It’s hard to believe my two weeks of self-discipline practice is over already. I feel like I’ve learned a lot, and am really glad I took this step to figure out some of my values and goals. The book I read that got this all started talked about many topics pertaining to motherhood (which I hope to reflect on in later posts!), but the one about the importance of self-discipline caught my attention first.
Self-discipline: the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
A pretty good person
I think every parent can agree that nothing causes you to examine your own life more than having kids. Bad habits or attitudes you previously had might have been ok with your spouse when you got married (you live with their bad habits, they live with yours), but for some reason the untainted innocence of your baby’s face causes you to think twice about the person you are. And as that baby grows in awareness to a toddler that copies everything you do and say, you suddenly aren’t as comfortable with some of the things that come out of your mouth or that you used to watch on TV.
I know for me personally, I thought of myself as a pretty good role model until I had two sets of eyes on me at all times. Suddenly, how I reacted to things, my attitude in less than ideal situations, my spiritual convictions and my priorities in life, all came under scrutiny.
Was this how I wanted my children to handle big emotions, or a bad day? Was this how I wanted them to act when they didn’t get their way or when they felt justified in their behaviours?
Was it fair for me to ask them to act a certain way, have a certain attitude, and be self-disciplined little angels when I couldn’t even do the same?
I realized that before I could expect them to pick up their toys, put away their stuff and treat others with respect and kindness, I needed to model it for them.
Do as I say, not as I do.
We can all think of parents we know, or knew growing up, who didn’t model the life they wanted their own children to follow, who had bad habits or substance abuse that they told their kids never to try, or who made household rules that they themselves didn’t follow. Or maybe you yourself have areas of your life that you don’t want your kids to copy you in. You make rules that you want them to follow but don’t follow yourself. I’m talking about things like saying bad words when you’re upset or acting out in anger and shouting when you’re frustrated. Or even little things like making them eat healthy and then pigging out on ice cream after they’re in bed (guilty!).
Of course if your bedroom is a disaster zone of month’s worth of laundry and garbage and you ask them to clean up their room, they should obey. Or if you have a “no swearing in this house rule”, they should listen, even if you slip up sometimes. Parents won’t ever be perfect all the time and it’s important to model grace, forgiveness and second chances so that they can give us grace as well when we mess up! But I’m talking about negative things that are a habit or happen more than we would like.
I think a lot of parents (myself included) feel that having kids gives them a second chance at doing life over again. We don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes we did, we want them to do better and be better. We want them to be more successful in life or to avoid hurtful things we wished we could have avoided. We feel we can’t ever master eating healthy or exercising but we make our children do it so that they don’t become like us.
It’s never too late to change
If you figure there’s no hope left for you and that you’re just stuck in your ways/habits, you miss out on that chance to actually make a difference in your child’s life. As parents, what we do matters most. What we model for our kids has the biggest impact. It really is never too late to change.
So moving forward from my two week challenge I’m going to work hard to keep up with the healthy eating and exercising as well as watching my attitude when I’m tired, grumpy or frustrated. We’ve been enjoying having less TV time and more interactive playing outside now that it’s warmer. I’ll keep my Facebook (grudgingly), but go on a few times a week. It’s been very freeing not having it on my phone anymore and yesterday when I put it back on to see if I would be tempted to go on it, I was… so off it went again!
Self-discipline is a lifelong journey, that’s for sure, but one that’s so worth it!
Are there some ares of your life you want to change in order to be a good role-model to your children of having self-discipline? Remember, it doesn’t matter how hard it is, you can do it with God’s strength!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13