Self-Control & Children: 6 Amazing Techniques!

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6 Amazing Ways to Cultivate Self-Control In Your Kids!


So let’s just be real for a sec. Staying at home with your children can be boring –am I right? And boredom inevitably leads your kids to what my husband calls “the tornado of losing self-control!”

And I’m not saying it’s boring because there’s not enough to do because trust me, I know there is ALWAYS something to do. But if your kids aren’t occupied than they are likely plotting ways to overthrow your house with chaotic glee and bring your home into the dark ages –for reals though!

So how do we as moms combat what appears to be mundane to our children? How do we get the satisfaction of feeling accomplished during the day while still keeping the little ones from biting the furniture?

The Solution : Structure

I have found a life-changing method that does the trick. Honestly, when I started implementing this solution I realized that it not only keeps your child in self-control, it teaches them to value self-control!  The self-control solution that helps the best is giving my children structured playtime. I know, I know, this doesn’t exactly seem to connect but just stick with me.

Picture this scene with me. Three children ages six and under playing in their house, no direction or boundaries. They just get to play with whatever they choose, whenever they want. What did you see? I personally just experienced a slight panic attack. Ok that’s a little dramatic, but seriously, children need structure and boundaries, otherwise there is no knowing what kind of damage they could do to a home (not to mention each other).

I have talked to so many moms about this and we all seem to agree, but the idea of structured play time and implementing it are two VERY different things. So if you want some help on how to structure each day with self-control for your kids, keep reading!


Why Does Structure Improve Self-control?

First, I want to talk about the benefits of structuring out your children’s day. Not only does structure keep order in your home, it keeps order in your child’s heart.

When we give our kids a free-for-all they tend to have no understanding of how to control themselves. This is what we call losing self-control!

The biggest difference I see in kids who have structured time throughout the day and those that do not is the ability to have self-control. Children (obviously) are not born with self-control, it is something that we as the parents need to teach our children.

I believe that self-control can begin being taught to our children from day 1 with sleep-training. After all, sleep-training is successful because it focuses on structure. And…

Intentional, consistentparent-directed structure over long periods of time creates a value for self-control in the heart of your child.

From there –when they are still very little you can begin implementing the magic of structured play times and you can continue teaching them self-control through developing daily routines. The first thing I always advise to mommas looking to to begin with their babies is what I call playpen time.

1. Playpen Power

Playpen time is really simple. You can begin this time when your baby is as young as two months old. You simply lay your baby in the playpen with a toy or two. Set the timer for five minutes and leave the baby alone. You can keep an eye on the baby just don’t let the baby see you (VERY IMPORTANT)!

Side note: check out the playpen we use every day! We’ve had lots before but we love this one because its sooo easy to move through doorways without having to repack it and unpack it two minutes later (silly I know, but small things make a big difference). My husband Josh loves how simple and easy it is to use!

Link: Graco Pack N’ Play Playard Nimble Nook

You want to create an atmosphere of independence for the baby. Make sure the timer is set where the baby can hear it go off and use the same timer every time. When the timer goes off get your baby up and celebrate how great of a job your baby did. The next day do the same thing, everyday increasing the time until you get them up to 45-60 minutes.

I always suggest having playpen time at the same time everyday so that the baby knows what to expect and doesn’t get thrown off of their routine. The morning time usually seems to work the best for us.

2. Transitioning to Blanket Time

Now from here you can move onto blanket time as the baby gets older. Blanket time is essentially the same thing but, you guessed it, its on a blanket instead of a playpen.

The reason you would move your baby from playpen time to blanket time is to show them that they can handle having boundaries on their own using self-control.

Find a few toys and/or books that your child really enjoys and set them on the blanket. Tell them its blanket time and set the timer. As you transition to blanket time your child will most likely try and test the boundaries by crawling/walking off the blanket.

If the child does leave the blanket give a small discipline, set the child back on the blanket and leave the room. Make sure you can see the child but the child cannot see you, again creating a sense of independence. You are essentially teaching your child that they have the ability to have self-control and self-discipline.

Celebrating Small Victories in Self-Control

Now you may be thinking ‘my child would never be able to do this, especially for an entire hour!’ But let me assure they can! I guarantee it! Its really up to YOU to teach them. Start with simple goals, like five minutes. Always celebrate their achievement when they are done.

