A City Broken

Wall by oceanThe Bible teaches us that a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28). We are open, exposed, and basically waiting to be attacked. Our defenses are down, available to an enemy who seeks to plunder.

One advantage to homeschooling is that as we train our children academically, we are also training them in character. We are helping form the adults they will one day become. Training their character is just as important as training their minds; in fact, they go hand in hand.Berlin Wall

So what do we do when our children are defenseless and vulnerable? How do we help them rebuild their fortress, securing themselves from the inevitable attack of the world and its influence?

Just like building a city, we build their character one brick at a time. We need to help them form their foundation, build their walls, and place guards to keep watch.

Forming the Foundation. In I Corinthians 3:11 we are told, “For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”. The foundation of all that we do, should be Christ. Our children should be steeped in the Word; knowing not only what they believe, but why they believe it. This will help them better understand why they need to have self-control.

Build the Walls.  In order to gain self-control, our children need to be given the proper tools; they need instruction and a lot of encouragement. There are some great steps that we can take to help them along the way.

  • Lead by example-You need to have self-control before you can teach your children.
  • Teach them to recognize-Children need to be able to identify when something is becoming a problem, long before it actually is a problem. Recognize the warning signs and instruct them how to avoid trouble.
  • Teach them to pray-The first, and best thing, to do when control starts to become an issue, is to pray! Let the Lord have control of the situation, not your emotions.
  • Teach them scripture-Meditating on the Word of God is a great way to help them be filled with the Holy Spirit and not hurtful emotion.
  • Teach them to think-Show the kids how to work through the emotion and be logical. Whether it’s taking a walk, doing some deep breathing, or distracting yourself with another activity, we need to take a minute to reasonably work through the situation.
  • Teach them to act-Identifying the problem is only half the battle, we now need to resolve the issue. Form a “game plan” and then make it happen.

Place guards to watch. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it,” Proverbs 4:23. Let forgiveness and righteousness be your armor; allowing nothing evil to enter in and being quick to overlook the fault in others.

Whether you are doing arithmetic, piano, or taking that fun field trip; self-control is a vital lesson being learned. With grace and a lot of encouragement, our children will learn to use temperance in their daily lives, growing into the people they were called to be. Wall

Let the Lord build and guard your children; with Him, you can’t go wrong. “…Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Black/White Photo of Wall

How do you instill self-control in your children? Is there a practical way that you safeguard them from emotional outbursts?


8 thoughts on “A City Broken

  1. This is a fascinating read from a non-Christian perspective. Much of it applies regardless of religion. That’s one thing I’ve always found so strong with the Christian religions, though they don’t call to me personally. Looking at the basis for the religion (and any good religion) it is a collection of tools that help us to be good, kind, and loving people in our environment.

    As for the question, I don’t safeguard my children from anything or instill self-control in my children. I tried that, but it lead to a lot of fighting. However, I do try to lead by example (though, admittedly, I fail frequently). I also encourage my children to think how they’re feeling in the moment when they are faced with emotionally trying situations. Remember how they feel because they likely don’t want to feel that way again. Then we talk together about what will help resolve those strong emotional feelings and help get the outburst back under their control. It’s definitely been part of a very long journey!


    • @Fox

      I agree with you. Some of these things can be applied regardless of religion.

      However, without religion (or more precisely, without theism), on what other ground can one predicate moral imperatives? Objective moral imperatives require two relata in a object/subject relationship; one person issues the imperative, and another is subject to obey. Apart from God, it’s not at all clear who has the authority to issue imperatives to which all humanity is bound by obligatory moral duty.

      Of course, one may have instrumental or pragmatic reasons for wanting to embrace a certain set of behaviors, but again, such reasons impose no moral obligation on others, nor can they be said to be objectively “good”. This is what theism offers over its secular counterpart, i.e., a rational ground upon which to predicate objective moral imperatives, without which one has no standard by which to render moral judgements.

      Note that I am making no claims about moral semantics or moral epistemology. I’m also not claiming that the secularist cannot perform a good deed. I’m only pointing out that the secularist cannot make objective moral laws intelligible in the absence of any objective lawgiver.

      You also mentioned that you “don’t safeguard [your] children from anything or instill self-control in [your] children”. I suspect that’s not altogether accurate. You don’t, after all, allow your children to ditch school every day, play video games all night long instead of going to bed, and eat candy all day long instead of eating healthy food. To be even more extreme: you don’t allow your children to watch snuff films or set up a meth lab in the living room, right? My point is, you do safeguard your children from many things and expect some level of self-control. The only difference being that you may draw the line at a different place from others. But every parent (except one who is grossly negligent) imposes some level of behavioral standards on his child.

      Finally, I applaud you for being open to those tools which can help teach your children moral behavior. I would encourage you to go a step further and inform your theory of ethics with the theistic ground necessary to make moral notions rationally intelligible.


