Recharging children’s willpower

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Children’s willpower is like a rechargeable battery; it starts the day full and slowly drains away to nothing, before sleep recharges it for the next day.  How quickly your child’s battery runs flat depends in part on their character, how much their willpower has been used throughout the day, and whether they have regularly visited a recharge station.  A typical school day can deplete their battery very quickly; suppressing natural tendencies to let their mind wonder, fidget, talk, and play takes a great deal of willpower to control.  This is why most children are reluctant to start their homework as soon as they get home; they have little or no charge left in their battery!  Here are five simple ways to ensure your child’s battery has enough charge to get them through their day:

1. Give your child regular breaks

Research has shown that when children go from one perceived unpleasant task to another their willpower is low.  It is therefore best to avoid asking children to start their homework as soon as they get home from school, instead give them a chance to recharge with a snack and some down time before your agreed ‘homework time’.

2. Play games which promote self-control

Games which encourage children to listen to instructions and suppress their natural instincts to behave in a particular way are fun ways of practicing self-control.  Musical statues is a good example as your child must stop dancing when the music stops, and stand as still as a statue.  Once they have mastered the game, switch it around so they have to stand still when the music plays, and dance when the music stops.

3.  Reward your child’s ability to delay gratification

Create an environment where waiting for what you want is rewarded.  Instead of responding to your child’s every need immediately, foster an ethos of waiting.  Simple strategies such as not snacking before meals, saving pocket money, or doing chores to earn the money to buy a toy, not interrupting when you are talking etc all promote willpower.

4. Promote the right mindset

By consistently rewarding your children’s efforts, rather than the outcome, you help build a mindset which sees practice as the key to success.  No-one is born with infinite willpower, it is something which we must practice regularly if we are to master our natural impulses to seek out pleasure, and avoid tasks which we see as chores.

5. Model emotional regulation

How we deal with emotionally charged situations teaches our children important lessons in self-control and willpower.  If we fly off the handle when we sit in traffic or something breaks then we are teaching our children to act impulsively.  However, if we state our annoyance and frustration, but regulate our emotions, our children learn to accept challenges as part of everyday life.

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