Soon (trust me) your child will love their structured playtime and will be asking for it! Just imagine going over to a friend’s house to chat and setting up a blanket for your baby and having a full hour uninterrupted! Or imagine how much you can get done at your own house while your child is having independent playtime! And this is just the start of it.

There are so many other structured play times that you can create for your child! Right now I have a four year old, two year old, and newborn baby to create structure for everyday while my six year old is at school. Here is a list of four other common structured play times my children take part in.

3. Book Time

I set the timer for 20 minutes. Each child gets a pile of books and their own designated spot in the living room –separate from each other– to look at books. They do not get to get up from their spot until the timer goes off. When the timer goes off it is their responsibility to put the books away. At first, they might not want to clean up the books. Simply tell them it’s their job to do and help them out a little the first couple of times. Gradually, they will learn this responsibility and you can even begin applying the same principles to other times clean up is needed! Imagine how happy their future spouse will be to find that they’ve fully developed the habit of cleaning up after themselves!

4. Art Time

Almost everyday I get out the box of art supplies and let them be as creative as they want to be for a designated amount of time. Again, I set the timer and they are not allowed to get up until after the timer goes off. Sometimes the day calls for 20 minutes, sometimes 30 or longer. Whatever the amount of time you choose, having structured art time not only teaches self-control but also research has shown that artistic activity is fundamental to brain growth and function (check out this article by AASA).

Also: These art pads are da bomb (do other people still say that)! Our four year old son Zeek uses them all the time and I love getting them for him because he enjoys art so much.

Link: Melissa & Doug Drawing Pad

4. Snack Time

This one is kinda obvious but something I find works great is having snack time at the same time every day. Otherwise, my children end up asking for snacks all day long (and yes, it is SUPER annoying). Since I’ve started doing regular on-the-clock snack times, they know that there is a designated snack time (10am) and I’m not going to budge on that time. The result? They aren’t asking for snacks every second of everyday.

Here’s how I structure snack time and meal times too: I always have my children eat at the table and they are not allowed to get up unless they ask to be excused.  Period. This has proven to be very beneficial during meal times, it allows us to eat as a family without having children get up and down from the table, running around and generally not adding to an atmosphere of peace during mealtime.

5. Lego Time

Ah… yes –legos, the bane of adult feet everywhere! Our children love their legos (apparently my husband does too, haha) and I personally do not want them all over the house! So we have a few bins of legos and during lego time I take out one bin and let them build for a designated amount of time. When they are done with lego time they clean up all the legos and put the bin away (remember, we are helping train them to clean up after themselves as this also builds a value for self-control).

6. Room Time

We have two bins of toys in our hallway closet. During room time our children are allowed to have one bin of toys in their room that they can play with and they are not allowed to leave their room during this time. When the timer goes off –you guessed it– they put all their toys back in their bin. Make sure they keep the door open during room time so you can always listen for them.

Anytime Can Be A “Time”

These are just a few suggestions of how you could structure your day with your children. You are free to structure any “time” yourself with the same techniques in mind. Find the right times that work for you each week –and remember the key is to STAY CONSISTENT! 

After dinnertime, I usually allow my children to just have free playtime and we all generally hang out together. Even with four children on different schedules, I am able to get a lot accomplished during my mornings because of these structured play times. My children enjoy themselves and our home remains “put together”.

If I didn’t implement these structured play times and teach my children how to entertain themselves then I could only imagine that my day would be much more chaotic. This allows me time to get things done that I need to do. Every time I include structured play time, I can keep my house clean, do laundry, bake, prepare meals, etc. and by the time my husband comes home from work I don’t have much else to accomplish. I get to set goals for the day and then cross them off my list. I have a sense of accomplishment and it is wonderful.

Structured play time is so beneficial to your children, but it is also a blessing for you as a mom. I have experienced so much freedom during my day because of this simple concept. I want to encourage you to try it out and see what happens! You can start with a child of any age. You may experience some resistance to the structure if you child is not used to it. But –trust me– within a few weeks you will be so happy you tried it, I promise you!

Be blessed today mommas!

(Full transparency: every so often, I use affiliate links for paid products on this site which means we get a small commission for referrals. It doesn’t change the actual cost of anything but doing so allows me to maintain and improve We are a Non-profit 501c3 and we contribute all funds to the mission and vision of Parachute Mom)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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