Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Teaching Self-Control

If you are anything like me, you’ve had moments with your kids when frustration turns anger and words fly out of your mouth that you never meant to say. I’ve spent a bit of time (they are teenagers now) observing myself and researching what causes such outbursts.

So, here’s what I’ve learned about being a good parent. Let me warn you, it isn’t comfortable to hear. But, knowing these things and taking them seriously has helped me heaps!

In order to raise great kids, they need a solid foundation of self-control. Here are four facts to help build a self-control centre in ourselves and our children:

1. Parents, we are in charge.
2. When we ‘loose it,’ the thing we have lost is self-control.
3. Like us, our kids shine when they take charge of themselves.
4. Ultimately, the mature person has consistent self-control.

When we get angry with the kids, it is because we feel we have lost control of them. Little Lady throws a tantrum in the shops. Sir Serious asks “Why?” for the 150th time in three minutes. Mr Muscles tries to rip his sister’s hair out, again. The three angels leave a trail of madness and mayhem through the house. Before flipping your lid, pause and review the ‘self-control’ centre. When the kids are out of control, they are not out of OUR control, they are out of THEIR OWN control. Getting that clear in your mind releases you from taking offence.

They are acting ‘against’ who they are; not who you are!

As a parent, whether you realise it or not, you are on a different level to the kids. Not only are you bigger and older, you are the boss. The kids are the followers. They know you are in charge of what happens at home. Until they understand the boundaries, they will test them. We teach our kids (and learn along the way, ourselves) that “The only person who can control you is YOU!”

The best way to teach this is to model it. By taking ownership of our emotions we can realise, “Wow, I’m really upset about this!” Then we can choose to direct the fight/flight reaction caused by the stress into positive action – doing dishes, mowing the lawn, going for a walk. As we get better at moving from reaction into action, our kids will too. They learn from watching us.

Then we can talk about it; teaching our kids to ask, “What name does this feeling have?” “Why am I feeling it?” “What can I do instead?” “What can I do to make things right?” and finally, “What can I do next time this feeling comes?”

We learn the most difficult skills in life by watching others and then practicing it on our own. Self-control is one of these skills. To master it, it helps to see it mastered by someone around us. As adults, we need to model it. Stop blaming others for our loss of self-control and start taking charge of ourselves. The better we get at self-control, the better start in life we give our kids!

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.