Lets look at how we can use our self control when we are tempted by something that may be appealing to us. From the simple point of view if we look at something in the store or at something that belongs to someone else, while we may want it or something like it we would not steal it. We know that taking something that does not belong to us, no matter how much we want it would be the wrong thing to do and would have very bad consequences. We know that when that trust has been broken between individuals it is very hard to get back and using our self control is how we can maintain a high level of trust with our parents, friends, teachers, and employees / employers.
But this is not the only kind of temptations around us. We may be tempted to not tell the truth, especially if we are scared or think we are about to get into trouble. It takes a great deal of character and self control to stop ourselves from stealing or lying to others. But there are temptations all around us. For each one of us they are going to be different. For some temptations may come in the form of food, intimacy, drugs, alcohol, gambling. For some we find ourselves lying to ourselves, the greatest form of deception, about whatever it is that is tempting to us. So how do we guard ourselves from these sorts of things?
By taking the STEP. STOP and take a deep breath or two. Count to ten get away from the situation for a minute to give yourself time to THINK up some solutions. Write them down, think about each way you could deal with the situation. The EVALUATE all the possible solutions with 3 questions; Will this solution work, Is it safe and Is it fair? When all 3 of those questions can be answered in a positive way then we can choose from the solution options that meet that criteria for what is best for us and immediately PROCEED with the plan.
Now while this is harder to do than it is to say, the way we get ourselves strong enough to use our self control at our command is to practice it on little things. For instance I know that I need to do physical activity every day. So have I set a time to do that? When that time comes do I make excuses to refrain or do I make a personal victory by carrying out my plan? When you have the little victories on a daily basis, when there is a bigger temptation we will have grown that muscle strong enough to demonstrate our self control.
As a parent we can set the example and show our children when we are using our self control, and point out what and why we are doing it. We can encourage them to do the same and celebrate with them when they display self control. Talking and using the words on a consistent basis will be a great reminder for both parent and child.
When we apologize quickly and sincerely we can fix many of the mistakes we make due to the lack of self control. But there is another way that ‘doing the right thing’ comes into play when we talk about self control. That is by thinking for ourselves even when our friends want us to do something that we don’t think is right. All of us are going to find ourselves in a position when someone; schoolmate, friend, workmate, boss, is going to ask us to do something that does not feel right to us and then the question is, “Will we use our thinking ability and self control to not give in to peer pressure and do something that we will regret later?”
The same S.T.E.P. is required for this situation also. First we need to Stop and not say or do the first thing that comes into our head. Then we need to THINK about the possible solutions to the situation. Then we need to EVALUATE all of the possible solutions. (Is it the right thing to do, will it work, is it safe, is it fair?) Then we need to PROCEED.
No matter whether we are an adult or a teen when we proceed in a situation that calls for us to stand up to peer pressure we first must Stand Tall, Look them in the eyes, say NO like we mean it, and why you won’t do it. Being assertive is the key to success in our quest to demonstrate self control. This is not being mean, angry or vindictive. We simply are following our plan to stay in control of our lives – not allowing others to persuade us to do something that we do not believe is the right thing to do.
We teach this to our children by demonstrating on small scale these attributes. When we spill something or break something we fix it. If we hurt someones feelings, we fix it. When we are asked to be a part of a gossipy conversation we take a stand. Our expectations for ourselves and our children will be demonstrated on a daily basis so that they see self control in action. Even in our diet; what we eat and drink, how much we eat and drink, how and when we exercise, our sleeping habits all are a demonstration of our self control. Helping our children to see how we do this and the example of others that we can show them is key to them growing up with this quality.
One of the most common reasons parents bring their children to a martial arts school is to teach them about impulse control. Doing the first thing that pops into our head without thinking through all of the possible solutions can end up in results that are less than what we hoped for. So we are going to spend some time this month on the subject of self control.
Our child development specialist, Robyn Silverman, gave us this system for gaining this control. We want to remember STEP.
Here is how it works. S is for Stop. First we must find a way to slow ourselves down before we do the first thing that pops into our head. It might be taking 3 deep breaths or stepping away from a situation, but we must distract ourselves before making that decision. T is for THINK. Make a list of all the possible solutions you can come up with. Some of them may seem ridiculous, but the point is to let your mind be creative and think of all of the ways you could handle this situation. E is for EVALUATE. Now look at each solution and decide if this would result in a good consequence or a bad one. Is this solution safe? Is it fair? Some of the choices you will throw away and some you will keep. But then you need to decide which one is going to be best for you at this time. P is for PROCEED. Now is the time to implement your choice. Here is where great balance is needed as you proceed you choose what is thoughtful with being eager and gutsy. You balance your goals and self motivation with being level headed and thoughtful.
Maintaining self control is really just about slowing down and thinking through our choices before acting on them.