On Parenting and Self-Control as a Mommy Missionary – Part Two

If you missed part one, read it here.

The wisest of women builds her house, 
but folly with her own hands tears it down (Prov. 14:1)

Cultivating Self-Control in my Children

My mom always said that there was no one she loved in the world like her kids, and she wanted other people to love her kids.  That motivated her to teach us to be well behaved, because frankly, no one enjoys poorly behaved children.  I found that to be tremendously motivating to me as a parent as well.  

Nothing brings me more joy than to see other people enjoying my kids.  I read a parenting book that put it another way; they said we want to raise our kids to be a blessing to others.  A child with no self-control is certainly no blessing to anyone. And when they are with you constantly, it becomes well nigh unbearable. For Norman and I, teaching self-control has been one of the central premises of our parenting. 

An infant learning to eat wants to throw his spoon on the floor.  A one-year-old learns this ear-piercing, decibel shattering scream to signal his impatience.  A baby dislikes having her diaper changed and screams and cries and fights her parents.  A toddler wants to stick a fork in the light socket.  A two year old cries or pouts when mom tells him what to do.  Small kids throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. All of these behaviors exhibit a lack of self-control.  

Very often, self-control exhibits itself as a correct, disciplined response to a difficult situation.  We don’t really need self-control when everything is going great.  Just like I needed self-control in the Menard’s parking lot, kids need self-control when responding to whatever it is in their environment that is frustrating them…their siblings, the toy that won’t work, sharing, or having to obey mom.

When training my kids, I have tried to think through behaviors that we have to do every day, day after day, multiple times a day.  Going to the bathroom, changing diapers, getting dressed, eating, transitioning from one activity to the next.  These are the situations in which self-control must be taught or the entire day becomes a battle.

Do you need your diaper changed 5-6 times a day?  Then I will teach you to lie there happily while I do that, because that is self-control.  Do you eat three times a day and have a couple of snacks?  Then I need to teach you to use self-control in the high chair, because we are there five times a day.

I found that when my kids practiced self-control, our house was a fun place to be. There wasn’t screaming or meltdowns or tantrums.  Sure there was wrong behavior and discipline, but it was dealt with in a calm and orderly fashion with reasonable amounts of tears, not screaming and yelling. An environment like that enabled me as a mom to focus on my own self control and not put myself in such a challenging environment with my kids all day that I was doomed to fail, worn down by the chaos and struggle and defiance.

I mentioned earlier that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.  I do not want to sound as if I am elevating self-control above other very important attributes that we endeavor to encourage and cultivate in our children.  Certainly it is incredibly important that we raise our children to be loving, kind, and patient!  I highlight self-control because thinking in terms of self-control has helped me to identify behaviors that need correcting.  If there was a doubt in my mind if the behavior was acceptable, I would ask myself, Is my kid exhibiting self-control in this behavior?  If the answer was No, then I knew that was an area where my child needed training.  For most of us as parents, we are always asking, Is this behavior ok? Or normal? Or is this something I should be doing something about?!  

Of course, there is grace in all of this.  If my child was disappointed because maybe we had to cancel an activity that he was greatly anticipating, I told him, “It is ok to be sad.  I understand!  However, it is not ok to throw a toy at your sister because you are sad.  If you are sad, come sit in my lap and I will give you a hug and we will deal with sadness in a constructive way.”  Or if they were frustrated and angry, I might say, “Go upstairs and lie down in your bed for a few minutes until you don’t feel so upset.  Then we will talk.”  I do that for myself all of the time; so why not teach my kids the same?  I frequently tell my kids when I am irritated or angry or over tired:  “Mom needs to go put herself in timeout!”  I still joke about that with my teenage kids.

Including Students in Our Parenting

I remember one camping trip when we were on staff in Wisconsin.  We had an unexpectedly large turnout for the event, there were a lot of new students we did not know, and we arrived late and were setting up in the dark. 

As soon as we arrived, all of my kids disappeared and I had no idea where any of them had gone.  About an hour later, a freshmen girl whom I had never met before came up to me and said, “Wow, your son sure does bite hard!”  And then she proceeded to show me the teeth marks on her arm.  I was mortified!!  My kindergarten son had just bit a student!!!  Talk about a lack of self-control!!!  

