“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This is a quote from Jim Elliot who gave his life for a people group he wanted to share the Gospel with.
Growing up on the mission field in Quito, Ecuador, I learned a lot about self-control by seeing the self-sacrifice of those around me. It is amazing what you learn as a child from watching people who give their lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I watched as they would sacrifice convenience, time, money, time with family, and even their very lives to reach people who would otherwise be lost.
When you are teaching self-control to your children, don’t underestimate the power of a good example before them. In addition, there are moments of practical training that will encourage your children to grow in self-control:
- Teaching them to fold their hands in patience while waiting on something.
- Teaching them first-time obedience (coming at the call of their names, stopping for their safety, etc.).
- Teaching them principles of self-control that will guide their behavior for any given situation.
- Using pre-activity warnings and/or dialogue questions to encourage right behavior. This teaches self-control before there is conflict so there won’t be a need for correction later.
All of these techniques are practical ways of teaching self-control and can be implemented with toddlers and young children.
As your children grow through the elementary years and middle years, you can take self-control training further by seeking to reach their hearts. While self-control for outward behavior is good, when that self-control is turned inward and touches the heart, it is even better.
One of the best ways to teach this inward heart self-control is by encouraging your older children to participate in activities that require them to sacrifice or provide service for others. They will need to demonstrate self-control over their own wishes and desires as they serve those around them. Volunteering at nursing homes, homeless shelters, or in the church nursery is a great place to start. Follow up their service by talking to them about what they learned through the experience. Take your older teens on missions trips and ask them if they are willing to sacrifice their lives to share the Gospel. When you see someone else making a sacrifice, be sure to point it out to your children. Finally, read accounts of others who have sacrificed, like Through Gates of Splendor.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Are you ready to teach your kids to give what they cannot keep – their time, their wants, their lives – to gain those things in life that they cannot lose – eternal life and treasures in heaven? That is the very heart of self-control.