(Part 2 in a series of letters called Ramblings from your Grandparents) 

Self Control

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness….
For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge;
and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love.”
….II Peter 1:3-7

Being Obedient

One of the reasons parents give so much attention to helping their children be obedient is to develop good habits of self-discipline. Without it we find it difficult to play contentedly, to obey a parent’s command, to get along with schoolmates, teachers, the folks at church; and in our adult life to do a good day’s work, to control our finances in an orderly manner, to keep our temper under control, to develop wholesome relationships, to follow our Lord’s commands.
Remember Grandpa said children are born to grow up and leave home and it is the parents’ responsibility to get them ready. That was certainly one of the goals that motivated us in the years our children were growing up in our home. We can see that your parents are also trying very hard to prepare all of you for that day as well.
We have all seen children who are out of control. You older grandchildren have probably seen your younger brothers or sisters “throwing a fit.” That’s just the way kids usually are at one time or another when they are young. You would probably say they are “out of control” when that happens. It is disturbing enough to see a 2 year old act this way; but what of a 20 year old who screams and yells and beats the wall (or someone standing near)? That is more than out-of-control, that is totally unacceptable behavior. How does a little child learn to control his whims and ways if dad or mom doesn’t help? How does a 20 year old keep his emotions under control if he has never had to do so as a child?

Power Struggle

When I was a child, a long time ago, occasionally I would see another child misbehave and no parent to control him; but it was a rarity. Today, because of a permissive society and permissive philosophy, we see out-of-control children all too often. The other day while shopping I could hear the screams of a youngster throughout the store. It went on without relief for 20 or 30 minutes. As I stood in the check-out line, the screamer and her parents fell in line behind me. Apparently the child wanted something and hadn’t gotten it. But before her parents reached the cash register the mother had gone to get the desired item. There was a problem though. When she returned the child didn’t want THAT color and began to scream and kick and shout nasty words at her parents again. The parents were perspiring rather heavily and looked at a loss as they dragged their small child out of the store all the while she was beating on her new gift and declaring she didn’t want it.
Kids, it doesn’t take a child psychologist to figure out the problem. This child always got her way. Oh, she may have to make a big fuss, but she knew her folks would give in in the end, and getting her way made her (and everybody else) miserable. But that didn’t solve the problem because the child really didn’t want that particular item anyway….it was simply a power struggle. And while the child’s behavior was deplorable, the real problem lay with her parents. They needed help! Help to see how they were being manipulated, help to focus on a definite goal for this child and follow through to the end. Help ;to break the very bad parenting habits they had developed. Help to love this child enough to persevere in teaching her right from wrong.
Parents are floundering today in the rearing of children because God’s laws and good common sense have been tossed out the window in preference to child psychology and 21st Century lies. I’m grateful your parents are old-fashioned enough and SMART enough to know a disobedient, out-of-control child is unacceptable.
If we are to be pleasing children of God during our adult years, we must yield to His commands and wishes just as a little child does to his parent’s desire. An obedient, self- controlled child has a much better chance of growing up to be a mature, productive, and blessed son or daughter of God than does the rebellious, out-of-control child. It is sad and frightening to see so many children being programmed through lack of discipline to be rebellious adults.

Child-rearing Philosophy

I don’t know why parents let children get out of control: ignorance, laziness, short- sightedness, unconcern, or perhaps even too much education of the wrong kind. I certainly believe in education, but not when it is in direct opposition to God’s instructions. I once babysat in a home where the children were slow to obey and difficult to spend a great deal of time with. I marveled at the mother’s patience under such trying circumstances; but after reading the book on their coffee table, written by a noted child psychologist, I understood where her patience came from. The general philosophy was to never tell a child “no,” but distract them, or reason with them. That was exactly what this mother was doing and the results were disastrous.
I’m hoping that young parents will get so tired of snippy, snotty, sassy kids that they will re-examine their child-rearing practices and begin to question the “experts.” Within our own church family are several family units where dad and mom have sweet, cooperative and kind children. Why don’t those whose children do not behave well ask for advice? Isn’t a child’s life yes, even his eternal spirit, worth the extra effort? Isn’t that child’s eternal spirit worth admitting, “I don’t know what to do”? Isn’t a child’s forever destiny worth a parent’s, “Please help!”?

