Monday, April 8, 2013

Training Self-Control In our Children


As we all know, just as soon as one speaks her opinion about things regarding a child's behavioral training, her children will be sure to show themselves royally to NOT possess that particular quality. Tongue in cheek. That being said, I shall charge forward with my eyes squeezed shut, because this bee has been buzzing in my bonnet for quite some time, demanding to be let out!  :)

One of the most important, and possibly THE most important, trait(s) that we can teach our children is self-discipline. I'm not talking about discipline, as in correction of bad behavior, but discipline as in self-control. As in, the ability to control or restrain oneself from one's self or one's actions. The ability to say, "Yes, I want to ____, but I shouldn't, so I am not gonna. No matter how bad I want to." The ability to sit, and wait, patiently, without complaining or demanding gratification. The ability to stand in line and wait one's turn without trampling over everyone else around you. These things go against the very nature of a child, which is to think of oneself before any and all others. It is ingrained in them. They are born with it. It is our job, as parents, to un-train this selfish impulsivness. Undisciplined children produce undisciplined, pouty adults. A pouting child may be cute, but take a gander at a pouty adult.

(Sorry--I couldn't resist). >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Now, I'm no Debi Pearl or Michelle Duggar. I am not there yet, and don't claim to be. But I have asked the Lord in prayer, over and over, for wisdom and an understanding heart in training my children. This, combined with having four children of my own, has lead me to realize some practical, day-to-day exercises to develop self-control in my children:
  • Do not appease or reward a child who is demanding you to do something for them. Please, Mama, do not grant the demand of a child, only their request. Isn't it much more pleasant to hear your child ask, "Will you peel my apple?" than, "Peel my apple!". Yikes! 
  • Teach them to wait. Who likes to wait? Not me! But it is a fact of life. We have to wait in line at the bank, the grocery store, the doctor's office (groan). Wouldn't it better to learn to wait patiently while one is young? We wouldn't have to deal with all the rudeness from the adults waiting along with us! The best way to teach a child to wait patiently, is to make them wait! The louder a child complains and/or whines about waiting, the longer they must wait. For example, you are washing dishes and your 3 year old wants you to peel an apple for her. It is tempting to dry your hands and get the task done and over with so as to appease your child, I know. But this is a wonderful opportunity to train her in self-control. Tell her, "Go get your stool and sit right here while Mama finishes washing all the glasses. Then I will peel your apple." If she whines and/or pouts while waiting, then take your time, and move on to the plates. Tell her, "Mamas do not peel apples for whiny little girls. Only for little girls who wait with a sweet smile." If she cheerfully sits and waits, then reward her with the apple, and maybe a couple of chocolate chips go with it, and lots of praise!  

  • Break their "Me First!" will. "So the last shall be first, and the first last..."(Matt 20:16) I quote this verse to my children often, probably daily. We have a little problem with our two eldest children racing to the van, trying to be the first to jump in the front seat, anytime we go anywhere. To discourage such selfishness, I have begun to put the person who gets there first in the very back of the van. And if child number two gets a "Na-na", attitude, they will join their sibling on the back bench! Another example: If there are several children who are waiting for a popsicle, and they are all yelling out their color of choice, explain that they must wait until they are asked which color they want, and refrain from yelling out of turn. Anyone who yells out of turn will get theirs, last. They may not get it the first time around, but after a few waits at the freezer door, it will begin to sink in :). 

 A note to grandparents: I have noticed that grandparents (Hi, Mom!) are the worst at dishing out instant self-gratification to children. I urge you, please think about what you are doing. Yes, I know grandparents are supposed to spoil their grandchildren, but what kind of child are you producing by doing so? The spoiled, ungrateful, demanding kind! Stop letting your grandchildren run you ragged and start teaching them some self-control!

  • Teach them daily habits.  Requiring your children to adhere to daily grooming and chore habits go a long way in teaching self-control. Brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and putting on their shoes before they go outside are good things to implement into their daily routine. If you allow your children to be lax in these things now, they will be much more so as adults. Who wants to see a grown man or woman grungeing around in stringy hair and pjs at 2:00 in the afternoon? Is speaks of lack of self-respect and self-control. Now, we all enjoy a slow, rainy day every now and then, but when there is absolutely no requirements for grooming, sloth will soon be at your door.
  • Undisciplined children will result in undisciplined Christians.  What we need more of in this day and hour, and the ones to come, are disciplined Christians. Disciplined in prayer, disciplined in studying the Word. Disciplined in saying "no" to sin. This, my friends, is the most serious reason to teach our children self-control. The best kind of soldier, is a disciplined soldier. Let's equip our little souls to be good little soldiers for our Lord. Get to work, Mama!

p.s. I hope you enjoyed the pics of these adorable little pouts! I sure enjoyed finding them!