Self control: dealing with temptations

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.

Self control: asking permission

Today we are going to talk about asking permission.  What does asking permission have to do with self control?  It starts at a very young age.  When a child wants a toy or crayons that someone else is using or has in their possession, the first thing that pops in their head is to grab it and take it for themselves.  Then as they get older they may use things that belong to their siblings or friends without asking.  As teens this may evolve into going out or to places without clearing it first with their parents.  As adults we may do things because we feel we have the right to do so (because we are adults).

What would happen if as a 5 year old we just grabbed the markers out of the hand of another child?  Is it safe or fair?  Will that solution work?  Of course not, we expect that we would learn to ask nicely without grabbing or yelling.  So we say “Excuse me, may I use that marker when you are done?”  As we get older We can begin to learn about respecting the rights of others and their property.  Even as pre-teens we learn that it is the respectful thing to ask for permission from our siblings and friends if we want to use their video game, or other possession.  Then we return it when we say we will.  This begins to build trust and respect for each other.

As we get older and have more freedom though we want to remember that just because we have the right to do something does not mean that it is the respectful thing to do.  Asking for permission for things that we want and need, instead of just taking them, helps to build trust and respect.  If as a teen you are spending the evening at a friends house and they decide to go visit another persons house, it builds trust and respect if we call and ask permission from our parents.  Why should we do this?  Using our empathy imagine how mom and dad would feel if they called for you and you were not where you said you would be.  They would first be very frightened and then upset and then they would begin to not trust you for your word.  A simple phone call would resolve all of that and create a better relationship with your parents.

Having said that about our kids it is time for us as parents to examine how we treat them.  If we are going out do we let others know where we are going and what time we expect to return.  If this is not a practice we have, we cannot expect our children to do any different.  In fact they are going to believe that being a grown up means you can do what you want, when you want, without telling anyone.  Taking this simple step of – self control – has far reaching impact on our relationships with our family and friends.