet me at the car to demand another gift when I return home.
Why not try this little motto the next time anyone in your family needs a little help with the “woe is me” stuff.
(Don’t think I don’t have to remind myself of this constantly!)
Be happy on purpose in your current circumstances.
5. Love The Little Stuff
Have you ever heard of hygge?
Hygge is a Danish concept.
According to Hygge House, it’s recognizing a moment as cozy, sweet, charming, special, or nice.
Isn’t that a fun idea?
How many small moments of happiness pass us by each day without us noticing?
Your morning cup of coffee is probably just part of your routine. Take a moment to really taste the flavors!
Don’t let that beautiful sunset fade away while you hurry the trash cans to the curb.
The beautiful thing is that when we stop to appreciate the small daily joys we have in life, those things that cost nothing but a little appreciation, it makes us understand that happiness doesn’t live in an Amazon box.
Now, how does this work with kids?
Well, I’ve made it a point to look for constellations with my kids in the night sky. Now they find them first and show them to me!
We look for birds. Read beautiful books with a great story and amazing pictures. Go on picnics in a new park.
Do whatever you can to focus the excitement on the experience rather than stopping for a treat along the way.
Learning Self Control Will Completely Change Your Lives
Look at your next temptation as another practice round! The benefits of self control are completely worth it.