As I replayed that incident in my mind, several things stood out to me.  One, at the event, I lost track of my kids and had no idea where they were.  Second, it was pitch dark out, and anyone could have done anything to my kids.  Third, the students were playing really wildly with my kids.  I am sure you can relate:  the students wind them up and shake them around, then drop them and head off to do something else, and your kid is left hyper, bewildered and out of control.  No wonder Tom had bit that student!!  He was in an environment where it was completely beyond his ability to do the right thing.  He did not get punished for that behavior; that was my fault.

After that event, I borrowed a page out of Vic and Lindy Black’s playbook (they were our Nav staff in college).  Whenever we had an event like that, Norman would take the time to gather the students and coach them in instructive and positive ways to interact with our children.  (i.e., please don’t pick them up and shake them.  Talk to them!  And give them a heads’ up when you are about to be done playing with them so they are not left so bewildered). We would also ask the students to come to us if they felt like our kids were misbehaving, and then we would deal with it.  As the ministry grew larger and events got more chaotic, I would ask a few students whom I trusted to help me know where the kids were and who they were with…just to have a few extra pairs of eyes and ears to help out.  And I am grateful to say, Tom has not bit anyone since kindergarten!! 


Katie and Norm have been on staff since 1998 in WI and now minister in IL. This past year was her first year of parenting to not have a kiddo at home full time! They have been married for 20 years and have 4 children ages 7-182 boys and 2 girls.  Katie brings wonderful and focused perspective on what truly matters as she is battling breast cancer for the third time in 6 years.

What about you? How do you develop the special relationships between your student friends and your kids?What is in your “playbook” for developing self control in your little people, and helping others partner with you in this? Or share any other thoughts!   

12 thoughts on “On Parenting and Self-Control as a Mommy Missionary – Part Two

  1. This is such a great topic, Katie. With little kids, it feels like my goals are often being blocked… And frustration (aka anger) can well up inside me. I was talking with a friend the other day, and she had the idea of thinking about how you'd feel if your child's teacher or baby sitter was talking to him/her in the way you're speaking… This has been really thought provoking for me. I have been memorizing a couple of verses on having a gentle answer and the anger of man not bringing about the righteousness of God.I also try to lower my voice during discipline and training, and take a mommy time out to get some perspective when needed!


  2. I agree, Linnette!There are a coupe things I'm thinking through in all this. The first is, I realized this last week if I don't make the conscientious decision to allow someone to enter my daily life knowing they are going to see the messiness, I usually find excuses to not let it happen. I don't like to show the strategies I've developed to cope with how I am feeling day in and day out (read \”I don't like to show my messiness). I don't know if that makes sense, for example, tired me with just the kids looks a lot different than tired me with the kids plus a staff or student who comes to hang out with us (Or frustrated me, or anxious me, etc.). The other thing is, I am going through Proverbs till I get sick of it, and 17:27-28 says, \”A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.\” It is totally my nature to be on the quieter side and so self-control for me might need to look like actually using words and controling my silence. I just kinda put all this together, it definitely a new revelation.


  3. I'm nodding in agreement with both of you. Proverbs has rebuked me more in this season of parenting littles than ever before. A phrase we use around our house, for both me and the kids is, \”it's not an emergency\”, when we're provoked to lash out in anger. This has been helpful for me to diffuse some of those powerful emotions and keep perspective. (I wish I would have been repeating this at STPs where everything felt like an emergency-ha!) Katie, thanks for your comment and saying hello the other day! You had me laughing with you about the STP tantrum scenario. I know that feeling well. (:


  4. This is Katie Hub. I am having a hard time logging in on here so we will see what happens..Good stuff, all. I love the \”be the mom you want your kids to remember\”. It is so easy at this stage of life to think of ministry as everything but parenting. It's easy to look at how much you are not doing…how many Bible studies you aren't leading, or whatever. But it would be very sad to fast forward 20 yeas and realize you did lots of \”outside\” ministry, but then had lots of regrets as to what kind of mom your kids remember. Of course I think we all have some regrets…I think no regrets might be an impossible standard for anyone.Katie, that is really insightful about controlling your silence. Powerful. And another good reminder that this all looks different for all of us. Which is always good for we women to remember as we tend to, ahem, compare. And I love the \”It's not an emergency!\” I think I will have to borrow that one for the Hubbard household. Just great.


