Teaching the Discipline of Self-Improvement

Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, Sheridan House Family Ministries

The start of a new year usually begins with a few resolutions. Whether they actually follow through on the resolutions or not is a separate issue.

The thought of self-improvement and the discipline involved is a great training lesson for children and teens. The fact that I actually have in me the discipline to improve myself is an understanding that has been totally lost. When you ask today’s child, teen, or young adult what they would like to change this next year, they will almost always talk about a possession. Instead of changing themselves or improving themselves as a person, they immediately think of improving their things. “This next year I want to upgrade my iPhone.”


Talk about New Year’s Resolutions

Taking time during the month of January to talk about New Year’s Resolutions is a great training exercise. The discussion alone teaches our children that they can indeed make personal decisions to make improvements in their lives.

self-improvementMake it a discussion but make it fun. Growing up, during the first week of the new year, our family played a game at the dinner table. A big round cabbage was placed in the middle of the table with toothpicks sticking out. On each tooth pick was an item to be skewered and placed in a fondue pot. Also on each tooth pick was a small piece of paper with a question. Each person pulled the toothpick out of the cabbage, and while cooking the food they answered the question that was also on the toothpick.

Questions like “What was the best part of your year this past year?” or “What was the way you saw God working in your life last year?” filled the first part of the meal. Asking questions about setting goals for next year was next: “What would you like to change about yourself next year?”

These types of questions open doors for our children to see that you actually can make decisions to change or improve yourself. Today’s child only changes or improves himself because a parent chooses to force change. What happens when today’s child becomes an adult and move away from home?


Help making changes

Talking to your children and teens about New Year’s resolutions helps them to begin thinking about making personal improvements to their lives. That’s the beginning. Next, comes the power to make those changes.

Asking questions like “Do you think this change is something Jesus would want you to do?” The next step is one of the great training steps. “If Jesus wants you to make this change in your life, don’t you think He will help you make the change?”

Teaching a child that he or she can make these changes or improvements is very important. Even more important is for them to learn that they are not alone in the process “because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NIV).

Once a child identifies an area they would like to improve in their lives, then comes the prayer and personal discipline. Let’s say a child says, “I’d just like to be more organized in the mornings, so I don’t always leave for school in a bad mood.” This gives a parent the opportunity to help a child think through ways to do things the night before or put things in order the night before, etc. Then comes the prayer; the time of asking God for help to maintain the discipline to accomplish this self-improvement task.

Self-improvement’s importance

The process of admitting a personal need and planning for self-improvement is much more important than getting organized in the morning before school. This process is teaching tomorrow’s adults that they are not victims. That they can make changes in their lives and, most important, that they are never alone in their self-improvement projects. It’s all about teaching the process so that they are able when they are adults.


Visit parentingonpurpose.org for more advice from Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts.

For more articles by Dr. Bob Barnes and Torrey Roberts, visit goodnewsfl.org/author/dr-bob-barnes-and-torrey-roberts/

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