WHAT IS SELF-CONTROL?

Self-control includes the ability to

  • delay gratification

  • restrain impulses

  • complete unpleasant tasks

  • put others before self

WHY IS SELF-CONTROL IMPORTANT?

Children who have greater self-control can resist temptation, even if the temptation promises short-term rewards. In contrast, children with less self-control may be more likely to

  • be aggressive

  • suffer depression

  • smoke or abuse alcohol or drugs

  • make poor choices in what they eat

One study found that children with greater self-control were less likely, as adults, to have health issues, financial stress, and problems with the law. That study led Professor Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania to conclude: “There may be no such thing as ‘too much’ self-control.”

HOW TO TEACH SELF-CONTROL

Learn to say no and mean it.

BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Let your word ‘Yes’ mean yes, your ‘No,’ no.”​—Matthew 5:37.

Young children might test a parent’s resolve by throwing a tantrum​—perhaps even in public. If the parent gives in, the child learns that tantrums are an effective way to get a no changed to a yes.

On the other hand, if the parent says no and means it, the child learns a basic fact of life​—that we cannot always get what we want. “Ironically, people who learn that lesson seem to be the most fulfilled,” writes Dr. David Walsh. “We’re not doing our kids any favors when we teach them that the world will always serve up whatever they want on a silver platter.” *

Saying no to your child now will help him to say no to himself later in life​—for example, if he is tempted to take drugs, have premarital sex, or engage in other harmful practices.

 Help your children to understand consequences, both good and bad.

BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Whatever a person is sowing, this he will also reap.”​—Galatians 6:7.

Your child needs to understand that actions have consequences and that a lack of self-control will therefore have undesirable results. For example, if your son typically loses his temper when he gets upset, others may tend to avoid him. On the other hand, if he develops the ability to restrain himself when provoked​—or to wait patiently rather than interrupt—​people will be drawn to him. Help your child understand that he is more likely to have good outcomes when he practices self-restraint.

Teach your child to prioritize.

BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “Make sure of the more important things.”​—Philippians 1:10.

Self-control is not just a matter of holding back from doing wrong; it includes doing what is necessary, even when this is not particularly exciting or fun. It is important for your child to learn how to establish priorities and stick to them. Have your child do the important things first. For example, he should put homework before recreation.

Be a good role model.

BIBLE PRINCIPLE: “I set the pattern for you, that just as I did to you, you should also do.”​—John 13:15.

Your child will see how you respond to unpleasant or frustrating situations. Demonstrate by your example that self-control leads to better outcomes. For example, when your child tests your patience, do you react with anger or do you remain calm?

^ par. 20 From the book No: Why Kids​—of All Ages—​Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It.