Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's hear it for the boys Part 2: Self-Control

“Encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:6



My last post focused on meekness; defined as “constrained power”.    I proposed that the characteristics of boys that are sometimes viewed as weaknesses could be harnessed as strengths.  I continue to explore the topic in this post with a practical example of turning “out of control into self-control.”

A mom I know told me the story of a recent day in her household.   It was a day that all parents of boys experience periodically.  They seemed to wake-up with more energy than normal, from the moment the day began all three of her boys were moving at break neck speed.  She ushered them through breakfast, clothes, brushing teeth, combing hair, packing bags, and off to school.  As she ran her daily errands she thought, “The afternoon would be better”.  This being the first frigidly cold day of the year, the normal afternoon spent outside running off energy was not an option.  So, as the boys returned home from school and finished their snack, things were not looking up.  There continued to be a sense of craziness in their behavior.  Kids were running and screaming, toys were being thrown, doors slammed, and mom was getting frazzled.  Mom, and the boys, were getting out of control.

Mom took a few deep breaths, put aside the things she “needed to get done” and created a game.  “Come here boys, and stand in a line” she said.  “Run up the stairs!”  “Slide down the stairs!” “Skip through the kitchen!” “5 jumping jacks!” “Crab walk around the table!”  “5 sit-ups!”  “Up the stairs again!”  All three boys eagerly completed each set of instructions, laughing and giggling their way back to the living room for the next plan of action.  Finally, mom lined the boys up in front of her.  Bringing her voice to a calm whisper she said, “Now, go down stairs and play, while I get dinner started.” The boys played alone for 30 minutes and for another hour with mom close by and involved. 

I was inspired by this mother’s creativity.  Rather than being overwhelmed with the emotion and stress of the situation, she was able to create an experience of self-control.  I was struck by 4 things that enabled her to move her boys from being out of control to self-control.

Stay Calm:
            This mom fought the urge to become angry, overwhelmed, or frustrated.  She was able to maintain her self-control and acted as an excellent example to her boys by “doing what was good.”  As she put aside the things she “needed to get done” she was able to reduce the stress caused by daily concerns.  She gave herself a time-out, taking a few calming breaths before deciding how to handle the situation.    

Provide Structure:
            When boys are experiencing high levels of energy, their behavior can become chaotic.  This mother recognized that the problem was not the level of energy but its focus.  She provided a focus for their energy at a time when they were struggling to do it on their own.  Her focus, helped the boys experience their high energy as a positive rather than a negative. 

Matched Energy Level:
            This mom was attuned to what her boys needed.  They needed a chance to burn off some energy.  It would take more than a “no” to harness these horses.  She met their high level of energy with an equally high-energy alternative.  The need of the parent is to have the children play quietly while dinner is prepared.  She was wise in realizing that they needed help getting prepared for that quieter play.    

Be Playful:
            Being playful may be the most difficult part of what this mom did.  Sometimes the first response of a parent is to shut down this type of play.  It is too loud, makes a mess, or someone may get hurt.  She spoke firm instructions in a playful tone.  She took an unwanted behavior and made a wonderfully enjoyable game out of it.  Sometimes when a parent joins the chaos setting playful and engaging structure, high-energy play can be a lot of fun. 

Now, here is the tough part.  If this mom tried this same thing the next day it may not work.  The point in my opinion is to remember the 4 principles.  Stay calm, Provide structure, Match energy level, and Be playful.  Keeping these things in mind could be helpful for parents in managing any type of behavior.  They can be especially helpful when bringing boys from out of control to self-control. 


Please leave comments below sharing the best ways you have found to help your children move from out of control to self-control.  

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I have 3 boys of my own and as I read I felt like you were describing my home on many days. I appreciated your 4 things to keep in mind. Those will be very helpful.

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  2. Thanks I especially enjoyed the stay playful part!

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    Replies
    1. Playfulness is so valuable. I Know that it helps me to not get bogged down in negative thoughts about my child. it helps me to lighten up.

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