Over the past 2 weeks I have been covering the values that we, as parents, can instill in our children to build emotional strength and security in their lives. The first value I talked about was gratefulness and the second value was responsibility. If you have not had a chance to read these, be sure to catch up.
The next value I hope is engraved deeply in my kids is self-control. This is the capacity to set aside the immediate gratification of personal desires for the sake of a long-term good. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
The fruit of the Spirit are indicators that the Spirit of God is at work in somebody’s life. The final one is self-control. An indication that God is in work in somebody’s life is they are no longer a victim at the mercy of whatever impulse grabs them. However, this is not true when they first enter the world. When a human being is born, he or she is a bundle of appetites and impulses: a hungry child wants to be fed, a scared child wants to be held, and a hurt child wants to hurt someone back. These tendencies do not go away by themselves. Someone needs to set boundaries. Someone needs to teach a child what’s acceptable when they have an impulse like that, what’s not acceptable, and what the consequences are if you engage in a behavior that is unacceptable. These are the boundaries.
When children cross over boundaries (and they will cross over boundaries because that’s part of a child’s job) they are testing the limits and learning. And when they challenge and test the boundaries, it is the parent’s job to provide boundaries. Children will naturally struggle with this. They just want to vent their impulse, and they will! It’s not enough just to say “no”. Parents have to help the child find ways to deal with those impulses, emotions, feelings, and desires.
When it’s present, self-control buys freedom. Freedom is a wonderful thing for any human being, but especially for a healthy child that’s growing up. Freedom should not be given away. Freedom is earned. The more self-control and responsibility that are demonstrated, the more freedom there ought to be.