Creative Child

The Important Power of Self-Control in Parenting

by Rebecca Eanes

How often do you demand that your children have skills that you lack even as an adult? How many times have you displayed the very behavior that you correct in your child? These are fair questions, yet the answers can stop you in your tracks, because if we are all honest with ourselves, we all have a bit of growing up to do. 

I can’t count the number of times I said I would stick to a diet or exercise routine only to fall off the wagon days or weeks in. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have raised my voice after promising to stay calm. I tend to give myself a lot of grace. I’m only human, after all. Life can be difficult, and I’m doing the best I can. Yet, when my kid loses his cool and yells at me, am I so quick to offer that same grace?

Have you ever fought with your partner in front of your child but then demanded she get along with her siblings peacefully? Or snatched a toy from a child’s hands in frustration after lecturing him that he shouldn’t snatch toys? Of course, because we have all done things like that, and it’s okay. Mistakes are a part of life. But the biggest challenge in parenting, and in child discipline is not figuring out the right punishments or consequences, but it is learning to model what we want to see. It’s learning self-discipline so that we can teach our children self-discipline. After all, the goal is to raise children who govern their own behavior so that we don’t have to spend our days and years together policing them but rather enjoying life with one another.

In her book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, author Becky Bailey says this, “All parents demonstrate or model a code of conduct and a value system. This is done through their day-to-day interactions with others. Until we become conscious of these patterns of interactions, we will not be able to guide the morality of the next generation. Most of us model respect when we are calm and when life is going our way. However, what happens to our values when we are stressed and life becomes complicated? How do we behave when traffic is backed up, when our children forget their permission slips, when our spouse fails to stop by the grocery store again? What happens to treating each other with respect during these times?” It is easy to love our children and others when they’re doing what we want, but how we love and behave during challenging times sets the standard. The question is, how can we improve ourselves?

Step One: Become Conscious of Your Patterns
The first step to any real change is always to become aware of the patterns you are wanting to change. Most of us make unconscious decisions all day long. We emulate the patterns our parents modeled for us, or we just let our reactions fly, making no attempt to rein them in. Start paying attention to your reactions, behaviors, and the feelings that drive them. When do you lose your cool? When do you behave badly? What causes you to feel out of control? Take note of the thoughts and feelings that arise during those times. You can’t change yourself until you really know yourself, so get to know your patterns.

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