I was recently reminded by numerous child psychologists and researchers from the 2017 film, Screenagers, (a documentary addressing the effects of screens on our kids in the digital age): Your kid’s self-control is the largest factor contributing to their success as an adult.
This is great news.
Self-control is something ANYONE can learn.
So, consider yourself tasked with the 18-year project of creating opportunities for your child to strengthen their ability for self-control. (Notice I didn’t say, “teach your child self-control”. There’s a difference.)
Parents usually nod their head in agreement knowing it’s their responsibility to raise kids who can self-regulate, resist temptation, and course-correct. However, there is a disconnect when I ask HOW are you going to cultivate the learned skill of your kid’s self-control?
Most parents’ reaction is simply restricting the thing they are nervous about.
No sugar. No technology. No exposure.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The science is confirmed and we know how damaging excess sugar and tech is on all of us. We have an obesity epidemic and technology addiction is a real phenomenon. I’m an advocate of holding off as long as possible.
However, if self-control is the #1 character trait leading to success in the adult world and you have only 18 years to cultivate this life skill, how long are you willing to wait to ensure your kid’s self-control?
How does restricting your kids from the real-life influences they are exposed to every single day help them develop the grit needed for executive control when they leave your threshold at 18-years old?
Are you trying to raise a kid with enough thoughtfulness and self-regulation skills to ask themselves if they have the ability to eat only one piece of cake when they’re at the birthday party? Or do you want to raise the kid who eats the whole shebang because they just can’t help themselves?
How do you slowly build over time the education of children when it comes to technology? The influence of technology is getting stronger by the minute (literally), and I see parents turn a blind eye and then install system locks when the kids go off the rails with their Xbox. (As if these kids have a clue on how to practice self-control!)
If you’re interested in raising a THINKING CHILD who can resist temptations in an age where temptation is literally a click away, it’s time to create a plan for creating opportunities for kids to practice self-control.
1. Model the behavior you’d like to see in your kids. I can’t stress this enough. Kids learn from watching what your body does, not what your mouth says.
2. TALK with your kids (when it’s age appropriate) about all the things that might make you squirm: technology, porn, social media, video games, swearing, drugs… avoiding these conversations only prevents your kids from trusting you as the expert to talk to.
3. Let the kids practice. Let them fail. Let them feel the consequences (which hopefully you’ve discussed in advance).
Sheltering is more dangerous than educating kids about how to moderate and regulate all these real-world temptations. Your first job is to educate kids about how the real world works and this is the perfect opportunity to bring that back to the forefront of your parenting. Be brave! You’ve got this!
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