Want your kids to be more obedient? Want them to make more godly choices? Want them to have healthier relationships? Want them to do well in school, work or almost anything they undertake? Self-control is the key.
I don’t know why we don’t talk about it more, but self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Which tells me several things:
- Self-control is vital for living a Christian life.
- Self-control is difficult without the extra help the Holy Spirit can provide.
- Self-control is something our kids need to practice before they are old enough to become Christians, so it will be even easier for them once they have the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Received at baptism. Acts 2:38)
So what are some things you can do to help your kids practice self-control? You might think practicing self-control would be boring, but your kids will enjoy doing these activities.
- The “Rock” game. Even very young children can begin learning self-control. This was a favorite of my daughter’s (and mine) we played when she was having trouble settling down at bedtime in someplace other than her room at home. The object is to be as still as possible for the longest amount of time. (See why it’s a parent favorite at bedtime?!) Young kids who are already tired love thinking they can “beat” you. They also learn a little about self-control in the process.
- Games like Jenga and building a house of cards. Part of self-control is learning to control your body. These games require concentration and a steady hand.
- Games like Blurt and Password. These games start teaching kids to control their tongues. Saying the “banned” word in the game, means they lose points or the round entirely. They must learn to control their tongue and not blurt out the word they aren’t supposed to say. It’s a great building block for helping them understand how to control their speech in other ways.
- Repeating the original experiment. (My apologies to those who did the original study, but here’s my version for those playing at home!) Find a time when you were already planning to give your kids a couple of cookies for dessert. Instead of giving them both cookies, add this twist. Place one cookie in front of each child. Tell them they have a choice. They can have one cookie now or wait fifteen minutes and have two cookies. Kids who aren’t able to wait for the second cookie will need a lot of extra help working on self-control. (Assuming they wanted a second cookie.)
- Walking a “balance beam” or playing “avoid the laser beams”. These more physical activities help kids practice self-control because they have to keep their bodies within a certain space to do well. (For the laser beam activity, Tie yarn to various objects around the room with the resulting web being about a foot or so above the floor. The child must crawl beneath them without touching any of the “laser beams”.)
You can probably think of many similar activities you already have around your house. Think about the activity and decide whether or not your kids must control their movements, their words, their space, their emotions, their desires or some other area that requires controlling some aspect of their body, thoughts or emotions. Have fun with it. Remember though, the more self-control your kids have, the more “successful” they will be, not only in the secular world, but also as a Christian.