Helping Your Child Find Their True Self Through Self-Control

The last fruit of the Spirit that is listed is self-control. But before we can help our children experience this fruit it is important to understand how the process works.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
— Galatians 5:22-23

The more I learn about self-control the more it becomes a paradox to me. Fruit is the natural process of a healthy plant. Jesus used this illustration often to describe the output of our lives.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing
— John 15:5

In other words, when we are remaining in a nurturing, nourishing relationship with Jesus we will naturally bear godly fruit. Conversely if we do not abide in Him we will not bear fruit. Further we see that the way we abide in Christ is through being filled (empowered, controlled) by the Holy Spirit. Therefore the Spirit’s work in us is called fruit.

But therein lies the seeming contradiction. When we are in the dependent state of being filled with the Holy Spirit we become more self-disciplined and are more in control of our own lives. How can this be? Aren't we supposed to be more about doing God’s priorities and not our own?

And this is the amazing thing about being filled with the Spirit. It results in not losing our individuality but gaining it. Sin took away our uniqueness and made us a mere shell of what we were created to be. It’s a little like when an art preservationist works on a century’s old painting that has been terribly neglected. They carefully remove the dirt and restore the original vibrant color that the artist created. Often during this process images emerge that were completely obscured by the layers of grime. So it is when we are abiding in Christ and filled with his Spirit, our true “colors” emerge. We become more creative, more focused, more efficient and better able to do the things we were designed to do. And we don’t do this because some external law has been imposed on us … we actually want to do to do these things because they become the desire of our hearts.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart
— Psalms 37:4

So self-control becomes the ability to do those things that we desire to do without the hindrance of our sinful nature and therefore is a natural process of the Spirit redeeming and renewing us. Self-control can be described as:

It is a gradual, often agonizingly slow process of growth and development which ultimately bears the fruit of a successful life. And just how important is it? Supremely! Those who can’t manage their time, talent and energy toward a goal will never achieve anything of significance. Helping our children develop self-discipline must become a major focus of our correction.

“I think of discipline as the continual everyday process of helping a child learn self-discipline.”

Fred Rogers

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Self-discipline is more caught than taught. Take a good look at your own life and see if it is worth replicating … because that’s exactly what is happening.
  2. Expect your child to show self-discipline and encourage, celebrate and reward them when they demonstrate this quality, especially when they have successfully completed something that they have worked hard to accomplish.
  3. Make a list of heroes who, through their self-discipline, were able to achieve great success. Read your children stories of men and women who exampled this quality.
  4. Pray for your child to develop this fruit of the Spirit

 Remember self-discipline is not a ridged adherence to a set of rules so don’t be fooled into thinking that just because your child conforms to your guidelines that they have self-discipline. They may just be complying with your authority without having developed this character trait. Self-discipline is just that. It is the ability to do what you truly desire to do even when there is no external pressure. I have seen far too many good compliant Christian kids go off to college and completely fail because they have never developed the ability to manage their tasks without parental pressure. Therefore I say often to parents “if you never let your child feel the sting of failure they will never experience the pleasure of success”. It is when they realize that they must summon the intrinsic motivation to do what needs to be done that they find achievement is always a process of hard choices and difficult activities. But in the end self-discipline leads to a beautiful life.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments or experiences with me in the space below. I would enjoy the opportunity to dialog with you on this or any other topic we post. And if there are any concerns that we can pray for you about we would consider that an honor.