Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A lesson in self control

At least once a day I find myself with a whining, temper tantrum throwing three year old. Amid the high pitched voice, balled up hands and some wonderfully loud noises I usually find myself wanting to do the same. It is amazing how when someone gets emotional, regardless of the cause, it can stir up the exact same emotion in you. But instead of giving in to the temptation of screaming back at my child (and sometimes this is extremely hard to do...alright, I have screamed once or twice) I take a deep breath gather my self control, get down to eye level with said temper tantrum thrower and calmly and gently ask him to gain self control. It generally goes like this;

First "Conner you need to gain self control"
Second because now he is calming down and listening "Conner you need to gain self control of your voice"
and third "Conner you need to gain self control of your body"

I find it important to give him specifics of how he needs to gain self control so that he can use these as tools to help him know how to calm down. Its like something clicks in him when I tell him to do these things, slowly you can watch his body and then his face regain control. The soft tone of my voice and the repetition of the words are comforting, something familiar and a way to control some pretty heavy emotions. I will continue to repeat these over until he has gained self control and we can discuss what is going on like rational human beings. This scenario can be played out in many different situations, whining, being destructive with ones body and so on. Generally he is calm by the third self control.

Over a year ago I attended a parenting class at the church I used to call home. It was a very encouraging, informative and convicting class, it reminded me of how important a role I carry and it brought to light those areas I had been letting the world shape my children and not Christ. The world we live in today can be a scary one for me when it comes to parenting. The standards seems so low, leaning more towards laziness then participation on behalf of the parent. It is almost as if the word "no" is becoming taboo. This scares me because it is all to easy to fall into laziness because it is of course the easier route to take and sometimes easy is just way to appealing.

One of the subjects discussed was the importance of self control, for both the parents and the children. I will admit that this was a new concept for me. I mean I knew I wasn't supposed to loose me temper or to encourage those of my children, but at the time I had never heard the term "self control" associated with child rearing and discipline. Listening to our leader, Karen, describe to us a situation in which it was applied to an 18 month old throwing a temper tantrum because he didn't want to sit in a high chair, I began to see more clearly my own child's need for this in his life. We were just hitting that stage where everything was responded to with tantrums and we had yet to find the heart issue of what it was our son really needed. Sometimes nothing we could do would bring Conner down back from hysteria land. I mean most times we could get him to calm down, but there would be almost this manic look to his eyes waiting for something else to set him off. Walking around on eggshells around your then two year old is not fun nor is it teaching him anything or even helping him. So listening to Karen talking about the biblical and practical importance of self control in our lives was like looking into a window of what it was my son's heart needed. Mine too.

Titus 2 is a great passage about how we are called to be self controlled in our actions, thoughts and words and how through our own lack of self control we will be a model of ungodliness and worldly passions to those around us. Temper tantrums, whining, and being destructive are all great models of these things. Each day we are given the opportunity through these very worldly passionate moments to teach our children the importance of self control and in turn the tools on how to be in control of our emotions. Not to hide them or remove them, but to share them with people in a manner in which there will be a positive influence.

I chose to write about this today because it is a tool in parenting that has been priceless to me, not only because my child needed it but because I needed it myself. Asking our children to gain self control is a great reminder to us as parents to use self control everyday. It wasn't until it was thrown right in my face that I realized this vitally important part of parenting and wifely-ness was missing from my every day life. At least in a visible way. So maybe it will help you a little, or maybe its something you already know and it will be a little reminder of the need for it in our lives.