Where’s the Blessing: Self-Discipline or Self-Indulgence?

I love watching my married children raising our grandchildren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Steve and I are 1st generation Christians (we are grateful that both sets of our parents were eventually saved). Our children are 2nd generation Christians, and our grandchildren are 3rd generation Christians.

I thought I would share with you one specific example of what it might look like for a 2nd generation Christian to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. First generation Christians can follow this same path, but they don’t have an example from their own childhood to follow.

After being saved in our 20’s, as Steve and I grew in our walks with the Lord, we became convinced of the necessity and beauty of daily fellowship with Jesus Christ through reading His Word and praying. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). While we did that on a personal level, we also did it as a family. It became a habit, a part of our lives. That meant our children grew up, some from infancy, with daily, family Bible time. (See Steve’s Feed My Sheep for more information).

Now we observe in our married children’s homes that they also are having daily, family Bible time with their children, from infancy. Not only are these children hearing God’s Word every day and learning from it as they become old enough to understand Scripture on a child’s level, but they are developing the beginnings of self-discipline.

Which Parent is Happy?

Have you ever heard someone say, “He is just a child. Let him play and have fun”? What does that mean for a parent wanting to raise their child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Is there a switch that is flipped on an 18-year-old’s brain that suddenly turns him from a playing child to a responsible adult with self-discipline?

I can’t help but wonder if we have lost sight of the high prized godly quality of self- discipline in favor of the world’s philosophy of play. Whether the world likes it or not, there are serious consequences to lack of self-discipline. To the extreme the person without self-discipline can’t hold down a job, ruins his health by obesity, destroys relationships, has no spiritual depth, loses his possessions, and may even end up in prison.

What outcome do you want for your children, and when does it begin? What age do you start helping your children toward self-discipline? In our permissive-parenting age, it seems that boundaries to move a child toward self-discipline are discouraged. The parents I observe who are enjoying their parenting, are the ones with children who are learning self-discipline–not that the children are perfect, but they are moving in a positive self-discipline direction. The frustrated, angry parents are the ones with children who are out-of-control.

Self-Discipline Practice

At family Bible time, I see our grandchildren learning a measure of self-discipline, an important beginning. Many would say it is impossible for young children to be quiet, listen, and sit still for a period of time each evening in order to be part of a family Bible reading. In the household of our three married sons, though, we have seen that even though there are different parents, different children, and different standards, all eight of those children (ages newborn to eight) in those families are learning self-discipline. As they participate night after night in family Bible time, they are growing in their ability to control themselves and to make choices against what they might most naturally want to do–sit for a brief season. What a precious opportunity those parents have to not only build God’s Word into their children’s lives but also to be teaching them the beginning steps of self-discipline.

Children who can obey, who can sit still when necessary, who can be quiet sometimes, who will respond when spoken to are children who are happier because they aren’t in trouble all the time. They also make living with them much easier for their parents and siblings than children without those qualities. Not only is life today better in their families, but their future looks brighter.

Does Self-Discipline Bring Blessing?

I think Paul nicely describes self-discipline in these verses and why for a Christian, it is important. “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:25-27).

Could I encourage you that boundaries are beneficial for your children, even beginning at a young age? You will bless your children by giving them opportunities to develop and practice self-discipline. I love watching my little grandchildren in family Bible time–happy, secure, and self-disciplined! I know that self-discipline will be a life-long friend helping them and bringing them peace and joy.

Trusting in Jesus,
Teri Maxwell