Shopping is not my favorite pastime . . . ever. Shopping, however, with three young children in tow puts shopping at the very top of my do-not-like list. What’s not to like, you ask? First, remembering everything I need, even with a list! Somehow I manage to forget important things even as I am making the list, so when shopping, I scan the items in each aisle as we methodically trace our way through the store, hoping that I will see items that missed the list. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. For example, thinking I need peanut butter, only to realize that that was a month ago and I now have four peanut butter bottles in my pantry.
Second, the music. How can anyone concentrate with the music blasting through the store? All I want is to get out of there and experience some peace and sanity! Third, trying to speed the children through the store is an extremely difficult task. You know . . . you’ve made it nearly to the back of the store when one of the older children timidly pipes up, “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.” Seriously? We are almost finished! “Can you wait a few more minutes, honey? We are almost done!” No can do. So we head to the front of the store, where the restrooms are located, then return to where we left off. Only to have the baby start crying because he’s legitimately hungry, and the 2-year-old in the cart is really tired of being in the cart and wants out, and the 4-year-old, whose bladder is feeling better, is tired of walking and just wants to go home. Then they all join the baby in the weeping symphony, lifting their voices together in their unified sorrow.
The time has come to demonstrate self-control.
An Important Gift
Teaching our children self-control is one of the greatest gifts we can give them! It begins with us, however. We teach self-control by showing them self-control when our circumstances are difficult. Self-control is a battle with self, a battle against doing what you feel like versus what is right. Ellen White writes, “The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God, requires a struggle; but the soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in holiness.”1
Self-control may not be as challenging when life is easy or things are going our way. Self-control becomes especially difficult when we are tired, hungry, discouraged, or frustrated. Self-control begins with a mindset, an understanding that this moment shall pass, but the victory that is gained by choosing to think right, speak right, act right, will last forever. God wants us to have the victory! “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22, 23).
“By some a constant battle is maintained for self-control. Daily they strive silently and prayerfully against harshness of speech and temper. These strivings may never be appreciated by human beings. They may get no praise from human lips for keeping back the hasty words which sought for utterance. The world will never see these conquests, and if it could, it would only despise the conquerors. But in heaven’s record they are registered as overcomers. There is One who witnesses every secret combat and every silent victory, and He says, ‘He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.’ If you refuse to storm or fret or scold, the Lord will show you the way through. He will help you to use the talent of speech in such a Christlike way that the precious attributes of patience, comfort, and love will be brought into the home.”2
Isn’t that beautiful? As parents, we love our children so much; we want the very best for them! We see the defects in their characters and our own; anger and frustration may manifest itself through harsh words, tantrums, striking out, or disobedience and defiance. Our greatest desire is to see them happy, helpful, and loving children—children who love Jesus and are ready to meet Him when He returns.
The First Lesson
Once again we read, “Well may the mother inquire with deep anxiety, as she looks upon the children given to her care, What is the great aim and object of their education? Is it to fit them for life and its duties, to qualify them to take an honorable position in the world, to do good, to benefit their fellow-beings, to gain eventually the reward of the righteous? If so, then the first lesson to be taught them is self-control; for no undisciplined, headstrong person can hope for success in this world or reward in the next.”3
We are tempted to just modify bad behavior to good behavior rather than remembering we have a greater work, that of reaching our children’s hearts. We teach our children to submit to God by our own example. When we choose to speak kindly, when we choose to stop and pray before acting rashly, when we choose to consistently instruct our children to value self-control and celebrate the victories gained each day, however small they may be, the Lord will bless our efforts! Remember the goal: the purpose of discipline is not to punish bad behavior, but to teach righteousness, to draw hearts to Jesus.
“If parents would take up their God-given work and would teach self-restraint, self-denial, and self-control to their children, both by precept and example, they would find that while they were seeking to do their duty, so as to meet the approval of God, they would be learning precious lessons in the school of Christ. They would be learning patience, forbearance, love, and meekness; and these are the very lessons that they must teach to their children.”4 Jesus has promised to be with us. He has promised to give us wisdom, courage, and victory. He has overcome the world! He longs to impart to us, to our children, the fruit of the Spirit, that our homes may be a taste of heaven here on earth. Press on, dear fathers, mothers, and children, for the victory is ours through Jesus!
1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), p. 43.
2 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 443.
3 Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1954), p. 91.
4Ibid., p. 94.