How can we teach self-discipline to kids?

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How can we teach self-discipline to kids?

Ironically, one of the best ways we can teach kids self-discipline or increase their own self-discipline is to give them unstructured time to play. And the reason why play gives kids self-discipline is if you think about it, what you need for self-discipline is to be able to listen to that little voice in your head that tells you what to do. And when kids are playing, they’re developing that voice in their head that directs them. So that direction is coming from an internal source. So they might be making up a game with the neighborhood kids and making up the rules and deciding how to follow those rules and they’re really directing themselves, and they need self-discipline to do it. They’re developing self-discipline through that imaginative play. Now this is really different from going to soccer practice, for example, where they have a coach who’s telling them what drills to do and all the direction is coming from an external source. So if we want kids who are really disciplined in a self-discipline kind of way, we need to give them lots of time to play.

Watch Christine Carter, PhD's video on How can we teach self-discipline to kids?...


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Christine Carter, PhD

Sociologist & Happiness Expert

A sociologist and happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, Christine Carter, PhD is the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. Dr. Carter also writes an award-winning blog for Greater Good, which is syndicated on the Huffington Post and Carter has helped thousands of parents find more joy in their parenting while raising happy, successful and resilient kids. Known for her parenting and relationship advice, Carter draws on psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and uses her own chaotic and often hilarious real-world adventures to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts in action.

After receiving her B.A. from Dartmouth College, where she was a Senior Fellow, Dr. Carter worked in marketing management and school administration, going on to receive her PhD. in sociology from UC Berkeley. Dr. Carter has been quoted in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle and dozens of other publications. She has appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” the “TODAY” show, the “Rachael Ray Morning Show,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “CBS Sunday Morning,” “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” and NPR.

Carter has been a keynote speaker at hundreds of events and professional groups. In 2010, she received an award from the Council on Contemporary Families for her outstanding science-based reporting on family issues. In 2011 she won Red Tricycle’s award for the “Most Awesome Parent Education,” and so far in 2012 she has been nominated for a Bammy Award and for an award from the American Sociological Association for public sociology.

Dr. Carter teaches parenting classes online throughout the year to a global audience on She lives with her family in Berkeley, CA.

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