How I Encourage My Kids to Work Through Their Hard Stuff

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As a family of 6, we are often going in different directions and it’s a challenge to be on the same page.  So, a few months ago we implemented team meetings each Sunday night. These meetings include a print out of the weekly schedule, including prayer to open and close the meeting, the weekly activities, meals, chores, and individual goals, set by each individual or sometimes by me. By no means are we great at this yet, but it has increased communication, clarified the weekly schedule and identified things we all need to work on to be better versions of ourselves. In the goal-setting piece, we find temperance often being front and center, and often is very challenging. Temperance by the Greek definition is “moderation in action, thought or feeling restraint.” With 4 kids at very different stages in their journey, their goals may be different but they all often come back to self-control or restraint. I thought I would share a few examples of how our kids’ goals work on self-control through their goals.

My 14-year old daughter is a stress eater, much like myself. She is also dyslexic, which for many years caused additional stress. It took us a few years to understand her learning style and to grow her self-confidence. For those that don’t know, dyslexics are extremely intelligent individuals, but if not caught early, it can cause a quick decrease in self-confidence as their peers see them as stupid. Fortunately, with hard work, dedication and a strong team assisting her as needed, her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds, lessening her stress. But during this journey, the additional stress brought on stress eating—sneaking off food, especially sugar. She would find it at school, hidden in our house (chocolate chips for making cookies), bribing her friends or grandfather, etc. It’s been a real struggle but just recently, on her own, she decided to cut it out as much as she could (thankful for my prayers starting to be answered since I was struggling to help her). I have been amazed at her temperance—she has turned down cupcakes, suckers and more. She has given herself a few exceptions, like family birthday parties but overall has set her mind on being successful.  It’s not always easy but we as a family are all trying to be very supportive. She is doing fantastic—she isn’t perfect, she slips upon occasion, but she continues to find self-control. I am proud of her!

Then there is my 10-year-old son. He is one of the most genuine, loving, helping individuals you will meet. Unfortunately, his helpfulness often gets in the way. Sounds ironic right? Well, if his littlest sister is struggling to build Legos, or do her homework, he swoops in and takes over. If one of his other sisters is asking a question to mom or dad, he will often sweep in with the answer. It’s always with good intent, it’s not filled with arrogance or attitude, but it still interferes with allowing his sisters to answer or complete their tasks. His goal: pause. His goal is to stop, wait and let others respond or work through it themselves. Being aware to pause and have self-control not to swoop in. If after pausing, they are unable to answer or finish what they were doing, then he can assist. This is very challenging for him, but he continues to work on it—with gentle reminders from us to refrain, he is slowly learning to pause and show self-control. This goal will take a while to set in, but he continues to work on it.

By far the biggest challenge in self-control is with my 8-year-old daughter.  She also hasn’t ever settled into school this year, she is trying to figure out her role in our family (classic middle kid syndrome), she is trying to find her voice, find her friends and growing in her independence. That’s a lot to work on at the young age of 8. There are many days where this all builds up and she hits the tipping point and ends in an outburst—screaming, slamming of doors and tossing things. She is really struggling with self-control. We have been working to find different ways to help work through these points of frustrations. Her ideas have included going to her room, hitting her pillow, sitting in a yoga position taking deep breathes or listening to music. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. To be honest, the thing that works best—stopping her in the middle of an outburst and giving her a big hug. By far, hugs followed by a warm bath work the best. I am proud of her and her wisdom of finding and trying new ideas.

As for my 6-year old, luckily, we don’t have many challenges in which we need to show temperance, except maybe her Nutella consumption.  She loves her Nutella.

As we go through life, as we continue to be the best version of ourselves, we are all challenged with self-constraint—self-control—temperance—however you choose to define it. It may impact us by food consumption or over-spending, or changes in behavior. So, can you challenge yourself to setting a goal to show your temperance? Mine is definitely stress eating—so I am trying to turn to the treadmill instead of food. What’s your challenge?


Written by Beth Chatterton