May 29

Consistent Parenting Leads to Self-Control

2014 at 8:18 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Since the beginning of her toddler years, my husband and I had been instructing Caly on how to be self-controlled. The older she got, the more confident we became that she understood how to exercise self-control, but the emotional outbursts continued.

Self-control had become a clear obedience issue. Caly needed consistent, loving, discipline in order to complete and strengthen her wall of self-control (Prov. 6:23, 29:17, Heb. 12:5-11).

Reasonable and kind parenting required that, for starters, we set the bar very low. To expect consistent self-control, we needed to give her a standard she could attain.

First, I simplified Caly’s life for an extended season. I pulled her out of play dates. I ran errands when she was already in bed. I kept an orderly routine. We stayed home most of the time and made Caly’s life as predictable as possible. Careful bricklaying requires a steady hand; I couldn’t build a strong wall of self-control amidst a hectic life.

Second, I sought to eliminate unnecessary temptations. For example, we didn’t insist on certain eating habits, and at times when she was especially tired or vulnerable I would create a place where she could play alone without the temptation of other children. By removing as many temptations as possible, we could focus on self-control in a few simple areas.

Then we had to discipline consistently. We can’t expect our children to learn consistent self-control from inconsistent parenting. When we disciplined—lovingly, patiently, for every infraction—we began to see change in Caly’s life, even more quickly than we expected. This time of focused training enabled us make great progress in helping her build a wall of self-control.

Over time, as Caly learned the daily habit of self-control, we were able to expand her horizons. We began to participate in more activities, go on spontaneous outings, and focus on other training issues (such as eating her peas!). Through consistent discipline, Caly acquired the ability to respond with emotional self-control to all kinds of unexpected situations.

I don’t know exactly when God chose to reveal Himself to Caly, but I expect it was around this time. In his kindness, he has given her a heart to know and follow Him and I pray those affections only grow as the years go by.

Related Posts:

When Momma Feels Hopeless

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 27

When Momma Feels Hopeless

2014 at 7:47 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Church was over, but not Caly’s crying. She had been crying through most of the service, and despite all my efforts, she just wouldn’t stop. I snaked my way through the crowded church lobby with my emotional child, trying to look cheerful and composed.

I found my mom, handed her a crying Caly, and burst into tears.

Raising an emotional child is an emotional experience. I cried a lot in those early years of training Caly. It wasn’t just the lack of sleep or the long, exhausting days or the embarrassing situations, all of which took their toll—most of all it was the feeling of hopelessness that hung over me because all my efforts to teach Caly self-control seemed to be making little or no difference at all.

I was trying so hard to be faithful. Why didn’t there seem to be much progress? Shouldn’t it be working by now?

Caly did eventually learn self-control. But it took much longer than I expected. And then much longer after that.

My mom encouraged me to persevere. She reassured me that my efforts would yield results someday. I had to believe God’s Word that as I was faithful to parent, God would be faithful to bring the fruit.

J.C. Ryle comments on Proverbs 22:6, “Train up your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it”:

“It speaks of a certain time when good training shall especially bear fruit,—‘when a child is old.’ Surely there is comfort in this…It is not God’s way to give everything at once. ‘Afterward’ is the time when he often chooses to work, both in the things of nature and in the things of grace…And ‘afterward’ is the time to which parents must look forward if they see not success at once,—you must sow in hope and plant in hope.”

Sow in hope. Plant in hope. Parent in hope that God will bring the harvest. This is the key to dealing with our fearful and hopeless feelings as moms

Fast-forward six years later to another Sunday morning. The service is over and I am pushing a double stroller with another emotional toddler through the crowded church lobby—my three-year-old son, Hudson. Only this time I have a one-year old in the front and two older girls beside me. It is Caly all over again, with three more children in tow.

Except, this time, I’m not on the verge of tears. In fact, I can almost manage a half-smile. Sure, I’m tired, exhausted in fact; and it is tough caring for another emotional child. This time around, though, I have more hope.

Caly is walking beside me, calm, obedient, and helpful. She is a reminder to me of the faithfulness of God. She is a reminder to me to persevere in teaching Hudson self-control, in hope.

And I have hope, that because of the abundant faithfulness of God, one day—even if it is one day far away—I might leave church and no one will be crying.

Related Posts:

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 21

Teaching Toddlers Emotional Self-Control: A Few Practical Thoughts

2014 at 8:04 am   |   by Nicole Whitacre Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood | Parenting Young Children

Teaching our little ones how to handle their feelings is some of the “grunt work” of mothering. It doesn’t feel fun, for us or for our kids, but it creates an environment in which we can experience wonderful, bonding, moments with our children. More importantly, we are tilling the ground for gospel seeds. Here are a few practical thoughts on teaching little ones self-control with their emotions.

Model Self-Control: Instead of panicking when they panic or getting angry when they scream, we demonstrate a self-controlled response to the situation. My husband and I often try to help our children by responding with affectionate amusement when they overreact. My husband tries to make them laugh when they cry over nothing; they feel his care and at the same time they learn how to exercise emotional self-control.

Practice Self-Control: Emotional self-control is easier when a child has learned self-control with their speech and actions. Consider: How can you make “practicing self-control” part of your daily life? Listening without interrupting at the dinner table, set times of sitting still and reading, staying on their bed at night, not grabbing toys, or holding your hand when outside—all of these practices will help your children learn the valuable virtue of self-control.

