teacher solving a problem

You know why self-control is so important to bullying prevention, but how can you get your students to start making real changes in their life? How can they improve their level of self-control to aid in bullying prevention? It is impossible to instigate change without developing good habits. For you students to develop a higher level of self-control they need to change some of their habits. Changing a habit is possible, but not easily achieved. It takes hard work, patience, and persistence. In this post, we discuss five habits that will ultimately lead to a greater level of self-control. Help your students to develop these habits to increase their self-control.

Change Your Thinking

Student thinking

The first habit that your students need to develop is to change the way they think. In order to improve their self-control, they must believe in their ability to do so. This belief is known as self-efficacy.

Albert Bandura, in his book Self-Efficacy: Exercise of Control, explains personal self-efficacy as: the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute a course of action required to produce desired results. In other words, personal self-efficacy is the belief one has in their ability to accomplish a goal. The higher a person’s self-efficacy the more likely they are to set goals.

Self-control is highly affected by an individual’s level of self-efficacy. When self-efficacy is high, individuals believe they have the capabilities to achieve their goals. If self-efficacy is low, individuals do not believe in their capabilities to achieve, and as a result, goals will not be set. A high level of self-efficacy results in students working to develop higher levels of self-control. Low perceived self-efficacy results in low self-control. Self-efficacy is important in any conversation on growth, change, and self-improvement because it often determines the success of the change process.

Learn to Control Emotions

developing self-control

In order for your students to develop self control they must govern their emotions. Controlling emotions is about preventing the emotional brain from taking over and dictating behavior. To do this effectively, students need to use their cognitive brain to make decisions. Daniel Goleman, in his book Destructive Emotions: How We Can Overcome Them, provides insight into how people can learn to control their emotions. He advocates a program developed by Mark Greenburg for controlling emotions called PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies). This program has been proven to be successful and includes the following basic premises:


1. Emotions are an important signal. Emotions or feelings are connected to behavior. Having emotions and feelings is normal. It is how people react to what they are feeling that is important. People should use reason and logic to consider their emotions and make decisions about how to behave.

2. It is important to separate feelings from behaviors. Feelings and emotions are okay. Your students need to learn what kinds of behaviors or actions can be used when certain feelings or emotions occur.

3. Remain calm. This is an important habit for students to develop because they cannot think clearly when they are emotionally upset. This is key to self-control control. When a situation occurs that has a potential emotional reaction, it is important to learn to remain calm and sort out the details before acting.

4. Always use the Golden Rule. This is classically known as the “Treat others the way you want to be treated” rule. This is a good habit to develop for self-control because it brings perspective to a person’s thoughts and actions. It can help prevent emotions from taking over and causing people to hurt or violate others.

Mark Greenburg’s ideas for self-control are summarized by using a traffic light.

traffic light

Red light: Take a long deep breath, calmly state the problem and how you feel about the problem.

Yellow light: Think about what could you do to solve it. How should you act? Will this action work?

Green light: Try out your best idea. Finally, how did it work?

Motivate Self

Motivation and self-control are inseparable. When someone exercises self-control it is the result of their desire or motivation to control their actions. Their thoughts create motivation to decide upon actions and make choices. In order to reach the goal of improved self-control your students will need to be able to keep themselves motivated. Here are some things they can do to motivate themselves:

  • Associate with positive, motivating people
  • Learn to understand what motivates them
  • Learn to set goals and obtain them

Deal with Mistakes

Another habit that your students need to develop is to deal with their mistakes appropriately. Mistakes are part of the human experience. It is very important for your students to recognize that they will make mistakes on their journey toward self-control. It is how they respond to their mistakes that is important. There are four key factors to consider when attempting to learn from mistakes.

Recognize that a mistake and remember that everyone makes mistakes.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes so that you can move on and correct them.
Use visualization to help remove the negative thought process that occurred and which resulted in making the mistake in the first place.
Keep a diary of the times you felt pretty good about yourself.

Be More Assertive

group of students

Assertion is the ability to state clearly one’s needs and wants while looking out for the rights of others. It is the effective communication and leadership style typified by clear and open communication, careful listening, and respect for oneself and others. Assertion is a characteristic of great leaders, team members, spouses, parents, teachers and friends.

With self-control it is important for students to learn to choose assertion as their communication style. Assertion is a positive choice in that it helps communicate wants and feelings to other people. Assertive people tell others what they want and need in a clear, confident way. A lack of assertion results in self-defeating behaviors that have a negative impact on the development of self-control.