Do you find yourself telling your child, “Have some self-discipline!”

Do your children immediately put up a wall after those words leave your mouth?

You aren’t alone!! As parents, it’s easy to get stuck in communication loops while trying to get through to our kids. Often, what we hope is helpful, makes our children defensive. Then, things you did or said to help your children before, now don’t work the same, if at all. Now, they only drive a wedge between us and our children.

As they grow, children experience new and different challenges that need new and different solutions. A child who was once focused suddenly struggles with distractions. A child who was once happy-go-lucky now struggles with managing their emotions. A child who got As and Bs in school now struggles with how to study.

When these new challenges start, the go-to response we have as adults is, “Just have more self-discipline!” So why don’t these words actually work? What makes our children shut down upon hearing this message, versus get up and do what needs to be done??

Here’s what HiveWheel kids tell us they think when adults tell them to have more self-control and self-disciple:

“Oh, great. Thanks. What does that actually MEAN???”

“Yeah…easy for you to say!”

“You just don’t get it!”

It would be AMAZING if we could just wave our magic wands and make them “get it”…right??

But “self-discipline” is a pretty abstract concept that’s extremely difficult for young minds to wrap around. As adults, WE know what it means, but only because we’ve had a lifetime to truly understand and practice it’s specific components. To be successful, children need guidance with developing the skills that self-discipline encompasses. They need guidance and specific targets they can hit.

So what can we tell our children instead?


Follow these steps and see the light bulbs turn on!

Start the conversation! 

Ask questions:

  1. Ask what is and is not going well about their work so far, and if they have any ideas to help solve the challenges. (They often have incredible ideas of solutions to try!)
  2. If they don’t know, ask if it would be okay for you to share some helpful advice to support them with the difficult tasks. (When we ask permission we show respect and usually they’ll say yes!)

Take action:

  1. Share 2-3 specific tips about skills, like setting small goals, prioritizing, time management, using a planner, and eliminating distractions. The sky’s the limit!
  2. Get buy-in. Ask your child, “How does that sound to you? What is the best option YOU think we could try right now?”
  3. Help them get started! Identify a quick, specific step you can take together immediately.

Communication is key here. When you create solutions together, everyone wins!

HiveWheel coaches have these conversations with students every day. It is how we build rapport and respect, help students take control of their learning, and actually get them to understand what learning success is for them! Students respond so well to this structure, that we are often able to undo years of learning stress at lightning speed!

Love these tips? Sign up for more with our FREE newsletter!