{Don’t Always} Discipline for Self-Control: We must be very careful to distinguish between childish exuberance or exhaustion and true disobedience. An over-tired or teething child who won’t stop crying is in need of a good night’s sleep. A child who is noisy or silly or gets on your nerves might need forbearance more than discipline. On the other hand, we as parents must be discerning and diligent to deal with defiant, repetitive, behaviors that reveal a concerning lack of self-control.

Teach Self-Control: There is a lot to teach your children about handling emotions, but self-control is the place to begin. In age-appropriate ways we can teach our children what God’s Word says about the importance of self-control.

~Memorize Bible verses (Prov. 25:28, 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Gal. 5:22-24, 1 Tim. 2:9, 2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

~Make learning fun for the whole family by acting out a right and wrong way to respond.

~Sing songs about self-control. To Be Like Jesus and Seeds of Character include songs and Scriptures set to music that talk about self-control.

~Tell and/or read stories that show the blessings of self-control. Saturate their hearts and minds with narratives that highlight the blessings of self-control.

~ Have self-control sticker charts or contests among the kids. Encourage them to notice and encourage self-control in each other.

Helping our children build a wall of self-control is a lengthy, unglamorous, process, but the end goal is beautiful, fulfilling, and God-glorifying for our families. Don’t lose sight of it!

Related Posts:

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?

May 19

How God Guides Us

2014 at 7:34 am   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Trusting God

“God’s guidance will require patience on our part. His leading is not usually a direct assurance, a revelation, but His sovereign controlling of the circumstances of our lives, with the Word of God as our rule. It is therefore, inevitable that the unfolding of His purposes will take time—sometimes a very long time.” ~Sinclair B. Ferguson

May 15

Godly Feelings Flourish Behind Walls of Self-Control

2014 at 8:53 am   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Biblical Womanhood | Emotions | Motherhood

Editor’s Note: We’re going to approach this “feelings” series chronologically, starting with very young children. Today Janelle kicks us off by talking about how we can help our toddlers begin to learn how to handle their emotions.

My oldest daughter, Caly, was emotional from day one. If I didn’t want her to cry I had to hold her or turn the vacuum cleaner on outside her room. Those were my only two options. She cried in the car, she cried in her crib, she cried all the time.

This was certainly a sign of things to come. As a toddler and preschooler, Caly was the most emotional little girl I have ever met. We’re talking meltdowns over her dollhouse being moved to a different room, freak-outs from watching Baby Einstein, inconsolable weeping long after her cousin returned the toy she grabbed, every day, all day long.

Caly was the first girl of all the cousins. Up until she was born, my sisters had only boys. And even though my sisters and I were plenty emotional growing up, none of us had ever encountered a girl quite as emotional as my Caly.

Emotional Caly made for extra-emotional Mommy. Oftentimes I cried right along with her, and some days I wanted to scream with her, too. Besides being my shoulder to cry on, my mom also helped me keep my eyes on a single mothering goal: teach Caly self-control.

As soon as she was old enough, Mike and I began to train Caly to control her emotions. Whenever she would start to overreact (read all day long!) we would calmly instruct her to place her hand on her mouth and quiet down. This simple, specific action helped her regain her composure and made self-control an obedience issue. Then we would explain what self-control should look like and instruct her to remove her hand and respond in a self-controlled manner (e.g. ask kindly, play cheerfully, stop crying, etc.).

We didn’t ask her much about what she was feeling. We didn’t have long conversations exploring her emotions. We didn’t try to reason with her. We didn’t plead or manipulate, cajole or bribe. We didn’t even talk a whole lot about how emotions are a gift from God or about their God-given purpose. We were not angry or harsh. We were deliberately calm and tender in how we spoke to her. But we were firm and united in teaching this little girl one simple truth: God wanted Caly to learn to control her emotions.

It may seem like we were stifling a young girl’s budding emotions, but our goal was quite the opposite. We wanted to teach Caly how to control and handle her feelings so that she would be able to experience and express her emotions in the way God intended—as a gift from him for his glory.

The first step was to help her build a wall: “A man [or a little girl] without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov. 25:28).

Caly was a living illustration of this verse, her little soul an exposed and ransacked city, completely overrun by her barbarian emotions because she had no solid, protective, wall of self-control.

Emotional walls are usually thought of negatively these days. We think of them as barriers erected by emotional insecure or hurting people who try to block themselves off from others or from feeling anything at all. Walls=bad. So goes the conventional wisdom, and in many cases this is probably true.

But a wall of self-control is not like the Berlin Wall, erected to entrap and exclude. It is a wall like that of an ancient city or of a beautiful estate that needs protection in order for the inhabitants to dwell in peace.

Self-control is the wall behind which godly emotions flourish.

We have watched this happen in our little girl’s life. Caly is eight now, and she has learned how to handle her emotions. Not that she doesn’t still struggle at times, but she is a different girl than she used to be.

She is not a repressed or unemotional child, but happy and expressive. She feels things strongly and deeply, and is especially sensitive to the things of God. She prays often, has an insatiable hunger to read her Bible, confesses her sin frequently, grieves over her own sin and the sin of others, gets excited about sharing and loving others and encouraging her siblings and cousins to do the same.

I believe her emotions toward God are so strong because, by the grace of God, they have been able to flourish behind a strong wall of self-control. Behind that solid wall—which was arduous to build, and maybe not so attractive to look at—a garden of godly feelings has grown up in sweet safety and protection.

How grateful this weak and desperate mom is for the wisdom from God’s Word that teaches us how to help our little ones earn to handle their emotions.

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Q&A: How Do We Deal with Our Daughters’ Emotions?