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.