“Discipline Yourself (and Your Children) For the Purpose of Godliness..”
Self-Control is that idea of sucking oneself in; the holding in of temperance. Consider Andrew Murray’s insight:
“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction.
But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.
The child who is taught by a wise parent to honor him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”
(Cited from the forward of Duties of Parents by J. C. Ryle)
Andrew Murray so eloquently describes why it’s important for us to lovingly but firmly require first-time obedience from our little ones. Our children aren’t just learning simple obedience to their earthly parents and to God now—they’re learning the self-control that equips them to live in true liberty and heartfelt obedience to God as they grow up and leave our homes.
Fearful or Permissive?
Parents can be found on both ends of this spectrum. We have a term for parents who over-shelter and try to keep their kids always in a protective bubble. It’s called the “helicopter parent.” Helicopter parenting does not allow a child to fail or to have trials refine them or to have their little will crossed by anyone else in the world. These are the very things these parents live in fear of. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have overly permissive parents who give their children freedoms beyond their years. They constantly ask the children what they want, where they want to go, what they want to wear or eat, and end every command to their children with “OK?” An over-protected child isn’t allowed to slowly grow in wisdom by learning from cause and effect, sowing and reaping. A child-centered parenting model leads a child to believe early in life that they are wise enough to know what’s best for themselves. As a result, they miss out on learning respect to authority and thus, to God.
Make a Plan
We must teach our kids how to obey authority as they will live under one authority or another, and always God’s, all the days of their existence. Dying to self-will is synonymous with being a child of God, so as your train your children though discipline to control themselves, you are dying to your self-will and teaching them to die to their own self-will (Matt 7:5).
We must teach our children also how to learn to manage their own passions, desires, and temptations. Protecting them from the world or allowing them all the decision-making does not achieve helping them learn to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21)
In Peter’s day, the word translated “self-control” was used to describe athletes. The successful ones abstained from all kind of activity and food choices for the sake of disciplined training exercises. You practice personal self-control when you control your desires and don’t allow them to control you.
John MacArthur highlights in his blog post on the issue several practical tips both spiritual and secular that have helped him with self-control. These are great places to start with your kids:
1. Start small.
2. Be on time.
3. Organize your life.
4. Practice self-denial.
5. Do the hardest job first.
6. Accept correction.
7. Welcome responsibility.
So how’s your self control? Are you, with help from the Holy Spirit, controlling your impulses, desires, time, work and mouth? Any theology that separates faith from practical conduct is heresy. Self-control is a primary Christian virtue and solid proof that one’s salvation is genuine. Train your children to control their impulses, desires, time, work and mouths for obedience to God, for the good of their own wills, and for a blessing to current and future generations.
Excerpt taken from The Excellent Wife in Training: A Practical Workbook-in progress, by Jill Wragg