Self-control is one of the major factors to living a productive life. Self-control keeps us from overeating, overspending, overwatching, over-anything really. It helps us stay cool under pressure and keeps us from saying things we might regret. Self-control can help keep us focused when we have something we need to finish. Self-control can help us escape the negative consequences of our impulsive decisions. When you think of self-control, the first thing that probably doesn’t come to mind is your teenager. Because the brains of our teen children are still developing, impulse control can be hit or miss at best.
Learning self-control doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and practice. The challenge for us as parents with self control is we can’t learn it for our kids, thus the ‘self’ in self-control. Because our kids are on their own with developing self-control, it doesn’t mean that they are all alone. This is a great opportunity to play the role of coach in their life. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind while you’re helping your teen develop self-control in their own life.
Chances are you’ve learned some self-control throughout your life, and in some cases this becomes second nature. You’ve learned not to say everything that comes to mind. You’ve learned you don’t need a third donut (everyone needs two). You resist another pair of shoes to add to your wardrobe. But because these decisions are second nature to you, your teens don’t see the process of making the wise choice of having self-control in those moments. When your teens are around, talk to them about your self-control decision-making processes—what was going through your mind and how you came to the conclusion you did. This will help them understand how they can make wise choices in the future.
Students will never learn self-control if they’re not given opportunities to practice it. Let them wait. Give them responsibilities. Give them choices. Ask questions and guide them through a decision-making process in a way that allows them to take ownership of their choices. This will give them the confidence to make choices on their own as they mature in this area.
Be in the habit of praying for your teens. We know that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Bring them before God regularly through prayer. Encourage them to develop the habit of prayer and spending time with Jesus themselves. God has promised that transformation will happen as we spend time leaning into Him.
Your teens are learning self-control, and with any new still or habit, they will not always get it right. You’ll discover they spent all night on the Xbox or talking with their friends on Snapchat instead of doing a project. When that happens, offer them grace and forgiveness. That doesn’t mean you swoop in and finish their homework or project for them. In fact, letting them suffer the natural consequences when the stakes aren’t so high is one of the best things you can do. Help them learn self-control before consequences show up on permanent records. Constantly remind them they are still learning, and while they are learning they are still deeply loved.