Simplifying Parenting: Teaching Kids Self-Control; Tips, Tools, & Resources .

By Tico+Tina

Last updated September 26, 2022

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This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Family Character Focus™
There are many things we wish we did better as a family, and this year we decided to simplify our process by doing one Family Character Focus™ each month, instead of trying to haphazardly work on 20 things at a time. Our theory is that we’ll feel less crazy that way and make better progress.

The goal of this focus is to arm you with resources to help you become a more self-controlled family(not just teaching the kids self-control, but mom and dad, too) in 1 month. There is no wrong way to do it – just look through the ideas and choose the things that fit your family and schedule best.

Becoming a Family with More Self-Control

It would appear on the natural front that self-control is a somewhat limited resource.

If you think about it, whenever you’re going through changes or put into new situations (a move, new job, getting married, new baby, etc. are all good examples), you’ll notice that you seem to have less self-control in areas where you normally might do better.

Everyone logically knows it’s not wise to try to do too many new things at once, but have you ever stopped to think about why?

Any time we start something new or try to make a new habit it takes self-control because we naturally fall into ways of doing things that are most comfortable to us (the old way that we’re used to). At some point our minds have enough – they don’t want to have to work so hard, and something somewhere has to give.

For those of us who believe in the redemptive power of Jesus’ resurrection and our new life in him, we know that we don’t have to be limited only to our natural self-control reserve, but it’s probably still wise to limit how many new things we try to work on at once – for ourselves and especially for our families.

This is actually a good example for some of why I think it’s better to have more of a concentration on one main area of character at a time, like we’re trying out with our family this year, rather than so many things all at once.

Tips, Tools, and Resources for Teaching Kids Self-Control | Family Character Focus, Make Room for Greatness


1. Read/Memorize Scripture

The best way to affect a real heart change is to renew our hearts and minds through Scripture, so this is definitely my favorite part of each month.

We’ve started using Scripture Typer on our phone, and I was truly amazed by how quickly the kids were both able to memorize a verse – in only 1 round of the exercises for memorization. We love it!

Here is a list of some great scriptures to read or memorize for this focus (I’m sure we’ll be doing this multiple times):

A PDF with these verses in a easy to cut out and use format is included in the Self Control Printables!

Get all the Self Control Printables Free!

2. Illustrate Effects of Losing Self-Control

I thought this was a great idea from Kids of Integrity. All you need to give your kids a great picture of losing self-control is a bottle or can of soda. Let them shake that baby up and watch it fizz all over the place. Give them the fun of cleaning it up, too  – after all, losing self-control can be a real pain to clean up 😉

3. Self-Control Exercises

There are lots of fun little exercises that can help kids practice self-control. I think as much as anything else it’s beneficial for them to learn to recognize that they have control over what they do, rather than blaming circumstances and other people.

  • The old-school Red Light, Green Light or Simon Says can be good games to practice thinking before doing. A challenging twist on Red Light, Green Light could be switching up directions to stopping on green and going on red.
  • I love the idea to have kids resist popping bubbles by keeping their hands on their knees, or passing musical instruments without making any music.

  • You could also try out the well-known “marshmallow test” on your kids, or switch it up a bit with your own variations like this video below demonstrates. We’re not Mormon, so I would completely disregard the last part, but the kids are so cute/funny that it’s my favorite of the videos I found.

This video also does a good job of illustrating how helpful accountability can be, in the cases of siblings being tested together.

4. Put the Ball in Their Court

If we’re the ones always controlling our kids’ decisions, they aren’t really learning any self-control.

Responsibilities obviously need to be age appropriate, but even a two year old can be given little choices that help them to gain confidence in themselves.

Something we do with our kids is help them manage their money through FamZoo, which allows you to pick an interest rate for their savings accounts. If they choose not to spend it frivolously at the dollar store, they are able to watch it grow and reap the rewards of their self-control.

5. Media

Sermons about self-control – TONS of options, but as always you’ll have to exercise your own discretion for what is true and good 😉

Keeping it light… but also easily annoying.

6. Use an Encouragement System

We’ve tried various methods to encourage good behavior over the years, but I would have to say that our favorite is using Deck of Awesome cards.

For this focus we would be watching for when our kids are doing a good job exercising self-control, and give them a card when they do an especially good job. Our policy has been that when they collect 10 cards they can turn them in for a quarter, but you can let the cards be the reward in itself, or do something special with them or give them a treat or something instead of money, and you can obviously change up the number of cards to whatever works best for your family. Something fun about these cards is that they also fit together to make a puzzle. They’re basically like the trading cards of good behavior 🙂

If you don’t want to purchase anything you can always make your own or use one of the many chart systems or come up with your own creative idea.

Helpful tidbits from here and there:

The Trick Smart People Use to Succeed

8 Areas to Practice Self-Control

This is a cool mind map graphic from Learning Fundamentals – head over there so you can read it!

self-control breakdown Teaching Kids Self-Control

Extra Resources

Don't give up what you want most for what you want now. ~unknown | quote, printable | Teaching Kids Self-Control

Get all the Self Control Printables Free!

A moment of patience in a moment of anger saves you a hundred moments of regret. ~unknown | inspirational quote, printable | Teaching Kids Self-Control

Get all the Self Control Printables Free!

Think Before You Act: Learning About Self-Discipline and Self-Control (Character Education Readers)



Help Me Be Good About Overdoing It




Too Loud Lily




Self-Control Thumball




Consequences board game




Dr. Playwell’s Anger Control Games




Have a great idea or resource we should add to this list? Let us know!

Check out focuses for other months here.

Get all the Self Control Printables Free!

More In Family Character Focus™Previous Post in the Series
Simplifying Parenting: Becoming a Respectful Family

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We're well-acquainted with being stuck in soul-sucking survival mode, and the intense internal friction of not living in alignment with your potential. We're all about discovering, creating, and sharing adulting cheat codes™ so you can level up faster! -David (Tico) & Chris(tina)

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