A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in the living room during afternoon nap time. The two younger boys were napping, and the two older boys were riding bikes outside. Suddenly, the quiet of the afternoon was interrupted by a crash against the door that goes from the garage into the house. I figured that someone accidentally ran into it. Then I heard the crash again. And again. This was not sounding like an accident!

I went out to the garage and asked for an explanation. Apparently, the boys were chasing each other on their bikes and the garage was the “safe zone.” One of them sped into the garage and couldn’t slow down in time and crashed into the door. That was sort of funny, so then they did it a few more times. We talked about what could have happened to them, their bikes, or the house as a result of that activity, and I instructed them not to do it again.

As a mom of four boys, this sort of scenario plays itself out in my house ALL the time. Every day, I seem to be dealing with impulsive behavior and a serious lack of self-control!

Biblical Boyhood: Training in Self-Control

After the garage door incident, I called a friend of mine who has several boys, both grade school age and high school/college age. I asked her when I should be expecting my 10 year old to develop some measure of common sense, and she responded with a hearty chuckle! She said that I need to keep in mind that boys truly do not develop impulse control until they are in their 20’s. (Nooooooo! Tell me this isn’t true!) Boys are often focused on having a good time. Unfortunately, in the midst of this “good time,” people end up getting hurt and things end up getting broken.

Does the impulsive nature that some boys seem to possess mean that we don’t expect them to use good judgment or have self-control? Absolutely not! We must teach our sons to be self-controlled. It is realistic to expect that this endeavor is going to take quite a bit of our time and effort. Somehow though, the assurance that my boys’ crazy behavior was completely normal enabled me to step back and approach the task of training them with a calmer (and less frustrated!) heart.

After talking to my friend, I realized that I need to zero in on determining whether the boys’ behavior is truly foolish, or merely childish.

Childish behavior is the things that children do because they are children. Things like spilling juice while learning to pour, approaching the garage going too fast on their bikes because they are not judging their speed correctly, or my preschooler drawing a picture on the grocery list because he didn’t realize it was the grocery list. Foolish behavior, on the other hand, is choosing to deliberately ignore instruction. Foolishness is hearing mom or dad say not to ride bikes in the garage because of the possibility of crashing and thinking, “I know I won’t crash. Riding in the garage is fun, and I’m going to keep doing it!”

The Bible has a LOT to say about the fool: (These are great verses to read and discuss with your sons!)

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,

But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Proverbs 12:15

“A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,

But a fool is arrogant and careless.”

Proverbs 14:16

“A fool rejects his father’s discipline,

But he who regards reproof is sensible.”

Proverbs 15:5

“Like a city whose walls are broken through

Is a person who lacks self-control.”

Proverbs 25:28

Foolishness is a problem because it is ultimately rebellion. A child who is acting foolishly is not submitting to God’s rule over him or to his parents as God’s instruments in his young life.

Childishness requires patient instruction. Foolishness requires accountability.

When does behavior cross the line from childishness to foolishness? Behavior becomes foolishness when the child has been given clear instruction that he is able to understand and put into practice at his age and maturity level, and he chooses not to obey. In real life, however, it is often hard to tell which is which! One thing that my friend reminded me is that consequences for a behavior do not always need to be decided on right away. This is true. Because of the exasperating nature of many of the things that boys think of to do, it’s easy to either over-discipline or to spout off threats which we never act on. Sometimes, it’s best to take a break, PRAY and ask God for wisdom, and then re-visit the issue. God will not withhold wisdom from us as parents! He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)! After some time to think and pray, we might realize that the child was simply acting childishly and needs some instruction about what to do next time. Or, we might decide that the child truly has been told not to do whatever it was and needs some accountability. “Son, I told you yesterday that you may not speed into the garage on your bike. Because you chose to ride in the garage while you thought I was not watching, you may not ride your bike for the next 5 days.”

In addition to instructing our children in practical living (we don’t jump off the back of the sofa!) and dealing with clear disobedience, it’s also important to remember that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). So when our children fail at self-control, which they will do again and again, we need to point them to Jesus, who paid the price for their disobedience on the cross! The ability to demonstrate self-control ultimately comes from a heart that God has made new. Thanks be to God for His grace!

If you have a child who seems to continually struggle with behavior, don’t despair! It’s the perfect time to point them to the cross. For more encouragement with that, check out this post.

You can find the rest of the Biblical Boyhood Series here:

Part 1: The Heart of a Hero

Part 2: Fighting, Retaliation, and Bullies

Part 3: Setting an Example of Biblical Speech – A Challenge for Moms

Part 4: Setting an Example of Biblical Speech – Part 2

Part 5: Brothers as Friends

Part 6: Entertainment

Part 7: Dealing with Sibling Fighting and Rudeness


Post a Comment
  1. Rebecca Aug 29, 2013

    Your posts are so timely! My husband just asked me how my day was, and all I could tell him was that it was full of just...boy! Fighting, wanting to shoot LEGO guns, daring feats, energy and action. It can be overwhelming, and I only have two of them! So anyway, thank you. My husband and I both glean a lot from your posts and are thankful you make time to share your experiences and your insights!

  2. Jerilyn Aug 30, 2013

    Love how the picture is of what Rachel Jankovic dubbed 'the sin coupe.'
    Good post- it's hard to remember they are still kids and are childish. But also disobedience does need to be addresses when it happens.

  3. Kim Aug 30, 2013

    Thank you so much for these posts. I am the mother if 6 very active boys (0 girls). They never seese to amaze me with what they do! It is a very hard job, but one I'm blessed to do! Again, these posts are ministering to my heart. Than you!

  4. Elizabeth Sep 1, 2013

    I often address self-control with my two children in terms of "taking care of people and things." We remind them to play in a way that they are care takers and not destroyers, just like Jesus was. Self-control obviously is a fruit with more far reaching implications, but at almost-3 and 4 1/2 this is the most present application. What a marvelous thing that Christ kept His head about Him and made judicious decisions for 30-some odd years so that He could take care of us!

  5. Melissa Deming Sep 4, 2013

    Thank you for this post, Sarah! We had a a rough day today in homeschool and your post was helpful - above all - for assessing my heart and my own frustrations with my boys. I love your Christ-centered view on impulse control. I think I'll print this post out and read it to myself tomorrow every time refill my coffee cup (which is a lot!)

  6. Kristen @ Celebrate Every Day With Me Sep 11, 2013

    Sarah, self-control is something we've been working on with my son for awhile now. I loved the way you laid it out and separated foolishness from childishness. Thanks so much for the great post and ultimately bringing it back to Jesus!

  7. Hannah Mar 17, 2014

    Wow, I have just found this site ... what an amazing resource! As mum to two small boys I often feel despairing at their behaviour - how great to have some advice from a mum who's already been there and done it :-) Thanks for this article, such balance and wisdom :-)

  8. Lisa Thompson Nov 11, 2014

    I so hope you get this really soon. I AM SO HERE. I have a 6 yr old boy, a 5 yr old boy and a 3 yr old girl. I am 42 and it's seems to b getting worse not better. I would love to incorporate a devotion every night on these subjects. Have you used anything? PLEASE SAY YES! We homeschool, so there is no break in the day for us (by us, I mean, me.)

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