The best kept secret – What about self control?


photo_fruitI never went to Sunday school, but with the benefit of children and kiddy friendly worship CD’s I am able to close my eyes and sing the fruit of the spirit song in my head, you know the one “The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Kindness and ……” What’s the last one? Oh yes, SELF CONTROL.

I must admit, I seldom put any focus on the fact that self control is a Fruit of the Spirit. I often act as if it’s presence has very little to do with my choices and more to do with how others treat me.

The greatest indicator of this Fruit’s absence in my life is shown by my reaction to my sons’ when they decide to find every button that I possess and proceed, with surgical accuracy, to push each and every one of them, over and over again. Typically this happens when we are already 10 minutes late for something, lacking my morning coffee intake or just generally when I’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed, something I feel, at least at the moment, is not my fault and cannot be controlled by me either.

We are raised with the idea that others are in control of us, that the existence of authority means the absence of choices. In disciplining our kids we often tend to, as Danny Silke suggests, “Red Truck” them. I am bigger, stronger and louder and therefore I am in control of you!

While convincing arguments can be made in support of this, I am coming to realise that in fact I do not control my 5 year old, my 3 year old and soon to be baby girl. I really want to believe that I possess more control than I actually have and even experience moments where it looks as though I am succeeding.

But what we experience as control, is simply an ability to manipulate our children into doing what we want them to do when we want it done, often using fear. Yes I do concede that at their age, often, my choices for them are better, but for who?

However, the question I have bouncing around my head at the moment is, if I can manipulate their choices to result in what’s best for them, when that manipulation is removed, will they have developed the ability to make the “best” choices for themselves?

As a parent I constantly push Kindness, Goodness, Patience etc, but do I encourage the growth of Self Control in my kids by simply choosing for them? Do the fear tactics result in self-managing kids or simply kids who comply when a measure of force is applied?

Are we not worried children might rebel when the “control” is removed and they are presented with freedom and options that they have never experienced before?

I came across a boy this morning who had been caught stealing, again. I noticed him waiting patiently for his parents, fear dripping from his awkward posture. However, yesterday, this same boy, when presented with an adult who chose not to shout and impose himself, went completely off the wall. To me, the real culprits here or at least his partners in crime, were his folks who haven’t equipped him with the skills to self-manage, to make right choices, even if no one ever checks up.

I have noticed that in teaching our children to be self governing, we have fatally removed the concept of choices and consequences and in their place given directives and punishments. While this might be true for most parents, I do know that often this has been sone with the best of intentions. I often find myself, for lack of energy and time, telling my kids what they want to do, not always because I know what is best, but because I’m tired and just want the noise to end and if I’m honest, the motivation is selfishnesses, perhaps induced by sleep deprevation, but selfish nevertheless.

The truth is that by employing this tactic I haven’t taught them anything. I haven’t required that they learn to self govern and reap the harvest if they don’t. The reality is, we and they may have limited options, but we always have a choice.

I am certain that most of our life choices are motivated by fear. Fear of what will or will not happen if I do or do not make this choice. This fear extends to parenting, we fear the thought of not being in control, because what if they make the wrong choice?

A bigger issue is at stake though and the real question is what if they never make the right choice on their own, letting them realise they have a part to play and control to wield is essential to this.

When I lose the plot with them to exercise my “control” over them, ironically, all I am doing is handing over my control to them, because I have allowed my 5 year old to dictate how my emotions play out. Isn’t that a bit unfair to give a 5 year old such power, and yet I won’t let him have power over himself? Funny logic!

No one makes me do anything, situations may limit options, but in the end, I, you they, all have a choice. I really want to get better at exercising self control and I want this for my kids as well. I don’t want this fruit to be a secret fruit, I believe it should be the Fruit out of which all other Fruits are given the opportunity to be most effective, and if used more often, I’m sure we will begin to see an increase in the rest of the fruit basket.

What do you think?

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