I recently sent an SOS email to a seasoned Growing Families mom, Jill Everson. Our youngest, who is 4, was really struggling to gain self-control on her own. We would send her to “sit on the rug and gain self-control” and she would cry and cry. And cry. We had also noticed some freedom issues with her. The youngest child will often sneak out of the funnel because older siblings are doing things she would also like to do. I kept hearing Carla Link’s words, “Nothing happens ‘all-of-the-sudden’”. Rich and I knew that we had been lax in some areas that, over time, had led us to this point of struggle.
So I sent the email, with what seemed like two separate issues: gaining self-control on her own and having too many freedoms. But Jill showed me how interrelated these two things are. Here are the take-aways from her response:
- Be consistent. This is SO important in our parenting in every area, but when multiple kiddos come along, it sure is hard to keep track of the details when training them! What stage is each child at? What can I realistically expect from my 4-, 7-, and 9-year-olds? Once that’s established, Rich and I need to be on the same page and our kids need to know the standard doesn’t change between us. Couch time is a great time to make sure we are both moving in the same direction.
- Stay calm. A child who is consistently having trouble gaining self-control for long periods of time can REALLY try your patience. Suddenly, it’s Mom and Dad who need to fold their hands and gain self-control! Remember, parents, God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to calm us in these difficult situations. Pray. Wait. Take a deep breath and let the Holy Spirit guide you. You can’t train in self-control if you don’t have it yourself.
- Because our daughter is 4, we can have a conversation with her about the areas we were inconsistent in and remind her that the standard hasn’t changed. It will be up to her to decide how long she wants to cry and wait to get self-control.
- Do the hard things. Now that she has been reminded what the standard is, it’s up to us, as Mom and Dad, to stick to it. No, she will not be able to choose her own clothes until she demonstrates self-control when I choose for her. When she does demonstrate self-control, it will be a delight to give that freedom back to her, knowing that the hard work of training has paid off.
These are great principles that Rich and I have learned and taught many times over the last few years. It REALLY helps our parenting to be teaching the classes, but we’re all human and things can slowly slip over time, even when you are the teacher! It’s so important to keep taking the classes or become a facilitator. You’ll learn so much by teaching! But the other benefit is the community you have around you to walk the journey with you and to share ideas – things that worked and what didn’t. We’ve met, and continue to rely on, people like Jill who have walked before us and generously share what they have learned. We’re so thankful for the GFI community and hope you’ll join us anew or persevere in what you’ve already been doing!