Teaching children self-discipline is a priority and concern for most parents. With COVID-19’s resurgence, and the likelihood of having to return to online learning, parents recognize the importance and urgency of instilling discipline in children with regards to their academic studies. Unable to look after their students at all hours of the day, parents must trust and rely on their children to manage and complete their academic responsibilities without parental supervision.
Last Sunday, 2 August, Danny Hwang, Founder & CEO of Point Avenue, led a webinar on “Lessons Learned from West Point: Why Teaching Self-Discipline to Children Now Matters More than Ever”. An alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point–an institution known for having produced many leaders in the military, public, and business sectors–Danny shared lessons learned from his time at West Point and guided parents on how to form discipline and healthy habits in children for lifelong success.
From Danny, parents must teach the value and practice of discipline at a young age. Specific to this, Danny advised focusing on three core pillars: 1) learning the value of hard work, 2) building healthy habits, and 3) investing for the future. It goes without saying that children first look to their parents to understand what’s important and what to emulate. Parents must use this teaching opportunity and platform to share their values and beliefs.
1.Learning the Value of Hard Work
As a child, Danny mowed the lawn as part of his house chores, often to the point where his hands blistered and bled. One time, Danny recalls asking his father if he could stop and rest his hands. To this, his father responded, “Put on gloves, and work until you’re done.” Danny’s parents used regular house chores to instill in their son two important life lessons. First, we must diligently work to grow and take care of all aspects of our life–whether this is mowing the lawn and studying for school exams or spending time with loved ones. It’s important that we spend time nurturing and building on what we have. Second, we must work to completion. That is, given a task and having developed a plan, we need to work to the best of our abilities to see that plan through. This is not saying that individuals shouldn’t take rest breaks or pivot when their plan fails. Danny’s parents wanted their son to understand the value of grit and not quitting. Nothing worth having comes easy.
2.Building Healthy Habits
If hard work is a prerequisite for success, developing and maintaining healthy habits focused on academic preparedness, extracurricular exploration, and personal growth will enable an individual to more quickly reach their goals. It is discipline that takes a single act of hard work and turns it into a healthy habit. Discipline is a choice… our choice. It is a decision. Better yet, all of our decisions. From an early age, Danny’s parents helped him make the right decisions and form healthy habits–habits which he maintains to this day. Simple habits such as completing homework immediately after school, working out individually after sports practice, washing dishes after dinner, and taking out the trash before settling in helped Danny develop the will and discipline to survive the grind at West Point and thrive in a relentless environment.
More importantly, adopting these healthy habits enabled Danny to more quickly take control of his life and helped him navigate the many challenges that would come. The philosopher Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” With healthy habits firmly ingrained, Danny went on to achieve top scores at West Point, in addition to serving on the school’s student government and competitive skydiving team.
3.Investing in the future
We generally all want the best things in life. More importantly, we want them now. It is important that parents help their students learn the value of patience and making decisions that forego short term gratification for long term rewards. Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out. When Danny’s father promised him, “I’ll give you a penny for every page you read,” he did not intend for Danny to read for money. Instead, Danny’s father used this motivation to incentivize Danny to improve his reading comprehension, develop a deep reading habit, and explore a world of knowledge that would aid him in the future.
As parents, we need to help our students invest in their future and focusing their current efforts on: academic preparedness, extracurricular exploration, and personal growth.
Academic Preparedness: Parents must ensure that their students commit time to building foundational knowledge across all academic subjects, such as Math, Science, Language and Literature, and Social Science. We don’t need to force our children to be the best in every subject; however, they need to acquire basic knowledge to learn how to think critically and problem-solve. More effectively, parents must help their students identify their academic strengths and interests. Having identified both, we must encourage and support our children to take on more advanced and challenging courses related to those interests.
Extracurricular Exploration: Parents must encourage and support their children to become leaders in their areas of interest. It’s important to encourage children to explore their interests by joining communities of like-minded people, such as school clubs, service organizations, sports teams, and academic competitions. It’s natural for students to sift in and out of different activities and communities as they are exploring. As parents, it’s important to support our children’s decisions; at the same time, we must teach our students about commitment and giving something an honest try. Upon joining an activity, it’s imperative that children remain committed to it for at least one year. This is the minimum time required to explore an activity and develop an informed opinion–on top of learning different roles and responsibilities.
Personal Growth: Parents must encourage and support their students to research, read about, and seek advice from experts in their children’s areas of interest. It’s important that we empower our students to take charge of their own learning by teaching them to be deliberate in how they grow their knowledge, skills, and experiences. Within their children’s communities, parents must encourage–sometimes challenge–their students to take up greater roles and responsibilities. In turn, this will help their children acquire new knowledge and skills, preparing them for future challenges and opportunities. Simultaneously, parents must open new doors for their students by helping them discover new opportunities outside of their communities to further aid their children’s personal growth. Overtime, and all together, these investments will help shape our students to become leaders in their areas of interest.
With the pandemic resurging, and the high likelihood of returning to online learning, parents must help their students develop and maintain academic and personal discipline by establishing support systems.
We can’t expect our children to cope with this new learning environment and thrive without showing them what right looks like and how to succeed. It’s imperative that parents use the new academic year to explore different systems and processes to better support their students’ learning. To this end, setting clear expectations and reinforcing healthy habits are key.
Throughout our Summer Term, Danny and his online-based students initiated their morning classes at 6:30 AM with a high-intensity interval training workout. Exercising causes the body to release endorphins, triggering a positive feeling. Working out early doesn’t just improve our fitness, it helps us mentally prepare for the remainder of the day. Another key tip Danny shared with parents is to try and align their work schedule with their student’s learning schedule. Both parents and students should work in chunks (dedicated time blocks) and take rest breaks together. Children are more inclined to work when working alongside their parents. Additionally, this allows for both parents and students to catch up and relax together during their breaks and meals.
Lastly, Danny shared that parents must make time at the end of their day to recap their student’s learning and ensuing activities. It is not enough to allow teachers to teach and students to learn on their own. Parents must follow up with their children’s homework assignments, exam preparation, and overall learning progress. “Following up” doesn’t mean to simply ask students if they’ve completed their tasks. Rather, parents should use these opportunities to have the children teach what they recently learned (i.e. math concept, grammar rule, history lesson). This provides a check on learning and helps instill confidence.
The word “discipline” is often associated with “punishment”. At Point Avenue, we don’t believe that punishment, or negative reinforcement, is the most effective way to educate children. Rather, we teach that discipline is a choice to do the right thing and to invest in greater long term rewards. As parents, we must help our children develop and maintain discipline so that they are prepared to meet current and future challenges.
Parents are invited to follow the official Point Avenue Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/PointAvenue to get updates on our upcoming events. If you have any questions, please message us directly at https://m.me/PointAvenue or call our hotline: 0905685809 for assistance.