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Monday, June 23, 2014

Mommy Monday ~ The lost art of self-control

When I start reading any article (ones dealing with parenting in particular) and glance down to see phd, or dr., or psychiatrist at the bottom? I know that the intention of the writer is that I will then say, ohhhhh.
A psychiiiiatrist!
Well then. Let me lean in a little closer and really read what this professional person is writing.
Surely, they must have all the answers for all children for all time.

The thing is, all those letters mean is that someone went to classes, read books and received a diploma.
I'm certainly not discounting or minimizing the effort that goes into getting a degree, or the importance of it.
All I am saying is that simply because a person has a degree does not make them an expert.

I do not claim to be a professional.
I do not have a degree in psychology, although I did get an A in Psychology 101. ha!
I do, however, have a training manual from the One who created my kids and a little over 12 years of experience in parenting.
That's gotta be worth something, right?!

The vast majority of children I have come across either in person or on television (thank you, reality tv) seem to be lacking self-control. I find an enormous amount of articles and even entire blogs devoted to reassuring moms everywhere that their child is no different, and they don't need to do anything differently.

The art of self control is definitely harder and harder to find.

Everything is excused.
Fits of rage, mood swings and disobedience are now simply disorders or diseases.
Parents are led to believe that their children need to show outbursts of anger and frustration because that is how all children communicate and there is simply nothing we can do about it.
The parents who choose to teach their children self control are widely thought of as too rigid, and sometimes even harmful to their children.

As a mom of 2 boys, I have had my fair share of circumstances to give me practice and experience on how to deal with outbursts, temper tantrums, disobedience and lack of self control.

My main point with this post today, is this.

Do not make shortcuts for yourself.

I don't mean that everything needs to be hard, but parenting is one thing that you don't want to take the easy way out with. Don't trust everything you hear (including what I say!)
Do the research yourself from the most reliable source there is.
I really do appreciate how easy technology has made it for us to do research and find statistics.
But I am afraid that it has made us lazy in many ways.

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible has all the answers to life. This includes parenting.
But it does not make things easy.
I have to do the research.
I have to do the study.
And I have to be consistent in following through with what I have read and learned.

If your child is throwing a fit over everything? Do not be satisfied to find an article saying that you need to just let him show his feelings.
If your child is running your home? Do not be satisfied when you find a blog post that says every 12-year-old goes through that phase.
That is making a shortcut for yourself by just giving yourself permission to excuse their behavior and the reassurance that "every" other mother is doing the same thing.

Self-control takes work, and it takes discipline.
If you need to practice it, so does your 3-year-old and so does your teenager!

A couple tips on teaching the lost art of self-control.

1. Know what your kids limits are.
Several years ago, I started noticing a lot of arguing going on at home between the boys. At first, I was just overwhelmed and it felt like it was all. the. time.
I started keeping a notebook and would write down what time of day they were arguing.
Was it just before dinner? Was it right after one of them woke up from a nap?
Figuring out the circumstances surrounding the arguments made it easier for me to plan things out.
If it was right after nap, I could schedule a little alone time for one of them after.
If it seemed to happen when they were hungry, I would make sure that they weren't playing a game together or doing something that could push them over the edge before they ate!
Knowing what your kids limits are and setting them up for success is so important.
If they are old enough to talk about it, show them your notebook at a time when you are alone and show them that it seems like when they are hungry they seem to have a harder time showing self control. Don't ever use this as an excuse for their outburst, but you can help them remove themselves from a situation if they realize that they are hungry.
I have told my boys (especially when they are playing video games) if they even start to have a feeling rise up in them of irritation, or frustration. Walk away, right away.
Teach them that they have the ability to control the situation before it gets out of hand.
Help them to recognize the feeling in their stomach, or their breathing getting heavier as they start to get worked up.

2. Give them chances to practice.
Choose your best time of day and your childs best time of day to set up a practice run.
Just you and him.
I have set the timer with my kids and had them practice sitting completely still for 30 seconds. Then push it up a little bit more. Again, you are teaching your kids that they can discipline their bodies and they do have the ability to be under control. It is not easy, but with work it is possible!
Notice what your kids have the hardest times with and practice that together.
Is he losing it whenever his sister grabs a game piece out of his hand?
"Pretend" that you are playing a game and then tell them to grab the piece out of your hand and watch you act the right way and then act the wrong way.
Have them do the same thing.
Teaching. Training. Encouraging your kids that they are happier and everyone is happier when they show self control.

3. Help them control their lack of self-control.
This might sound like an oxi-moron, but it is possible to have self control in situations that are out of your control.
I am certainly not suggesting that your kids can never cry or show emotion, but there still needs to be a complete understanding from a very early age that they are required to have self control!
When my kids are hurt, or are sad, or frustrated tears could be a way to help relieve some of the pain.
How. ev.er.
It is not ever to be used as a controlling, manipulative method to get their way.
You have to know each individual child, but there is a time for you to tell them that it's ok to cry, but they have to cry quietly. I have told my boys that they can cry but it has to be done in their pillows. Sometimes crying could wake up a brother or sister, or it could cause a scene in public.
We have to teach our kids that they can be in control and still show emotions.
We are told in many parts of the Bible to have self control. If there were times that we just could not help it, it would not be a requirement. God is only going to require things of us that are attainable.

By teaching our 3 and 4-year-olds how to read their emotions, how to stop themselves before they lose it, and what to do when they start to feel out of control, we are not simply going to make bed time easier, we are literally setting our kids up for a better life.
We are saving them from fights in high school, we are teaching them how to have self-control in their physical relationships, and we are providing them with a way to handle a mean boss.
We also teach them that obedience brings blessings.
This is a Biblical principle that we have taught my boys since they were toddlers.
God will bless them if they choose to handle their emotions the right way.

Do you get it?
We are not doing anyone any favors by coddling our kids every time they cry or have an outburst.
Especially our children!

Self-control doesn't have to be a lost art.
Show them that they have the God-given ability to show self control.
It's empowering.
Give your kids the power!
Oh, and by the way? Some of these training tips wouldn't hurt us parents much either!

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