Saturday, June 25, 2011
written by Jack Hyles
The Importance of Self-Control
In the previous chapter we found that the developing of the proper
character is the supreme part of rearing a child. Now the most important
part of developing the right character is the developing of self-control.
Self-control is the will conquering attention. It is the appetite being
satisfied only when the will allows. It is the will conquering the appetite
rather than the appetite conquering the will.
When children are infants we often place things over their cribs such as
little birds that move abut with slightest wind. The child's attention is
captured by these little birds. His will is a slave to his attention. He
does not decide at what he will look. He looks at that thing which is most
attractive to him. In other words, he is affected by an external stimulus.
Self-control comes when the will takes over and decides what a person does.
His actions are decided by his will rather than by the appeal to the
senses. Unless self- control is developed a person will decide to do in
life whatever is most attractive and most pleasant. This, of course, leads
A person walks down the street and smells popcorn. He cannot resist. His
appetite decides what he eats. The attractiveness of the popcorn on the
outside has made his decision for him. The disciplined person eats popcorn
only when he needs it. His will controls his appetite. He decides what he
looks at; he decides what he eats; he decides where he goes; he has control
of himself. He is not a slave to appetites, pleasures, and passions.
How can one train a child to exercise such self-control? This is done by
developing something on the inside that becomes more attractive than that
which is on the outside. Then more pleasure is gotten inwardly by
resistance than outwardly by yielding. For example, my son, David, is an
athlete. During basketball season he does not drink carbonated drinks nor
eat pastry. This is not to say that chocolate pie is not attractive. Quite
to the contrary, it is most attractive, but there is something on the
inside that is more attractive - the satisfaction of making the team, of
being in good condition, and of pleasing the coach! Hence, the inward
pleasure has overcome the competitive attractiveness of external pleasure.
He has developed self-control. His will decides whether or not he eats
chocolate pie. Hence, in this matter he is in control of himself. He is not
a beast; he is a man. He derives more pleasure inwardly by not eating the
chocolate pie than he would derive outwardly by eating it.
As the parent develops such self-control within the child he must make the
inward attractiveness so great that it is worth the hurt of being deprived
the satisfying of the appetite. The pleasure of self-control must be
greater than the pleasure of indulgence. If this can be done, the person is
in control of his body rather than a slave to it.
One must then seek to find these things that can be more appealing. One is
that of a goal. Lead the child to have in his mind the pleasure of
attaining a certain goal. Teach him to let nothing stop him in attaining
this desired end. For example, suppose a boy is saving to by a new bicycle.
The wise parent will remind him over and over again of the desired goal so
that no immediate appetite can rise up and capture some of his money. He
continues to save toward this end even when the county fair comes to town.
The boy looks at the county fair. He finds it so appealing to the outside
that it competes with the inner desire to save for a bicycle. If he is
trained properly, he will not sacrifice the reaching of the desired goal
for a brief pleasure. The child should be led to have in his mind the
pleasure of attaining a goal, and this internal satisfaction should be
greater to him than the appeal from the sight of the bright lights, the
smell of good food, etc. of the county fair.
Another internal competition is that of punishment. Punishment for
wrong-doing is a necessary and vital part of rearing a child and developing
his character. The punishment should always hurt more than the pleasure
feels good. For example, a young man stays out thirty minutes late with his
girlfriend and all he gets is a scolding or a spanking. Now what young man
wouldn't be willing to trade a spanking for thirty minutes with a lovely
girl! The wise parent will take the car away from the boy, ground him, and
not let him be with his girlfriend for one week, Hence, he is trading an
entire week for thirty minutes. This is not a good trade and he will be on
time henceforth, for the punishment has brought more displeasure than the
offense brought pleasure. In the mind of the boy that particular appetite
will always have associated with it the punishment that was inflicted.
It might be wise for the parent to list the different appetites from which
he wants his child to refrain. He then should make very plain to the child
what the punishment is so the child will know whether or not refraining
will be worth it.