Self Control is Not
The preschool child racing around the playground, pushing kids over and throwing wood chips every which way. The school aged child who rolls his eyes when sent to the principal’s office with no remorse. The teenager who talks back to anyone opposing her with no respect.
We’ve all seen these types of children and might have wondered to ourselves, “Where are their parents? Why aren’t they doing anything? What kind of person is raising this little terror?” Maybe you have difficulty saying “no” to your child or disciplining them. Maybe you feel like your child holds all the control in your family and you do not know what to do about it. But maybe, in the power of the Spirit, there is a way to have self control in our mothering.
Having self control in motherhood is not being an overly permissive parent. Having self control allows us to move past our fears and not helicopter parent our children, but having self control is not going in the opposite direction and allowing our children to make all the decisions. This is a different form of fear, the fear of our children not liking us and not wanting to be our best friends. But God does not call us to be our child’s best friend. God calls us to reflect Him to our children as their good Heavenly Father.
When we live a Spirit controlled life, we learn that self control is not characterized by avoidance. Self control is not living an undisciplined life or allowing our children to live undisciplined lives. Self control is not a weakness and not a call to weak parenting. Being a self controlled parent is disciplining our children in the ways of the Lord so that they might know and understand Him more.
Being a self controlled parent is not allowing your child to create their own rules without discipline. The very nature of a child is ignorance because they are learning as they grow. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” If a child is allowed to live without consequences, then he begins to expect sin to go unpunished. This creates a love for evil and a hatred for justice. Proverbs 29:15 warns, “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” A self controlled parent is able to bring discipline into the home in a Spirit-filled manner. Discipline is a gift from the Lord to train His people in obedience and righteousness. When we lack discipline in our families then we allow wickedness to flourish. Proverbs 22:15 states, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” We do not want to raise foolish children. We do not want to be ashamed of our children. We desperately do not want our children to grow without knowledge and respect for the Lord. It is vitally important that we understand that a self controlled parent places protective boundaries around her children. A self controlled parent puts aside her own desire for momentary peace with her child in order to establish an eternal peace between her child and God. Being a self controlled parent is not allowing the child to be the head of the house, but rather yielding to the headship of Christ.
Being a self controlled parent is not having all the answers. Being a self controlled parent is directing our children to Christ and His Word. When we try to parent in our own power then we are tempted to take offense when our children are disobedient or disrespectful. We may discipline out of anger instead of love. Ephesians 6:4 warns parents, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Being a self controlled parent is rooting all discipline in the Lord and seeking the growth and maturity of our children and not merely their adherence to norms or standards. When we anchor our discipline in the Lord then we enter into the work of raising disciples and not just raising members of society. Parents must remember that ultimately our children are not reflections of ourselves, but of their Heavenly Father. When we are living self controlled lives then we allow the Spirit to freely work in and through us as examples to our children. “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:9). Being a self controlled parent is not having all the answers. Being a Spirit controlled parent is reflecting the person and methods of the Heavenly Father.
Being a self controlled parent is not living a perfect life or being a perfect example. No human can do that except Jesus and He has already made a way for others to follow Him. Parents will make mistakes and we will live under the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Being a self controlled parent is allowing our children to see our mistakes, our repentance, and our redemption through Christ. First Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” In this verse, Paul is speaking of the spiritual race of life. Just as we discipline our children to grow in the Lord, so also we are disciplined by our Heavenly Father so that we grow in the Lord. Being a self controlled parent is being humble to acknowledge that we are all children of God in need of His loving discipline.
Every parent wants to be her child’s favorite person that can do no wrong. It is hard to discipline our children when it causes hurt or frustration. But we know that this is in their best interests for their own protection and to teach them responsibility. Being a self controlled parent is not being timid or lacking in discipline. Being a self controlled parent is not holding your tongue to prevent hurting your child’s feelings. Being a self controlled and Spirit controlled parent involves disciplining your child in the Lord to draw attention to the sin areas in their lives and to their need for a Savior. Being a self controlled and Spirit controlled parent includes loving them enough to correct bad behavior and establish boundaries. Being a self controlled and Spirit controlled parent means accurately reflecting our Heavenly Father and portraying His Word correctly for the glory of God.