      • Actually, when it comes to some of the examples you’ve set forth, I can honestly say I do permit my children to do some of what you said. For example, my children don’t go to school, but if they did choose to skip school every day it would be cause for a discussion on why they did it and if there would be a better alternative for their lives. This is in part why we unschool. I have allowed my children to eat candy all day every day, if they chose it, as long as it was available to them. I just cautioned them of two things. One, once it’s gone, we can’t afford to buy more for a while. Two, if they eat too much candy, they’ll get an upset stomach. My daughter didn’t listen and ended up with a nasty upset stomach that made it so she wouldn’t eat candy for almost a year, but since she’s learned to govern her own actions. My sons always seemed to have this intuit knowing that they’d best save things because we don’t have the money to buy more, and they’ll want to know they have some set aside for tomorrow. My children have been left up to play video games all night, or watch television all night, but they’ve made the choice to do it. We don’t restrict game or television time, so my kids binge for a while when they get a new game, but once the “new and shiny” aspect has worn off, they tend to moderate their usage pretty well on their own. All I do in these situations is offer advice and do my best to set a good example. It’s part of the independence I grant them.

        Our moral compass is kind of different than one given with a religious tilt. We guide our moral behavior on respecting another the way we wish to be respected or treated, something that comes in almost every theology, the golden rule, as it were. I have no problems borrowing lessons from other faiths or mythologies as they can often be a great moral guide regardless of a faith system. Respecting other people is really at the basis of every belief. Look at karma, for example, or the Wiccan Rede. Even without looking at religion, there’s the whole “pay it forward” concept. Then look at the psychology of doing something good. Doing good deeds simply feels good. Even without having religion as a reason to do it, it’s so easy to do good simply because the reward is the smile on the other person’s face. Doing bad things is “rewarded” with anger, upset, and negative feelings. Religion doesn’t have to be the reason, but there’s nothing wrong if it is. It’s all a matter of what is right for each individual.

        I read a really wonderful blog post earlier:
        (http://arkansasbelle.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/may-i-take-a-moment-of-your-time/ sorry, don’t know how to insert it as a link)

        The author made a wonderful point. If you teach your children to live in a certain way and give them reason for it, they’ll live in that way. In other words, if I teach my children to have respect for themselves and those around them, I wouldn’t have to worry about them starting a meth lab in my living room. They would have too much respect for themselves to do something like that to themselves. They would have enough respect for me not to put my family in that kind of risk. I’ve already seen this in the way my children act. My daughter, at 9, has already pointed out when people do mean things to her she understands that it’s because they are coming from a place of pain within themselves, and she wishes she could find a way to help them get better so they wouldn’t need to act that way anymore. This was a long discussion we had when she felt like her father was replacing her with her step-sister.

        In the end I don’t think it matters where the moral guidance comes from, whether it’s the will of some divine being or through understanding and respect for other people. What does matter is that children are raised to treat others in a positive way. The end result is more important than the reasoning behind it. In the end, the overwhelming message I receive is to guide my children with unconditional love and respect.

        That being said, if my children grow up some day to be Christian, Pagan, Buddhist, or even atheist or agnostic, I wouldn’t be upset. As long as it gives them guidance towards a life led by unconditional love and respect for those around them, I will be happy for them.


  2. @Fox,

    I suspect some would argue that allowing children such freedom amounts to negligence, however, since that strays from my point, I’ll move on to clarify my earlier comment once more.

    You noted that you try to give your children guidance, such as “the golden rule, as it were”. But that doesn’t at all address moral ontology, without which the further issue of obligatory moral duty is left unanswered.

    You offered utilitarian or pragmatic reasons for moral behavior, such as “feeling good” or avoiding “negative feelings”. However, if such rewards or consequences are unimportant to a person, why should they follow the golden rule? What objective prohibition do they have from choosing to rape, pillage, and plunder? You see, without an objective ground upon which to predicate moral imperatives, one has no obligatory moral duty to follow any rule, “golden” or otherwise.

    Regarding the post to which you referred, the author didn’t address the raising of children, nor did they address ethical ontology, so it’s not at all clear what you’re referring to.

    You continued on to address “moral guidance”, however, I already noted that I wasn’t addressing ethical epistemology, i.e., how we come to know moral notions. How one apprehends moral notions has nothing whatsoever to do with the preconditions necessary to make such notions intelligible.

    To reiterate, without some objective ground to make intelligible sense of moral imperatives, no amount of guidance will oblige anyone to do good. And if people are not obligated to do good, then one has no moral complaint against anyone for any behavior in which they engage. And I’ve yet to meet anyone who stands by and has no objection to one form of behavior or another. I suspect everyone has some button that, when pushed, is sufficient to provoke them to issue some moral objection; an objection which they believe is against something they take to be objectively evil.


  3. This is a very insightful post about what homeschooling is about – the building of character in additional to the education of the mind. It is a very timely post with the start of a new school year. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this 🙂


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