WT 046: How Do I Raise Self-Disciplined Kids?

From bossiness and defiance to lack of physical activity and hygiene, today’s episode takes on some of these common challenges many parents face: How Do I Raise Self-Disciplined Kids? Karen speaks on these issues and shares how she has handled similar situations with her kids.

Question 1: Karen, my 12-year-old daughter is a really good kid when she’s with me. She helps with her younger sisters and sits quietly with me when I’m making dinner. However, when she thinks I’m not in earshot she is mean to her little sisters and I’ve gotten reports that she’s really bossy with her friends. Please share any advice you have with me.

Karen’s Answer: She sounds 100% normal and human! When you find out she’s been mean to her little sisters, talk to her about that, and same thing with being bossy. She maybe a choleric/red temperament which means she wants to be in control and she is more than likely bossy (Learn more about the colors in Mom Core) . Cholerics also like to obey the rules, so when she’s with you, she obeys you, but when the cat is away the mice will play. But, overall she sounds very normal.

All my children would pick on their siblings at different times. The older ones more so than the younger. I had two very bossy children, and I used to tell them people would not want to be their friend if they bossed them around. Sometimes it worked and other times they had to learn the hard way. Continue what you are doing, praise her for what she is doing right, and tell her you know she’s a sweet/kind girl. Maybe get her to talk to you and tell you why she is not being kind or why she is being bossy. Communication is the key.

Question 2:  Karen, my son is in 1st grade and will not brush his teeth or hair in the morning. Every morning is a battle getting him to comply and get out the door. How do I deal with his blatant defiance? Also, how do I convey the importance of personal hygiene? What I’m doing clearly isn’t working.

Karen’s Answer: Oh my goodness. Boys drive us moms crazy don’t they. I would insist on the teeth brushing, possibly take him to the dentist and have him talk some sense into him, and let the hair go. I know that’s hard, because as a mom you think your child is a reflection on you. You may think messed up hair shows you aren’t doing your mom job, but you know the truth. So be okay with a little messy hair. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Teeth are a big deal, but hair is not. Personal hygiene for most boys doesn’t come until much later, and usually there is a little girl involved.

Taylor hated brushing his hair. He would also wear the same clothes all the time. It was embarrassing, but I got tired of fighting with him. I let it go. He eventually came around, but it wasn’t until 8th grade or so. One time I was kissing Taylor good night and he didn’t smell good, I said, “Did you take a shower?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Well, you don’t smell good, did you use soap?” He said, “No, you didn’t tell me to use soap, but just said take a shower.” I made him get up and take another shower and use soap. Boys will be boys.

Question 3: Karen, my daughter has zero motivation to have an active lifestyle. As someone who has always struggled with weight, it’s very important to me that I help her set healthy habits. She always asks me if she can skip after school activities because she “doesn’t feel like going,” and is always vegging out in front of the TV. Her brother is almost the opposite and loves to be active. How can I help her find her sweet spot?

Karen’s Answer: There are a few things that could be happening here. She may be “on” during the day at school and she just wants to rest when she gets home. My son, Taylor, was like that. Another thing it could be is that she is Phlegmatic/Green and this temperament really does just like to chill all the time; watching TV, reading a book, or hanging at the house is their happy place. Or another situation could be that she just doesn’t like be to active; it’s not her “thing.” But, there are lots of ways to become active. It may take a while for her to find her sweet spot.

I’m not sure how old she is, but if she is in elementary school, try taking a break from trying to motivate her. You could say, “No TV after school, but you can go outside and play.” Keep offering different suggestions, but be patient. Possibly suggest going on a walk with your daughter, through the woods, down the walkway, etc. Make it fun. Also, try not to project your history onto her. You don’t want to cause a problem when there is not really one there yet.

My Emily and Abby were not that active in sports and didn’t care for them. Emily was not as coordinated as Kelsey and Abby just didn’t like them. We kept at it with Emily, and she finally found that she loved horses, and ended up being pretty good at riding. Abby tried several things, but didn’t find anything until high school, where she discovered tennis. Hang in there.

Question 4: Karen, how do you balance letting your kids do something and fail versus stepping in and helping them? For example, my son will not listen to me when I tell him to do his homework. I have heard you say on another podcast to let them deal with the natural consequences of failing, but I don’t know how far to let that go.  

Karen’s Answer: Let him fail in his homework. You can even write the teacher a note and tell her the problem and ask her to not let him have recess until it’s done. It’s better the younger you start so they will learn their lesson early on. I know it’s hard, but so worth it in the long run. Practice tough love.

From 3rd grade on, I tried to let my children handle their own homework. If they did it, it was on them, and if they didn’t do it, it was on them. Did I let my child fail? Yes, I did. For my children, it wasn’t in school, but it was in other areas. If they didn’t practice for their sports, plays, cheerleading, etc., I would let their coach/teacher get after them. There are several instances I could talk about. Abby would not practice tennis, so I stopped paying for her lessons, and she did not hold a good spot on the tennis team in high school until her senior year. I know that is sports, but school would have been the same way.

Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

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