Self control is critical for the secular success of kids and teens, but it has an added benefit for Christians. Self control is a fruit of the Spirit and helps Christians avoid sinning when tempted. A child who has no self control is fairly obvious, but how do you know if your kids’ self control is improving? There are five questions you can answer about your kids, or ask them to answer for themselves that can help you evaluate their self control.
- Can they make themselves do something they don’t want to do? Self control isn’t always about avoiding an action. Sometimes self control is doing what is best, even when you don’t feel like doing it. It may start with brushing their teeth regularly and grow to doing kind things for their “enemies”.
- Can they keep quiet or choose their words carefully when feeling strong emotions? The Bible tells us controlling our tongues is perhaps the most difficult. Staying quiet or choosing words carefully, rather than saying everything that is being thought is a sign your kids have developed self control.
- Can they disagree with someone or dislike what they did and still act with love and kindness towards them? True self control is reflecting God’s love towards everyone….even those with whom we are angry. It doesn’t excuse what they did, but it shows amazing self control for your kids to forgive, love and treat kindly someone who has hurt or annoyed them.
- Can they deny themselves something they really want? The famous marshmallow test of self control has been questioned recently, but isn’t it similar to avoiding sin when tempted? Satan doesn’t normally tempt us to sin in ways that don’t appeal to us. If your kids can resist temptation, whether it’s to sin or make a questionable choice, they are exhibiting self control.
- Can they work patiently towards a big, long term goal? Self control, perseverance and patience often work together. Working towards a huge goal often requires self control. Why? Because sacrifices must usually be made in order to achieve the goal. Those with little self control are unlikely to deny themselves in order to accomplish a long term goal.
Self control can fail to grow or even slip without an awareness of how well it is practiced. Teaching your kids how to evaluate their self control regularly, can help them continue to grow and improve.