Teach Self-Control

How to protect your child from life’s dangers
From the July 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

Many of the world’s ills could be prevented if children were raised in an environment of self-control. Teaching children self-control can prevent sexual abuse. Children should be taught to control everything affecting their minds and bodies. Sexual abuse occurs in many forms, and all leave a child’s mind scarred for life. Children should be taught what sexual abuse is and about their right to privacy.

As defined by the American Medical Association (ama), “Child sexual abuse is any sexual act or sexual contact with a child performed by an adult or an older child. It also includes showing an adult’s genitalia to a child, showing the child pornographic pictures or videotapes, or using the child as a model for pornographic purposes” (www.ama-assn.org).

To prevent child sexual abuse, children should be taught that no one has the right to touch them inappropriately or make them feel uncomfortable. They should be taught that, under those circumstances, they should say “no” to adults or older children. They should know that anyone has the potential to abuse them, not just strangers, but even family members and people they know.

The ama says, “Children should be taught not to keep secrets and should report any touching or behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable to their parents or an adult guardian. Listen when your child tries to tell you something, especially when it is difficult for them to talk about it. Know who your child is spending time with and ask the child about his or her visits with that person; this includes caregivers, such as babysitters.”

Recent studies show that 83 percent of American teens age 13 to 17 are “online” on the Internet, spending an average of 101/2 hours online each week. The World Wide Web now holds over 1 billion pages, many of which are filled with sex, hatred and violence. “Chat rooms” are interactive message centers where sexual predators can easily masquerade as young people and lie in wait for naïve children. Your child should be taught never to reveal personal information to anyone online without your permission.

In self-control training, children must be taught to willingly cooperate with their parents and obey their instructions. Otherwise, children will learn patterns of deception which will prevent their parents from protecting them.

Part of teaching self-control is teaching children to take responsibility for their own actions. When wrong actions occur, the child should be told of his or her infraction of the rules in a calm manner and without anger. Proper punishment should then be meted out to fit the offense. The relationship between offense and punishment should always reinforce the principal of taking responsibility for their own actions. Consistent reinforcement by the parents will begin to develop the habit of self-control in the child, and the rewards and benefits of peace, happiness and harmony with family and friends will result.

Teaching self-control prevents violence. Self-control teaches proper problem resolution. Life, after all, is primarily a journey through problem solving. Children who are taught to control themselves when problems arise are able to work better with the people and circumstances involved to bring about a good solution. Without self-control, frustration mounts, tempers flare, and the problem worsens. Self-control teaches children that anger and violence are not solutions to their problems.

Self-control stops the mind from lusting and coveting, and therefore prevents stealing, sexual sins, envy, jealousy and all the human emotions and actions which lead to pain, suffering and even war (James 4:1-3).

Our children must be taught early in life to respect themselves and others, and to control themselves when they have the impulse to act in anger or frustration. As the child grows older and sexual impulses are added to the list, those too can remain under control so that lust does not damage the child’s mind or bring about suffering and pain through sex outside of marriage.

We should teach our children to be positive about self-control. With self-control, we can become masters of ourselves and the evils which surround us and oftentimes tempt us. Jesus Christ was tempted exactly as all humans are (Heb. 4:15), but He exercised self-control so that the pulls of the flesh and human nature never overwhelmed Him. Because of that control over the self, Christ never once sinned. What more positive result could we ever want in our children’s lives?

Nature and Law of God

Controlling the self is the key to obtaining the nature of God, which is God’s very purpose for man: to be made in the very image, or character and nature, of God (Gen. 1:26).

Galatians 5:22-23 show us God’s nature through the “fruits” of His Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and temperance (moderation or self-control). That final fruit is a major key in acquiring the other fruits. If we can control ourselves and teach our children to do the same, then with God’s help we can conquer our sinful human nature.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 tell us to teach God’s commandments to our children and to talk about them with our children in our daily lives. We are to teach and live by those words of life at all times. And then, through willing, obedient repetition, God’s law will be written in our minds and every part of our lives! We are to put God’s law into action!

If all people kept God’s holy law (Rom. 7:12), there would be no child abuse. There would be no child soldiers and the horrors of war. There would be no lust, child prostitution or sexually transmitted diseases. God’s Ten Commandments are the true solution to man’s ills (Exod. 20:1-17).

Jesus Christ did not come, as some suppose, to do away with the law of God. Christ Himself said He came not to “destroy the law,” but to fulfill or magnify the law (Matt. 5:17-18)—not just the letter of the law, but the spirit and intent of the law as well. Verses 21-22 reveal that anger, which is the spirit of murder, is the same as physically killing someone. Verses 27-28 show that sexual lust is the same as committing the physical sex act of adultery.

If only wrath and lust were stopped, many children and adults would be living happy, peaceful, God-centered lives! We must have God’s law and His ways at the center of our nations, our families and our very being—and we must teach this to the human family!