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Self-Control – Helping Your Child Choose It

SELF-CONTROL. I didn’t choose self-control. Even 4th graders can have temper tantrums! When I was in grade 4 we had built a house and moved.  I had a new friend named Holly who invited me over for a sleepover.  That Saturday, Mom arranged to pick me up and take me over to my best friend, Carmen’s house.  But in my sleepover tiredness and my pride of thinking, “I am at a new school with new friends.  Holly is my friend now.  I don’t want to play at Carmen’s house.  She’s from my old school.”  I threw a temper tantrum in Carmen’s driveway saying that I wanted to go home.  I didn’t want to play with her. Isn’t that horrible?!  I ended up playing with her and having a great time, but Carmen, if you are reading this, “Please forgive me for any lasting harm I did to you making you think that you weren’t good enough to still be my friend, and I’m so sorry that I did not have self-control and could not handle my sleepover tiredness properly!”

How can you help your child choose self-control?  And how do you teach them what self-control is?

You can explain it this way:

Self-control is self-discipline.  It’s the ability to control yourself and your emotions with all of those feelings, wants and desires inside.  Self-control is then how you express or show those emotions in your behavior.

Self-control is needed in really happy situations and in difficult situations that make you feel hurt, hungry, angry, or lonely.

It’s like when you are in a movie theatre and the movie is so funny you just want to laugh so loud…but then you remember that there are lots of other people watching the movie so you laugh quietly.

It’s like when you wanted the last piece of chocolate cake for yourself but your brother ate it.  Self-control means you don’t stomp your feet and have a temper tantrum.

It’s like when your little sister grabs the toy that you are playing with.  You don’t grab it back but you use your words to ask for it back.  That’s self-control.

It’s like when someone in class walks by your desk and says, “You’re fat and ugly. You’re stupid.”  You don’t fire back mean words.  You smile and keep doing your work knowing that what they said isn’t true.  They must not be having a good day or maybe they feel better when they put others down.  Later in the day, you walk by their desk, smile, and say something nice to them.  That’s self-control.

Do you think your child could relate to that explanation of self-control?

In this episode of the Renewed Mama podcast, we are talking about how you can help them choose self-control when they are
❤️  in pain and crying 

❤️ when they are hangry (hungry and angry at the same time)

❤️  when angry

❤️  when still tired from a sleepover

❤️  or when leaving grandparents or cousins and how they will respond when it’s time to go.

In all of these situations, train them to respond to the trigger word SELF-CONTROL.  Teach them that when you say the word SELF-CONTROL, no matter the situation, they pause, breathe, smile, breathe some more if they need to, maybe close their eyes, and then tell you what is bothering them. Begin this as early as you can as two to three years old is not too young to use trigger words like SELF-CONTROL. 

Remember, Mama that consistency is key.  Stay consistent in what you ask of them or how you expect them to respond.  Meaning if you say, “I’m letting you know that we will be leaving in five minutes” then actually leave in five minutes and expect them to begin cleaning up, giving hugs, and putting on their shoes.

Are you staying consistent?

Also remember consequences. We experience consequences for our actions and so should our children.  Should they not respond with self-control, there needs to be a consequence as part of the learning process.  It could mean that they don’t have another sleepover for a while.  It could mean that they miss out on video game time or they lose a privilege. 

Are you seeing that there are appropriate consequences for their actions?

You know, self-control must show up in lots of other areas in our lives. Self-control means listening and holding your tongue. Self-control is choosing the right limits. It is honoring another person. It is choosing self-control even when we feel really afraid.

Let’s turn this insight into action! What are you going to do the next time your child ….or yourself….loses control? You’re already thinking it!  Say the trigger word SELF-CONTROL. Pause, breathe, smile, breathe some more if you need to, maybe close your eyes, and get to the root of what is bothering you.

Mama, I believe in you to choose self-control yourself and to guide your children in choosing to respond with self-control for themselves.

I bless you, Mama to think right, to speak right, and to respond right in each situation you encounter.  You are stronger than you think.

Tell me how else you are helping your children choose self-control? Tell me by leaving a comment below or by sending a voice message using the recording feature found one the main page of  I’d love to hear from you.

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