Tough love: Good self-discipline starts at home
Rebecca Seow, mother of two
4 minutes
Rebecca Seow, mother of two

Photos taken in collaboration with Kerry Cheah, featuring one of our ParentWise families

Self-discipline, in both my and my husband's opinion, is a crucial value that needs to be taught from young.

As much as a school environment can instil this, the rightful responsibility falls back on us parents, who are the greatest influencers of our children.

Discipline is needful so that good habits can be formed. This allows us to build positive attitudes and impart skills that are expected for their ages. Discipline brings everyone out of their comfort zone, making them resilient and independent individuals.

Helping out at home is the responsibility of every family member. Right from the time when our children were toddlers, we would verbalise to them how the chores at home are handled, especially when they needed our attention when we are in the middle of a chore, such as ironing the clothes.

As Mum, I would intentionally teach my children to pick up chores that are age appropriate. This is a chart I found online that I use as a reference.

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One of the first chores they learnt was to hang their wet laundry on the clothes rack. I did the same task alongside them, so modelling took place. They observed and they followed the steps carried out.

Their actions were clumsy and the clothes were not straightened when hung, but my intention was simply to nurture a habit from scratch.

Through subsequent attempts, they only proved to get better. As Dad, my husband would make sure that my children were thorough in their chores and made sure that they redid their task if it was not up to standard.


Having discipline in the home ensures that we do not take one another for granted. We emphasise the importance of treating everyone with respect and consideration.

Respect is shown through words such as "please", "thank you" and "sorry", and we teach it as an automatic response when the situation calls for it.

In our family, we seek each other’s forgiveness regardless of seniority.

There was once when I prepared lunch for my son, I absent-mindedly added chilli flakes into his food. He teared uncontrollably while eating and was in agony for a long time. I felt terribly sorry and apologised to him for my oversight. I also sought his forgiveness by preparing another bowl of food for him.

In our family, we seek each other’s forgiveness regardless of seniority.

We also taught our boys how to be considerate of others, especially in the area of practising restraint with regards to their noise level. As a home tutor, I conduct lessons a few times a week and the students who come over require a conducive environment to learn.

Being young and impulsive, their interactions can be loud and sometimes interruptive. Through much refinement, we came up with a set routine that the boys will follow throughout the duration where I am conducting lessons in the study room.

Again, establishing such a habit took time and perseverance on my end, and effort from my boys.


Ultimately, we believe that habits form a person. So, my husband makes an effort to introduce a new "challenge" to our boys once every six months, during the June or December holidays.

During the "challenge", he would come up with a list of habits that we have discussed and would like to instil in our boys by getting them to practise doing them during the holidays, over 14, 21 and now, 28 consecutive days.

The list would include tasks such as: * 1. Drinking a cup of water at each meal (to emphasise hydration) * 1. Doing house chores (to help around in the home) * 1. Brushing teeth and washing face with soap (to stress on hygiene practices)

During "challenge" seasons, the accomplished tasks that eventually led to habits formed would be replaced with other tasks in the following challenge.

Each time a task is completed, my boys will paste a sticker against the task on the chart as a visual representation of their journey.

Establishing habits take time and perseverance on my end, and effort from my boys.

As my boys get older and more independent, our parental journey of inculcating self-discipline in them will not stop.

We will continue to share, show and model different aspects of discipline as the years go by. By then, we hope that by setting a good foundation now, it will pave an enjoyable journey for us to parent them into adulthood.

Rebecca Seow is an educator with two boys who are 5 and 8 years old. She takes delight in going outdoors to appreciate nature and enjoys playing the piano. Check out her

about being a mummy with many hats.

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