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How can we teach our children willpower?



María José Fuenteálamo - published on 03/11/20

This virtue is key for success in life, but it takes a little planning to help our kids develop it.

Doing their homework when they get home from school. Picking up their room before going to play. Practicing a musical instrument or training for a sport. Helping others. If you’re a parent, you’re might be struggling with your children in these situations. How can we help them decide correctly what they should do at each moment, and then follow through?

Experts give us a series of tips for raising out children to have willpower, to develop and maintain it, because it’s key to achieving success in life.

1Your example

The first tip—and you’ve heard it a thousand times—is to be a good example. If they see their father or mother throw themselves down after work on the couch and wait for other people to do everything for them, they won’t learn willpower. If you talk about order, but don’t preach with your example, you’re doomed to failure.

So in order to raise kids to have willpower, the first thing we as parents need to do is to put it into practice. We can, for example, teach them by our own actions if we want them not to snack between meals, to keep to a schedule, to respect the elderly … Opportunities for us to model good behavior are endless!


Children like order. They feel happy and secure when they know what comes next, Yes, they’re impatient by nature, but they also enjoy playing turn-taking games. Both at school and at home, they need to learn to wait, that not every desire must or can be satisfied immediately.

For example, if they want to watch a movie before doing their homework, you can teach them that it’s better to do indulge in screen time after schoolwork is done. They’ll even enjoy it more with the satisfaction of having finished their homework first.

By the way, I recommend that you don’t give your children a “day off” in these matters. Little ones often don’t understand the concept of exceptions and will demand them over and over again.

On top of that, gaining willpower takes time and repetition. Consistency is essential for willpower to take root. If we want a routine to be carried out naturally and with minimal stress, we should try not to break it.


Setting and sticking to clear priorities is fundamental to our lives and those of our children. When they are very young, we decide practically everything for them, but as they grow up, they start to make choices for themselves.

Life is filled with one decision after another, so it’s essential that our children learn to discern what is essential and what isn’t. We want them to easily differentiate between a want and a need, whether something is an obligation, and so forth. They can apply this discernment in little things, such as leaving dessert for after lunch, or making a consistent effort to practice a musical instrument. The sooner a person learns to prioritize, the more orderly their life and mind will be.


Forming a habit of planning complements the above points. It’s a combination of prioritizing what we need to do and being patient enough to do things in the right order, at the right time, and not always doing the most fun things first. Scheduling and planning are fundamental tools for the functioning of society, from school to business, at home and in each person’s life. Planning and organization make us more responsible and give us control over our lives.

We need to learn to follow through on the tasks that we’ve assigned to ourselves at the times that are best.

5Recognize achievements (and don't focus too much on mistakes)

Willpower brings its own rewards, but never forget to point out and praise the achievements of your children—or of other people around you. The satisfaction of achieving goals and establishing productive routines is fabulous, but if those around you also recognize your effort, you feel even more encouraged.

We want our children to be strong leaders as adults, and to achieve their goals without fear of effort and without laziness. To make that come true, let’s encourage them.

If they make a mistake, comfort them, sympathize with them, and help them learn from their failure. Don’t get mad or scold them excessively; making mistakes is how we all learn. With the help of willpower, their progress will make you proud of them—and even more importantly, they’ll be deeply proud of themselves.

Focused Woman Exercising

Read more:
You can actually develop unlimited willpower


Read more:
4 Virtue-building sports to encourage your teen to try

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