Self-control can be hard – for anyone. I believe it is one of our greatest human strengths - just after love. God has blessed most of his children with this ability. There are some that are afraid of the "self" part… using the excuse that if we rely on "self" we are not "with" God. I would ask you to consider the scriptures 1 Cor. 10:13, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Tit. 2:12, 2 Tim. 1:7, Gal. 5:23. I find Proverbs 16:9 is of most help, "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." The key point, to me, is that we have been given the chance to choose our path. In my mind we are actually EXPECTED to have self-control. However, we are not to be self absorbed. We rely on our faith to guide us, and to help us avoid the temptation of self absorption.
Self-control is a JOURNEY. It is not a SWITCH that you can turn off and on – that you can FIX with a simple attitude change. Why is it that some children seem to have more self-control than others? Ah…NOW I know the question I will ask when I head upstairs to see THE Boss! :) Yes, some children are "wired" to be more patient, more thoughtful of their choices. However, our chemical makeup, environment, intelligence, diet, authority figures… all play significant roles when learning and maintaining self-control.
As parents and educators, it is our job to teach our children the techniques that can help them learn self-control. We want them to be able to adjust to the expectations around them. It CAN and WILL be a difficult task, but our CHILDREN are WORTH it! Consider a few additional areas of importance with regard to self-control.
We are dealing with excessive ENTITLEMENT issues in society today… THAT topic can be covered in a complete 6 week series – so I can't address it sufficiently in this blog. I have listed many helpful entitlement articles on blottcom.com and I encourage you to TRULY assess if your family has fallen into the "Entitlement Trap". Don't worry, I won't tell anyone if you answer YES and need to improve. :) My family, all families have been victim of over indulgence and expectations that are unreasonable.
We are also dealing with a large number of children with attention challenges today. Again, I don't plan to get into the "why" of this subject, I will leave that to the experts. Rather, I will say - it is what it is. HOW we adapt, teach, discipline to this challenge is our choice as adults. Again, on my website I have posted multiple articles on parenting and teaching the child with ADD - ADHD. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to provide an excellent environment for teaching all children the GIFT of self control. I encourage you to brush up on some of these techniques… it will help you become a better parent or teacher and ultimately help the child with a life skill that children NEED so they can adequately adapt to their surroundings.
Studies show that making decisions seem to deplete one's self control. What does this mean? If we are pushed to make multiple decisions over a time period, then it becomes harder to have self control. A dieter may easily avoid a doughnut for breakfast, but after a long day of difficult decisions at work, he has a much harder time resisting that piece of cake for desert. Or consider an example of losing your temper. Normally, you refrain from responding negatively to unpleasant things with your spouse. But one day you are particularly depleted – maybe stress at work or with your children – and you erupt at your spouse. Your self-control strength was at full capacity, so you lost self-control.
Are you ready for this? Research indicates that the average person spends three to four hours a day resisting desires (using their self control). In addition, self-control may be used for other things during the day, such as controlling thoughts and emotions, and task performance. So most people are challenged many times a day, all day.
Put yourself in your CHILD'S shoes. Can you see why they need time to NOT have self-control? A better question, can you understand why they LOSE self-control in the first place? I encourage you to assess this topic in your home or your classroom. Are there REASONABLE expectations for your children when it comes to self control? Do you have ANY expectations? Are they CLEAR to the child? As a parent, do you feel you might RESTRICT their personality when expecting them to have self control? Does this result in NO CONTROL of the child? WE NEED CONTROL – it can cause the greatest accomplishment in our lives, and the biggest disappointment. Finding the balance is key – and why we must teach our children the importance of it.
This IS a tough topic. But human beings (including children) feel a NEED to improve themselves, and in order to improve, we have to learn some amount of self-control. I'm still working on it in my life… so I know it is hard for me to MODEL and TEACH it to my child. But as I often tell my classes – "You have a choice, you can keep raising your child and do their BEST (in actions, not just words) OR you can hand your child over to the "world" and they can raise him or her…based on THEIR expectations of right and wrong. My husband and I have decided that as much as we like most of the people in this world... we still feel WE KNOW BEST and so we are going to TEACH, MODEL and therefore EXPECT self control from our child.
Did I mention it's a journey? :)
Blessings to you my friend!
Brandi R. Lott