Self-Discipline: What Is It All About? - Head's Blog

Posted on: 13/10/2017

I have used this phrase several times this half term with the students as we reflect on some of the standard etiquettes and behaviour expectations that we have at school.  These include many simple things: lining up without talking, walking between classes calmly and with a sense of purpose, coming down the stairs in Upper School sensibly and quietly, entering the assembly hall without chatting and with a sense of occasion, crossing the road between Lower and Upper School with a sense of awareness, controlling the impulse to shout out in class, avoiding interrupting others’ conversations and taking turns in the playground when playing games. These are basic expectations, which I am sure you also hope that your children can fulfil consistently, but it is these simple requirements which, on occasion, can pose some children the greatest challenge.   

So perhaps we should all ask ourselves: what is self-discipline? How can we help our pupils and how can parents help their children to develop self-discipline? To me, self-discipline is not a character trait, but more of a learned practice.  I believe it is crucial that we all help young children to keep learning and that we give them ample opportunity to develop their self-discipline. We should model self-discipline, provide scaffolding and support and give children ample opportunities for practice, just as we do in any other area of learning.

Many recent studies by psychologists have shown that there is a correlation between self-discipline and academic success.  In a study carried out by Duckwork and Seligman it was found that self-discipline was more important than IQ in predicting every outcome.

As parents and teachers, there are a few basics that can help us to help the children:

  • provide structure (have good routines)
  • be clear about what it is you want the children to achieve
  • if they are not displaying the behaviours you desire, describe the changes which may be required
  • implement appropriate consequences
  • praise good behaviour
  • be a good role model and model your own self-discipline!

We understand that it may take some children longer than others to learn how to be more self-disciplined and at St. Helen’s College we pride ourselves on focussing on the soft skills such as resilience, perseverance and self-discipline. Our pupils, in general, show wonderful self-awareness and a willingness to develop themselves personally for the benefit of themselves and their whole community. For any of our pupils to be successful in this, of course, it is crucial that home and school are working together to the same end.  I also ask those pupils who do display super self-discipline to help those who are finding it more difficult to support the process for their peers to develop their behaviour.

Over the half term break I encourage you to observe your child. Are they demonstrating that they are developing their ‘self-discipline? Do they understand what it means? Are they becoming self-aware? Please do take time to talk about ‘self-discipline’ with your children. It is very different from having ‘discipline’ at home or at school – we want our children to develop appropriate behaviour because they understand why, because it makes sense to them and because they can see the advantages of having good self-discipline.

I wish you all a lovely half term and I will endeavour to practise my self-discipline as I will be reminding all the staff to be self-disciplined too; to make sure that we all do switch off from work, rest, have family time to enable us to recharge for the next very busy half term, leading up to one of my favourite times of the year!

Mrs. Drummond