Think about it … the skill of self-control is foundational for all other moral behavior. Your toddler has been told countless times not to take the toy from the other child, but still does it. When it is taken back by force, she knows not to hit, but she does anyway. She has been taught to stay in her bed during nap time, but getting up to play is so much more fun. She has been instructed not to push food off her plate when she is full, but it is a battle at every meal. Self-control is the root from which all other moral behaviors grow.
When my daughter, Beckie, was two, Sandra was pregnant, so we decided to move her out of the crib into the toddler bed so the crib would be available when little sister (Megan) was born. Beckie didn’t want to stay in her bed. So she got up. Over and over and over and over again. And each time she received a spanking. Over and over and over again. I hated that. I prayed that she would stay in bed. I cried as I spanked her. But we held our ground. And eventually it paid off. She learned not to get out of her bed at night. And she never did again. But this was about much more than just staying in bed, it was about self-control verses self-gratification. We all have a “self-control” muscle that, like our other muscles, when exercised becomes stronger.
When we stand our ground and insist that our kids obey us when they are young, we strengthen their self-control muscle. What an amazing gift we can give to our children as we prepare them for adolescence! Think how important that will be later on when the temptations they face are much more dangerous than getting out of bed!
Next time: we look at one of the greatest barriers in teaching our children self-control.