Self-Discipline Is Your Child Building It?
Good News Magazine
January 1986
Volume: Vol XXXIII, NO. 1
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Self-Discipline Is Your Child Building It?
Gavin N Cullen  

Without this character trait, no child can mature properly.

How would you react if you hired someone to build you a new house and then found out the person was a fraud?

   Let's say this person had no real training in building homes; he had merely worked as a common laborer for a while. He created a fancy title for his "construction company" and figured that was enough for him to get started in business.
   You didn't find out about him until he started work on the foundations. You began to be concerned at the way he didn't seem to be sticking to the plans. Even though he reassured you about what he was doing, you weren't satisfied.
   What finally caused you to begin to look into the "builder's" qualifications was what you found when you slipped down to the building site and measured the foundations. Not only were the dimensions wrong, but the whole foundation was completely out of square. In no way were the foundations even beginning to turn out like the plan that you and he had decided upon.
   As soon as you found out about his lack of credentials, you went to great lengths to get out of the contract. There was no way you would have a man with so little competence build your home!
   Now, all this sounds absurd. Maybe this specific scenario has never happened anywhere. But, a sad situation with particulars not unlike those in this example is happening repeatedly all over the world every day. Yet the situation is accepted as normal. It is not questioned. But it is having far more devastating consequences than having an unqualified builder construct a home. It is having a direct effect on the downfall of our society today!
   The building being constructed is the character of children. The builders are parents, who either carry out the building plans formulated by almighty God or fail miserably in child rearing.

A right foundation
   We may be aghast at the thought of an unqualified person building our home. Yet many are making terrible mistakes in molding the lives of their children. They do not heed God's clear instructions — they have no idea of what direction they are heading or should head with their off spring. Their child rearing "just kind of happens." The results are disastrous — devastating to this society. Children are growing up without any self-discipline.
   Some are unable to entertain themselves because they have spent countless hours being entertained in front of the television, incapable of learning in the classroom because they can't pay attention and concentrate, unfit to hold jobs when they leave school because they have not learned to accept and carry out responsibilities.
   King Solomon, to whom God gave great wisdom, gained in depth understanding regarding child rearing, and he recorded many of his observations in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 29:15 he pinpoints the crux of the problem we are addressing: "A child left to himself brings shame to his mother."
   When parents do not know why their children do not turn out as well as they expected, this is often the main reason.

Training necessary
   Just as a musician needs constant training and practice to become good enough to play in an orchestra, so a child needs constant training, based on the laws God reveals, to develop self-discipline. A child must be taught to carry out responsibilities — whether schoolwork, chores around the home, controlling emotions or exercising the patience and diligence needed to learn a new skill.
   For instance, a teenager who has never learned about punctuality, getting along with others and following instructions cannot just join the work force and expect to be able to work successfully for a full eight hours every day. He would find great difficulty in sticking out the often mundane assignments that regularly go with the job. He may not respect his superiors. He may not be concerned with doing quality work. A child develops his or her attitude toward work during the early years, and this takes work on the part of the parents.
   Once again we can turn to the book of Proverbs for guidance. If we train our children in the way they should go, they will never depart from that way (Proverbs 22:6).
   Let's look at several typical areas where children need to learn self-discipline. The principles here apply to all areas of child rearing in general.

Work habits
   It is essential that children develop good work habits early. Respect for work and ambition can be taught from an early age by giving children responsibility for simple chores around the house.
   A 3-year-old can be taught to help Mom keep his room tidy, empty the small wastepaper bin and help Dad clean the car. At first this instruction may create even more work for the watchful parents, but these habits can only be taught by parents who are pre pared to work with their children. Obviously, as a child gets older, his or her reliability and sense of responsibility increases to where he or she can carry out work without supervision.

Teach them new skills
   One of the most effective ways of teaching self-discipline is to help children develop new skil1s . Musical instruments, sports or various hobbies can be fun and rewarding. Parents should, of course, consider children's abilities and interests, and tailor challenges and opportunities accordingly. Forcing a child into an activity for which he or she has no aptitude or interest does more harm than good.
   To become proficient in music or sports, a child must spend many hours in study and practice. This teaches self-discipline.
   A hobby such as sewing, cooking, floral art or gardening can help a girl develop skills for later years. Also, it teaches her the valuable lesson of sticking with something until it is finished, through all its ups and downs.
   Similarly, a boy can learn the fundamentals of carpentry by building models or toys. Having his own vegetable patch may spark interest in science or agriculture. Learning to repair his own bicycle would help develop any aptitude toward mechanics.
   All of these activities can be fun and challenging for children in helping them develop self-discipline. The important thing is for the parents to be involved, so the child can learn the right les sons as obstacles arise. For a child to learn to apply himself, parents must be involved in all their activities.

Help them build confidence
   Low self-esteem is one of the most destructive elements in the lives of adolescents today. Be cause they have not learned to achieve, they have no identity of their own , so they turn to peers for strength. But the peers often have no more positive values or skills than they themselves do, and thus many do not have the chance to realize their full potential in life. From the beginning, it is difficult ·for an underachiever to develop a sense of worth.
   The fact that a child has not learned any work habits or developed any talents and has no self discipline contributes to juvenile delinquency. On the other hand, developing skills, talents and personal confidence in children dramatically decreases the potential for delinquency.

Instruct now
   Right instruction today beats experience tomorrow. Life's harshest teacher is the hard knocks of experience. Of course, our children must learn many les sons for themselves, but parents can lessen the burden.
   A curse of our society, where unemployment is a major problem, is the lack of job experience available for youths. When they do get jobs, many are unable to hold them because they cannot apply themselves.
   Proverbs 21:25 tells us that the desire of the slothful kills him. That's right. But a slothful attitude is developed over the years. If parents recognized their children's need for instruction, young people would need not suffer the traumas many do, both while they are children and later.
   Self-discipline and character in our children form building blocks for tomorrow. Follow the instruction God gave to parents in Deuteronomy 6:7, and equip your children adequately for their entrance into adulthood!

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Good News MagazineJanuary 1986Vol XXXIII, NO. 1