The fruits of the Spirit. Most likely, if you are reading this, you know what I’m talking about. But I will go ahead and refresh your memory just in case.
It’s that list of 8 things found in Galatians that will show up in our lives if we are walking with the Holy Spirit. It’s the laundry list of items we try and impress upon our children. Us Christians sometimes even give ourselves a pat on the back when we show:
Moms, how many times have you said, “Be kind to your brother!” or “You will show love to your Aunt Myrtle!”?
All of us grown adults understand the reality of waiting patient in a line and trying to do the right/good things in life.
What about number 9? Where has this last fruit of the spirit gone?
My six-year-old recently had a lesson in his church class that covered this topic. He was so excited to name them all for me. When he got to the end and shouted, “SELF- CONTROL”, I thought to myself, “Why don’t we talk or teach about this one???” I can’t even count the number of children’s lessons, sermons, and Bible studies I’ve heard on love, joy, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. And I’m sure I’ve heard teachers and preachers cover peace, patience, and gentleness a number of times.
But I honestly can’t remember ever hearing a message on self-control.
Personally, self-control is a real struggle. I have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Even when it comes to money, I struggle. I find myself justifying the costs of extras when I know it’s not the best idea. It’s easy for anger and impatience to spew out of me at my loved ones. I can even see it in my overindulgence of things that aren’t necessarily bad, like being caught in a really good book.
But it feels almost second nature to show kindness and stop to help when I see a need. Why? We could probably sit here and argue about different personalities or talk about how we all have our own struggles. I can’t help but think, I’m not the only one with a lack of self-control. Is it possible that we as parents in our American society have lost the guts to teach our kiddos self-control starting at a young age?
We say things like, “She’s just learning how to express her emotions.” when our three year old throws a fit. Or, “Boys will be boys.” when our five year old climbs all over the furniture and breaks something while visiting a friend. Or we even tell ourselves, “She doesn’t understand yet. I can’t expect her to obey me when she’s so young. She’ll get it eventually.”
Yikes. Raise your hand if you’ve had these thoughts at some point. Don’t worry, I’m raising my hand too. Moms and dads, I don’t think we are helping our young ones gain self-control by making these excuses. I think some change is in order. I’m positive that our Heavenly Father put the list of the fruits together perfectly for us. Let’s give our kids the gift of self-control.
Here is the best piece of parenting advice I have ever received on this topic:
You can teach your kids the “what” before they learn the “why”.
You can teach your one year old not to touch the oven, front door, special vase, etc… and you do not need to explain why. It’s actually so helpful to have things in your house that are off limits to help your young one learn to control their impulse to touch. Now don’t go crazy and make every single thing a “no” or you will end up with frustration. Pick the few things that matter and be consistent. That way, when you head to the grocery store and you have to say, “No! Don’t touch the eggs!” you’re kiddo will know how to restrain themselves.
How about my two year old who likes to play with his cup of milk and food? He knows the rule, “We don’t play with our food.” So when he gets that little gleam in his eye and throws his cup and drops his muffin all over the floor (this literally happened this morning), my response is, “You do not get your cup back. We don’t play with our food.” I then scoot his high chair out of the dining room for a short time out. He might even loose the freedom to hold his own cup for a while.
You can even help your kids have self-control over their emotions. For a little one, during a fit, you can put them in their crib (with nothing else in there) and say, “When you calm down, Mommy will come back.” This will help your child get the idea that crying and screaming will not accomplish what they want. It will also help them to learn how to calm down on their own. As they get a little older and you have practiced sitting still, you can say, “Go take a seat until you are calm. Come back and talk to me when you are calm.” How do you as an adult handle disappointment or an annoyance? I promise, your five year old will observe and catch on. My Lincoln has even had to remind me a time or two that I could say, “Bummer. Maybe next time!” when I’m disappointed.
Webster defines self-control as, “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” God has placed it on this fruit list right alongside love and kindness. Let’s bring it back to life.