Friday, May 25, 2012

Control vs Self-Control

 encouragement for moms

It's just so much simpler to be the absolute authority and tell our kids what to do all the time and control them right?

Because I said so!
Do this or else!
You listen to me right now or your grounded for life!

Yes, parents should have authority in their home. But controlling our children? What will that accomplish? We might end up with kids who act perfectly when they are around us (their controller) but what about when we are no longer there?

We need to teach our kids to be in control of themselves... and they can start learning that at a very young age.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Our goal should never be to be in control of our children. It should be to teach them self-control. If we simply try to control our children we will constantly be caught in power struggles with them and it’s likely they will only NOT do things because they fear the punishment... or worse, the parent. The problem with this is that someday they will fly from the cozy little home we created and they will be out on their own. (Or go to Kindergarten! That's us next year.) They will have choices to make but the threat of consequences from the parents will no longer be there. Will being in control of them as children teach them to be in control of themselves as adults? Probably not. Will they learn to make good choices when we aren't around to tell them how they should be acting in every situation? Probably not.

The better approach is to teach them to be in control of themselves. You can do his by using reality discipline and giving them choices. (For more on reality discipline I recommend Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman.)

It's important to teach children about what is right and what is wrong and then teach them about being in control and making good choices.

We are always talking about good and bad choices. It would be so simple to just send Liza and Jason to time out every time they were misbehaving but that's not going to help them change them and learn self-control. 

I realized that they both like to "be boss". They understand being the boss so I use it. I've taught them that they get to be the boss of certain things... like their attitude. We actually do something quite silly when they start to get an attitude. I calmly ask them to go to their room and get that attitude under control (be the boss of it). They do this by closing their doors and dancing it out of their toes. They know that once the attitude is out and under control that they can come back out... they don't need to ask because they know when they've bossed that attitude and turned it around. They can tell the difference and they know when they gain control of it.

We also do a lot of pep talks. I'm sure if someone sat in on one of these that they would think we are silly and ridiculous but it works and it drills things into their mind so that when a situation comes up and I'm not there to tell them what to do they already know the right thing... but the choice is still theirs. These pep talks often happen in the car while we are on our way to things and sound something like this... lots of yelling, fist pumping and repeating after me...

I'm a listener!
I do what's right!
All the time!
Even when other kids don't!
Even when it's hard!
I do what's right!
All the time!
I'm a listener!

And we talk about what's right... listening to the teacher, being quiet when we are supposed to be quiet, not touching the other kids even if they touch us first. That was a problem for Jason for a while and his teacher told me about it when I asked what we should work on with him to make her job easier. We didn't just talk about not touching back but we talked about how to respond should one of the other kids touch him first. We need to teach our kids HOW to be in control and HOW to do what's right.

Another way we teach the kids to think about "the right thing to do" is by constantly discussing good and bad choices. If they get in a fight over something I usually run through lots of questions and let them answer.

Was fighting a good choice or a bad choice?
Why was it a bad choice?
What would have been a better choice?
Hey, that's a great idea! Let's role play that and see what it looks like!

I have found that role playing has been really helpful in their learning how to act in situations. If we don't teach our kids the right thing to do we can't really expect them to do the right thing. We need to constantly be training our kids about what is right and they need to know that they always have choice and those choices have consequences.

To learn self-control as a child will be a great thing! If you've been controlling your children start making the shift now to training them to be self-controlled!

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