But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 NIV)
Today I was journaling and praying for Milly (of course from PrayerWithPurpose: 90 Days of Prayer for Your Unborn Child) and the prayer today was for Self-Control. As I was praying and thinking about my desire for her to learn this virtue early, I thought I would share my thoughts with you. It seems like the words "self-control" come up a LOT around our house with Ellie and Izzy. Each day provides numerous opportunities to teach them how to control their actions and emotions. Restaurants, school, playtime, nap time, bath time, meal time, grocery shopping, walking on a side walk...you name the situation and there is a lesson on self-control to be learned. I know the book is "controversial" but I was so grateful for "Baby Wise" when my girls were infants. That book really stresses teaching self-control from the start. I taught the girls to have "pack-n-play time", which was a period of time when they needed to be in a confined space with toys or books and learn to be content with self-play. At first, they wanted out- lots of screaming and crying- but they learned to stay in until I said it was over and to entertain themselves in a safe environment for a period of time. This has really paid off for us, they are still completely content with self-play and quiet time. From there we moved to high chair manners. They needed to learn to control their hands while in a high chair and stay in the high chair until the meal was complete. By sticking with this practice, they learned self-control- even though they wanted to get up and run around or crawl all over the booth or smear food in their hair- they learned to control their actions and act appropriately. I think my #1 advice for new moms is this: it is a LOT easier to "train" babies than to undo bad habits with a toddler. This goes for naps, bedtime, eating, tantrums, restaurant behavior, etc.. I believe if you are consistent from infancy, you will save yourself from a lot of issues when they can talk (or scream) back at you.
I am constantly discussing self-control with Ellie, when she doesn't get exactly what she wants she will use her whole body to display her dissatisfaction. She wants to be in control of every decision and we are teaching her that- while she can't control the decision or the activity- she can control how she reacts to our authority. The hard part, yet the most important part, is that each time she displays a lack of self-control she receives a consequence- one that makes an impact (for us it is usually spanking or taking away her most important item (i.e. blankie) depending on the severity of the "offense" and definitely not giving in to whatever caused the behavior in the first place). We all know adults who didn't learn self-control as a child- just as it is harder to teach a toddler this lesson it is increasingly difficult as the years progress, which is probably why obesity and infidelity are so out of control in our world. I believe that it is out of love for my kids that I teach them this important virtue at a young age. They will still struggle and have heartache and issues like everyone does- but this can be one tool for them to get through tough times. This life we live in allows us to constantly use self-control even if we don't realize it- we are using it when we turn off the TV or computer and spend time with our families, when we resist the 2nd cupcake (or whatever your turn-off number is), when we don't purchase an item we don't have money for, etc.. I believe it is an extraordinary gift to teach our children how to control their actions from a young age and I pray that the Lord will teach me how He wants me to shepherd them in this virtue. I want to teach them about all of the fruits of the spirit and more importantly I pray that I can be an example to them in how to live them out daily (with a lot of grace of course!).
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Ro 6:12-14)
*****This is a good general article on teaching children self-control at various ages: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/self_control.html