Self control must be taught! When it is taught early, children grow straight and strong and right on time. When self control is not the focus, the wildness of the little ones can dominate, bending their tender shoots in all the wrong directions.
Children mimic their elders. When an elder places their chin in their hands, watch, the child will do the same. When an adult smiles, they smile; when we growl and become irritated, so do they. If we are lacking self-control, they will grow to accept outbreaks and loud expression as the way we do life. They will mimic that. So imagine with me from the view point of about three feet, plus or minus a few inches, how confusing it is when a child copies the behavior of the adult and then gets in trouble for it! Lack of self-control begets more demonstrations of that lack, and the child gets the punishment as though at the tender age of one or two or four or five they are suppose to discern between the appropriate response and inappropriate minus the controlled example of a calm teacher! Pretty tall order for a kid, don’t you think?
How much better it would be for everyone if the adults mastered self-control and portrayed that openly before their offspring. Ah! How peace would permeate our homes, and love would rule the day! Here’s an idea to accomplish this end. Breathe! Simple, but so effective!
You see, as adults, when we are honest and admit that self-control is not one of our strong character traits, it is incumbent upon us to fix it! Some of us hate to be told “no.” When we do not get our way, feel over-burdened with the tasks of daily life, or are hungry or just out-of-sorts, it is easy to lose control of our behavior. We may just display a little body language or eye rolling; or we may slam cupboard doors and fly into a verbal rant of some sort. Whether mild or strong, the little ones will mimic.
Furthermore, in times of excessive stress, there are certain hormones that our bodies secrete. There is a kind of “high” that comes from this anger/stress/disgust attitude that actually feeds on itself and sub-consciously becomes our drug of choice to help us cope. Much like a sugar high, the rush of adrenalin can become quite addictive, to adults and especially to children. The fix is BREATHING! You hear it all the time: “Just take a deep breath and relax…” and that is about all…we just hear that. Yet, when we actually DO that, the secretion of stress hormones is reduced, the blood is oxygenated and the self-control returns. Try it. Next time things go wrong, force yourself to breathe deeply several times. Just STOP where you are and breathe very deeply holding the air in for a few counts and exhaling fully; then holding it out for a few counts. Repeat this three or four times.
Now, once you have actually taught yourself this technique, demonstrate it. Let your little ones see you breathe and change to a calm, loving human right before their eyes! When they pitch a fit about something, instead of matching their fury with your own, breathe, and teach them to do the same. Make it fun. Make it work.
Those who rock the cradle, rule the world and Jesus knows our world needs more peace and love. Let’s start with our breath; after all, it is the gift of life from our Loving God.