We begin teaching our kids self-control when the children are babies.
It’s the most important lesson.
Self-control is the biggest factor in future success.
What is self-control?
Definition: Restraint of oneself or one’s actions, feelings, etc.
It’s really hard to begin teaching self-control when kids are older, especially teenagers. It’s possible, but very difficult to begin then.
We have high expectations after toddlerhood. We teach our kids to have self-control despite being bored.
If we provide a gazillion options for entertaining our kids, then they will expect that and develop no self-control.
It’s ok to be bored.
It’s ok to have downtime without screens, food, or toys.
It’s a societal lie we tell ourselves that we must provide entertainmment for our kids all the time. I’m not a cruise director.
How do we teach self-control?
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that heis blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9
We make sure we’re not wasting a lesson when kids are hungry, tired, or sick.
We’re not afraid to say NO.
We say NO to junk food or snacks right before meals.
We say NO to screens when they can play outside on a nice day.
We say NO to relationships or events that may be questionable or harmful.
We say NO to wasting money or time.
We say NO to medicating our kids.
We require inside voices at home. We don’t allow running indoors, for safety.
We actively teach our expectations and provide practice sitting still and quiet.
We have read-aloud and Bible time when the kids must sit quietly.
We expect kindness, politeness, and courtesy.
We use natural consequences instead of punishment.
“Clean your room or complete this chore and you can go outside to play.”
“Finish your chemistry project and you can go to your friend’s event.”
Using natural consequences takes the stress off mom and dad and all the responsibility lies on the child’s shoulders. If he takes 4 hours to clean his room, then there is no park time. If she doesn’t complete the chemistry project, then she has to explain to her friend why she missed the event.
If this becomes a perpetual habit, then there has to be a conference and incentives, but we don’t do sticker charts, rewards, or treats.
Chores are not an option.
We all have to help each other with cleaning up our living space.
- I model the correct behavior.
- We all work together.
- Attitude is the most important thing.
I don’t push seat work too much or too long. I don’t want the kids to resent learning. I’m fairly lenient for quite some time as long as the kids aren’t disruptive of siblings.
It’s great practice for kids to sit down quietly for writing, reading, drawing, coloring, and listening to read alouds.
By the time kids are about 6, I expect them to be able to sit quietly and respectfully during reading and lessons.
We teach time management and priorities: school work over fun.
I provide frequent breaks and lots of outside time and indoor free play time.
We do not medicate our children. Children are supposed to act like children and the government school model of requiring kids to sit still and quiet for 6+ hours is unrealistic and damaging. No child should be expected to fit that standard.
- Blanket training for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (provide quiet toys on blankets or mats)
- Quiet activities for fidgety hands
- Coloring pages relevant to reading for little ones
We have never brought toys or food to occupy our kids during church.
We’ve never attended a church that separates kids from adults. We all sit in the pew together for the entire service.
My kids glance at me, wide-eyed when they see their peers brining rice cakes and toys into church or dancing up and down the pew aisle. They wonder at the big kids who don’t know how to whisper or who cry because they don’t want to sit still and quiet.
Our kids have been trained to sit still and quietly during church time.
We use church to teach our kids the liturgy, reading, music, and sight reading.
We ask our children questions about the sermon after church and they now pay attention so they can answer us!
We require them to behave during Sunday school. There is no sleeping, running around, talking out, or any misbehavior. Often the teachers are teens and young adults who have little experience with classroom managment. I don’t care how the other kids act and take advantage of a situation. My children will not act that way.
- Outlines to fill in on sermon topics
- Coloring pages
- Sermon notes
Meals and Restaurants
I don’t remember kids’ menus or coloring pages at restaurants when I was little. And going to a restaurant was a special event. We only went out to eat for birthdays. And all this “casual family dining” is a new concept. I remember when they remodeled Red Lobster and we hated it! We were expected to wait until the food came and again to wait until everyone’s meal was finished and paid for and the adults were ready to leave. Good behavior was expected. It was a privilege to go to a restaurant.
American restaurant meals usually have coloring pages, TV, or activities to occupy children (and adults). I’ve even seen kids’ corners where parents let loose their little monsters to disrupt everyone in the restaurant. No one wants to see or hear kids running around and screaming at a restaurant.
The rest of the world either doesn’t expect children to dine out at all or to have well-behaved children with self-control.
My kids are taught that waiting for good food is normal. They learn to sit still and quietly in restaurants and to be respectful of others. I am confident taking them to many restaurants that most consider adult-only because I know they can handle it and they love the food and experience!
- Coloring pencils for napkins or paper
- Quiet and respectful games like I Spy
- A little sack of tiny animal figures
We often attend concerts, shows, and other events where we must be still, quiet, and respectful.
We start with minor local and high school stage productions to train the kids to behave.
We attend matinée performances, dress rehearsals, field trips to expose our children to fine arts and teach etiquette for these events.
- We offer refreshments at intermission.
- We teach about the instruments or drama for interest.
- We provide follow-up discussion when we discuss the show or performance.
We praise good behavior. We guide and teach about bad behavior. We don’t reward, punish, blame, call names, or shame.
We’re diligent in our training. We don’t expect perfection immediately. We work at it over days, months, weeks, and years.
A life-changing book: