It seems that, each year, a new child rearing book becomes popular in America. Several years ago it was Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In 2012, it was Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bebe. Why did these two particular books become popular with Americans? Essentially, they discuss how much better the Chinese and French are at child rearing than Americans. You would think that Americans would be enraged at such talk and host a national book burning over offense at the books.
Yet, observing American children in public—their rude behavior, the tantrums, their disrespect of other’s property—it is obvious Americans do not know how to properly train their children, or more likely, they simply refuse to train their children!
Why then are these books so popular? Deep down, Americans know something is wrong. Yet, merely reading books on the subject is not enough. Effective child training is time-consuming, hard work. Enslaved to careers, financial success and the pursuit of pleasure, many Americans will not, or are too tired to, invest the time necessary to train their children. This is one of our nation’s greatest tragedies.
How about you? Are you taking on the demanding rigors of child rearing? If you are a parent, it is your responsibility. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully,” Paul taught the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 9:6). Parental success is measured by the success and happiness of the children we produce. How hard are you working to reap a bountiful harvest with your children? Here is one way you can tell.
Your greatest challenge in child rearing is to teach your child self-control, also known as self-discipline. Do you realize that self-control is more important than intelligence in fostering academic achievement? Self-discipline is also necessary for your child to build a sterling spiritual life, hold a job, make a successful marriage and avoid financial difficulties.
Poor self-discipline can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, sexual immorality or other criminal behavior.
Does your child have good self-control? If he or she is guilty of interrupting you constantly, being wild, not following instructions, not controlling their feet, hands or mouths, your child lacks self-control. Psychologists would probably diagnose your child as having adhd and put them on Ritalin. Yet, the only effective solution to curbing these impulsive behaviors is teaching them self-control.
Modern psychologists believe children can learn self-control on their own. Don’t believe them. Self-control is learned through proper child training, parental supervision and practice. Solomon wisely taught that a child left to himself will never develop self-control (Proverbs 29:15).
A child furnished with self-discipline has an invaluable tool for meeting life’s challenges. Many relational and personal problems can be avoided, or strongly controlled, when one has self-control. Here are four steps to teaching self-control.
1. Blanket training
Teaching a child to sit or play quietly on a blanket during services has been a tradition in God’s Church for decades. This training not only stops noisy interruptions during services, it is also the foundational plank for building self-discipline in children.
Today, some in God’s Church do not blanket train, which makes the teaching of self-discipline more difficult as children mature.
Blanket training is really simple. You should start blanket training as early as when your child can sit up by himself, but definitely by the time he can crawl. (This assumes that you have already been teaching your child not to make noise during services.)
Practice, each day, by spreading a blanket on the floor and have your child sit on it quietly for about an hour. My wife always did her Bible study at the same time. Be sure to sit on a chair next to the child. When your child attempts to move off the blanket or make noise, tell him no once. Move the child back onto the blanket, or give him a hand signal (forefinger against the lips) to be quiet. When your child moves off the blanket or makes noise a second time, you must discipline him. Continue the process until your child accepts the fact that he must remain on the blanket and be quiet. This is self-control in action.
2. Teach your child to come when he is called.
Start teaching your child to come to you when he is walking securely on his own and you know that he understands you. If you have done blanket training, you’ll know that your child understands you.
My wife and I generally waited until our children were about 18 months before we began “come here” training. We set aside an evening to do this. We called them “Come Here Nights.” I’ll be honest—this is a tough one.
Once children are up and running on their own, they do not appreciate being interrupted from what they are doing. To command them to come to you requires them to give up what they want to do and do what you want them to do. Children want to be their own authority. To submit to your authority requires self-discipline.
This is another vital lesson that must be learned at an early age. Your children will find it difficult to submit to God’s authority if they do not learn to submit to yours. Their physical and spiritual safety depends on obedience to direct commands.
On “come here nights” I told my child to come here— once. I allowed her a brief amount of time to hear, think and respond. If there was no action, I disciplined her. I repeated the process until I received an immediate response. Depending on the child, some come here nights were short events—others were not. Be prepared to invest considerable time if necessary.
Teaching your child to come to you at a young age stops her from yelling, “What?” from across the house, parking lot or playground. When called, children should come close enough to a parent so more instructions or further discussion can take place.
“Come here” teaches children that self-control means that there are times when they will be required to give up something they are doing, to do something else.
3. Teach your child to respond positively to correction.
Most children (and adults) don’t like to be corrected. “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby,” Paul wrote (Hebrews 12:11). All human beings need to be corrected. Correction, when done properly, always makes children’s (and adults’) lives better. Yet, as Paul says, correction is often hard to accept at first.
Your child should be taught not to respond to correction with anger or a bad attitude. Both of these responses are wrong and require additional discipline and teaching. Correction is a fact of life and, for the people of God, a way of life! Children must learn to follow rules, directions and instructions that are not their preference. They must have self-control to accept correction and direction from you and other authority figures that are sure to come into their lives.
When you discipline your child, make sure he responds with a good attitude and right behavior. Make it your goal to not finish a correction session unless your child demonstrates a good attitude and right behavior. This requires love, patience, strong teaching and time—a lot of time—on your part. It will be worth all your effort. As Paul says, there will be great rewards when you meet this goal. Your child will be more happy and on the road to real success. Remember, positive response to correction will help your child forever.
When Your Child Matures
4. Encourage your child to take on activities that build self-discipline.
As your child begins school, get her involved in sports or music lessons. All sports and playing of musical instruments require self-discipline. Sports and music are a major part of the curriculum of both Imperial Academy and Herbert W. Armstrong College.
Teach your child to work. Performing work requires self-control. The work you assign your child should be age-appropriate. Be creative. Preschoolers can take care of pets. Elementary school children can do chores inside the home and outside in the yard. Children should be taught to clean their bedrooms—and keep them clean. Jobs teach children responsibility. Responsibility is doing the right thing when no one else is watching.
Memorizing scripture is also a great self-discipline builder.
Be sure that your child stays on a daily schedule throughout year. Your children should be taught to get ample sleep—going to bed early and getting up early. Many children battle parents to stay up late at night. Parents must win that battle and get them in bed. Going to bed on time and getting up on time requires self-discipline.
Realize that self-discipline is a primary character trait that your child must have to be a success in this life and the wonderful World Tomorrow. Teaching self-discipline is your greatest challenge. Yet, in the process, you will become more self-disciplined yourself.
Parents—go for it!