Self-Control for Children
Aside from salvation, there might not be anything more important in a life than self-control. Self-control touches every aspect of who we are including relationships, work, health, self-esteem, spiritual life, parenting, and marriage. The person who has learned self-control has a great potential to excel in these vital areas of life. Even beyond these benefits, the parents I observe enjoying their children are the ones whose children have an age-appropriate level of self-control. Often the miserable, angry parents are the ones who have children who are loud, wild, and demanding; they lack self-control.
Scripture has much to direct us to the importance of self-control. Here are a couple of examples:
“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Proverbs 16:32
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Ultimately, we need salvation and the Holy Spirit to help us with self-control, but we are all able to develop a degree of self-control, even children.
When does Mom begin helping her child learn self-control? I wonder if it isn’t early, quite early. As long as a child is allowed to do anything he wants with no boundaries, he is not given any opportunities for learning self-control. Boundaries are a tool you want to incorporate into your parenting.
Boundaries for Young Children
What kind of boundaries might we consider when working with young children?
- Sitting in his high chair with some toys to play with while meal clean up is going on.
- Playtime alone in a safe place.
- Sitting quietly and relatively still during family Bible time.
- Not interrupting a conversation.
- Speaking in a normal loudness of voice when talking.
- Running outside not inside.
- Staying in bed in the mornings until a designated get-up time.
- Not asking for things but waiting for them to be offered and given.
One of the greatest examples our family observed of starting to learn self-control at a young age was when our girls were asked to watch two babies about 6 or 7 months old while their mommies walked around the display hall at a homeschool conference. When the mommies returned, the babies saw them and both started to cry for their mommies. Our girls reached to give the babies back to their mommies, but the mommies said, “No, we won’t take them until they stop crying.” Even at that age with something so simple, these mommies were helping their children learn self-control.
Boundaries for School-Age Children
For your school-age children self-control might be:
- Staying in an assigned place to do their school work.
- Saving questions from their individual school work for a designated time rather than interrupting the school Mom is doing with a sibling.
- Completing assigned chores well and on time.
- Choosing to let others go first.
- Portion control when eating.
Self-control situations abound. When you start thinking about it, you will probably come up with more than you feel you have time to tackle. I want to assure you that each one you identify and work on will be a blessing to your child and to you.
My heart aches for those parents who have allowed their homes to be ones of misery because of ignoring this critical part of parenting. I want you to enjoy the fruit of self-control in your children’s lives, and right along with that, your children will enjoy not having angry, frustrated parents. I want your children to step into adulthood with all the advantages a life with self-control gives.