  5. Katie, I loved your story and picture that I think we all can relate to as well ! Stephen Covey wrote in his book 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE FAMILIES this quote \” Between stimulus and response ,there is a space . In that space lies our freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness .\” I love that quote because it reminds me of the power of choice and awareness that God has given me . I have a set of values that I believe in and I believe are the fruit of God's presence in my life. Sometimes the Fruit flows and sometimes I choose to clothe myself in Christ . There is no doubt though that I am always happiest when I am living my most deeply held values which is the fruit of God's Spirit. So it feels like I am not only choosing God's way but my happiness and peace as well when I press the pause button ( which is the space I needed to access God's strength ! ) I have also found that ( once I know and can access that pause button ) if I can't seem to find the pause button for any reason ( emotional , angry , overwhelmed out of control etc .) I need to step back and consider whether I should ask for help. There might be a number of reasons for what could be going on with me , besides the typical chaos .Growing in self-awareness and honesty, I think moves me closer to God .


  6. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. These are excellent thoughts and I have been thinking about them a lot. This is an excellent conversation.I think sometimes we shy away from the word \”choose\” because we don't want to sound like we are acting in our own strength…for it is God who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure. But I am amazed at how much choice we do have. I think of Joshua saying, \”Choose you this day whom you will serve.\” I think our lives add up to the choices we make day after day, month after month, year after year. Lindy Black sums it up like this: Always say yes to Jesus. I love that.Jesus, please enable us to say yes to you today!!


  7. Thank you for the insight Katie! Two things I loved: 1) What a simple yet very wise question I can ask myself when dealing with my toddler's behavior, \”Is this behavior exhibiting self-control?\” In my frustration I often just ask myself \”How many times do I have to work on this with him??\” or \”Why does he keep doing this?\” I could also apply this question to my own life ;). 2) I love your tips for helping students learn to handle your kids. As a student our staff were great about letting us see them as parents, and we wanted to do this starting early when our son was born. Just lettin students watch you and talking to them about how you parent is really meaningful and most of them get to try it out not too long after graduating as they marry and have children of their own. My husband never thought he wanted kids when he was a freshmen in college, but his interactions with the staff and their kids changed his heart so much that he wants lots of kids, and has enjoyed bringing our son along places so the guys he meets with can see what it's like to have a little boy. 🙂


  8. Katie, I just pulled this off my fridge this morning to copy down and then I read your comment. I think that it backs up what you are saying nicely! \”Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.\” Charles Reade


  9. Oh, to describe the feeling of knowing my children are not the only ones who have tasted students!I read this post this morning, and it challenged my thinking all day. I found myself using the actual word, 'self-control' more. As I'm thinking about it now, I would love it if that rubbed off on my kids and became a common word in their vocabulary! I think understanding that word, especially when they are so young, could be so foundational because it is so applicable to their little lives right now as they learn self-control when mommy says no more treats, or no more bubbles, or to share. I love that you and Norman were a team, knowing what your goals were. That's really encouraging to me as Rich and I are forming our parenting non-negotiables.


  10. This two part series has been so great Katie. I passed it onto a few moms at my church that I meet with to pray for our kids. I think I am def challenged to think more in terms of \”self control\” in my discipline, instead of just correcting behaviors etc. Thank you for these great thoughts to ponder and discuss.


  11. I love hearing from you all!! Lauren, nothing brings me more joy than to hear about a student's life being changed just by being around an awesome family. It is such an important part of what we do…but so hard to remember that people really are watching. And the fact that it was your husband..even better. And that you two have that vision for your own parenting…even better yet. Katie, I am glad Tom is not the only kid who has tasted students. Haha!!


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