Glenn’s Story

I love to tell the story of our friend, Glenn. He was the youngest of a very large family and while still in elementary school his father died. The older children had matured into responsible, self-controlled adults under the guidance of both father and mother; but left alone to raise her last child, Glenn’s mother lost control of him. We entered Glenn’s life when he was about 11 or 12 years old. He was rebellious, disrespectful, had poor study habits and therefore poor grades, was an undisciplined eater and showed it by an ever-increasing weight problem. Glenn was headed for trouble….big time! A sister and brother-in-law offered to take Glenn (by now he was in his early teens). Their own children were just little tykes. To take the responsibility of a disobedient teen was quite an undertaking. There was a condition – Glenn’s mother was not to interfere in any way. The sister and brother-in-law were to have complete control of Glenn. Mother agreed.
There was considerable controversy over this mother allowing her son to be placed in the care of an older sister. Church members “clicked” their tongues and wondered if mother really loved her son. How could she if she relinquished all rights to him?

We visited in the home where Glenn was a new member just six short months after his arrival. The change was remarkable. Glenn was trim and slim, polite and helpful. He addressed us as “Ma’am” and “Sir.” He did not wait to be told to be kind and considerate but saw things to be done and moved immediately to do them. His school grades had improved dramatically and he would become an honor student. Best of all, he would become a self- controlled and obedient child of God. Glenn went on to Bible college, and has been a preacher of the Gospel for nearly 40 years. Did his mother love him? Oh, yes! Mother loved her son enough to give him a chance at a self-controlled life, and ultimately be obedient to his God. I shudder to think what might have happened to Glenn had his mother not loved him with such unselfish devotion.
Dear Grandkids, you have had a good start in life. Your parents have consistently required obedient behavior of you even when sometimes you didn’t want to obey and when they were so weary with the day’s responsibilities to barely have the strength to follow through. You are most blessed to have such caring parents. Controlling your own desires and whims for the good of others is a wonderful quality.

Self Control in Action

You older two grandchildren were probably too young to remember this incident: It happened on a Sunday when you were about five and four years old. Grandpa and I were going to your home in the country for Sunday dinner and you wanted to ride with us. I had made caramel apples the night before and carried a tray of ten, golden balls on my lap as we made the journey from the church building to your home. We were having a jolly time as the miles rolled by. Grandpa began:
“Boy, I like caramel apples.” You looked longingly from the back seat knowing those apples would taste so good. “Do you girls like caramel apples?” Grandpa asked.
“Yes,” was your reply in unison.
“Let’s have a caramel apple right now,” Grandpa said.
“Not yet,” was my reply, “after we’ve eaten we’ll all have an apple.”
There was silence for a little while, and then, “I sure would like a bite of caramel apple,”
said our hungry Grandpa. “Let’s have a bite right now.”
“No,” came a chorus of two from the back seat.
“Couldn’t we have just one, little bite now?” Grandpa persisted. “No,” was your definite response and the end of the discussion.

Girls, that was self-control in action. You were controlled, not because you didn’t like caramel apples. You were controlled, not because you weren’t hungry. You were controlling your “appetite” because you had been taught to obey.

Choosing Self Control

The same principle works when we grow to adulthood. For some of God’s children anger and self-pity can erupt into selfish, pouty attitudes. Self-control pushes our personal wishes aside and considers what is best for others or even what is best for us. For some a desire to stay in bed and skip a day’s work is an often and compelling temptation. Self-control get us up and moving and facing our responsibilities. Sexual appetites, unrestrained and unrestricted outside the bonds of marriage, trip up many a person while self-control puts the brakes on and keeps that special experience for our lifetime mate. The lure of the world and all the pleasures it has to offer is difficult for many to resist. Self-control points us to God and His Word and His wishes and gives us strength to resist temptation even when it is very appealing.
Controlling ourselves without knowing right from wrong is impossible to do. Following our conscience, when it hasn’t been trained by God’s Word, is a dead-end street. That is why our society today is so topsy-turvy. They are trying to do good when they don’t even know what good is.
The Bible is the road map for our lives. God’s wonderful Spirit, dwelling in all His children, will use the Scripture we have hidden in our hearts to give us the strength to overcome sin, to control our sinful, willful passions and desires. God will not force His will on us, but He is always there to instruct and encourage if we are willing to listen.
Our Scripture says knowledge brings self-control and self-control brings perseverance and perseverance brings godliness. Knowledge of God’s Word brings a disciplined life and a disciplined life give us strength to resist evil and be the people God want us to be, people who will not shame Him, but bring honor to His name. Self-control does not happen by osmosis any more than love does. We choose to be self-controlled.