Less Excuses, More Results: The Secret to Every Student's Success


One simple letter. The grade we never want to have to give. Are some students simply doomed to low marks forever? Can their brains only struggle to deliver D-level work? Why do some students sail through courses, while others struggle? While elements such as intelligence, aptitude, and memory play a role, surprisingly, something else is a greater indicator of the success of students.

“In…studies of both secondary school and university students, self-discipline has surpassed intelligence test scores to better predict school performance, attendance, and graduation honors. When combined with positive enthusiasm, sustained effort predicts success for teachers, too—with their students making good academic progress” (Duckworth et al., 2009). For school performance, “discipline outdoes talent,” concluded researchers Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman (2005, 2006).” (Myers and DeWall, pg. 375)

“Discipline outdoes talent.” Natural inclination may help, but discipline is what makes the difference. We have seen this as educators time and again. All too often, the students that are performing poorly are those who regularly procrastinate, do just enough to get by, or prioritize time for fun over responsibilities. How do we help our students learn to prioritize appropriately? How do we teach them not just knowledgeable information, but to handle responsibilities with care and excellence?

6 Tips to Teach a Student Discipline

1. Have them write things down.

The secret to remembering is creating reminders for yourself.
“The weakest ink is better than the best memory.” — Adrian Rogers

2. Show them how to use a to-do list.

Often, kids learn to make to-do lists, but they never learn what to do with them. Help them understand the importance of prioritizing the items on their list. Make sure they write it all down in a place they will remember or look at often.

3. Show them how to use a calendar.

Student planners are common now. Show them how to use them to create their personal schedule and make sure they aren’t scheduling fun things at times when they need to do work. If they don’t have a student planner, have them buy a paper calendar or use a free digital calendar. Make sure they understand the key to success in this area is referring back to the calendar and following it.

4. Teach them to set personal deadlines.

While authority figures in all of our lives, such as teachers or bosses, give us deadlines, it is our job to figure out when we can get it done. Have them practice writing out what assignments they have been given, then compare it to their personal schedule. Have them figure out when they will work on what and write it out on their calendar.

5. Encourage them to use alarms and reminders.

All smartphones and digital calendars have reminder features. Show students how to set them up. This is especially helpful for students who get distracted easily.

6. Do not accept every excuse.

We all understand life throws curveballs. However, the beauty of discipline is completing responsibilities amidst the ups and downs. Life never promised smooth sailing and expectations do not cease when difficult situations arise.

Developing students into disciplined individuals takes effort and time, but can produce great results. As semesters and years continue, they will be equipped to provide fewer excuses, experience less stress and present greater results; we educators will have the joy of not just the front-row whiz kid passing with flying colors, but celebrating the successes of more and more of our students.


Myers & Dewall. (2016.) Exploring Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.


Have you any other tips you use to keep kids focused and disciplined, either in the classroom or out? Let us know in the comments below.


Feature image courtesy of Flickr, greenplasticamy.

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