July 21, 2019

The Super Power of Self-Discipline

I ran into a wonderful definition of SELF-DISCIPLINE and since Self-Discipline has been the top topic of late in parenting my precocious and fearless 6-year-old son, I thought I would share:

Self-Discipline: The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

My attempt to explain self-discipline to my 6-year-old son was both humorous and enlightening.

Reading the definition by itself to him only resulted in a blank stare and glossed-over eyes.  So I broke down the idea into parts and gave him what I thought was a brilliant example for each of these concepts:

  • The ability to control one’s feelings
  • Overcome one’s weaknesses
  • The ability to pursue what one thinks is right
  • Despite temptations to abandon it

Once he heard what I had to say, here’s how HE simplified the definition:

“So, even though I REALLY, REALLY WANT it, I can’t have it if you don’t think it is right.”

Not quite where I was going…

I cleverly tried using SUGAR as an example: “Which is right, a healthy snack or chocolate cake?”  He didn’t miss a beat: “Chocolate cake!”

Aha!  He had his own concept of what “RIGHT” meant, and it didn’t match mine.

Me: “Is eating sugar right?” (friendly inquisition)

Son: “Sure! I like it, so it’s right.” (smirky grin).

Light bulb moment for a mom!

“Has eating sugar ever done anything bad to you? Or made you feel bad in any way? “ I’m desperately trying out material to work with at this point.

He thought for a long while and came up with drinking a coke when I wasn’t around. His legs got weak and he couldn’t run as fast as the older boys.

Good!  “So how can that be right?” I asked, vainly thinking I had triumphed.

He looked at me thoughtfully for a beat and then asked: “Mom, what IS Sugar?”

WOW! How did I miss that lesson?? And I’d been preaching against sugar since he started solid food!

DUH!  By this time I’m all but silently kicking myself for not catching on to my own fundamental, and hard-learned lesson:

If he is “misbehaving” it generally traces back to wrong information his mind is using to make life decisions.

And this includes not knowing what the word SUGAR means!

He thinks something is “cool” so he does it, even if it’s annoying to adults. He doesn’t think it’s annoying, he thinks it’s cool! He thinks it’s the right thing to do. And until I can get him to get rid of the wrong information he is using as a substitute and basing his actions on, he’s going to keep doing it.

Okay, getting this idea across is going to take more work than I thought. But it will be well worth it in the end!




  1. This is a superb blog post! A very FUN & INFORMATIVE read, perfectly illustrated with really well-chosen photos!

    Truly a “light bulb moment” for this reader. Thanks for writing this.

    Ideas? GOOD DICTIONARIES for students of all ages, and grownups who know how to teach kids to use them.

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