There’s a strange-sounding passage written by an ancient writer thousands of years ago that says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self control.”

The principle is sobering. If we are not careful, our homes can become like broken down cities that are vulnerable to a variety of dangerous elements that threaten the physical safety of those who live there. There are two things about self-control that are important for parents to remember:

1. The lack of self-control sets up your children for a shaky future.

Experts link the lack of self control to addiction, bad health, debt, procastination, eating disorders, and more. Duke University researches did a study following 1,000 children for 30 years, examining the effect of early self-control on health, wealth and public safety. The study implied that those with lower self-control experienced negative outcomes in all three areas, with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems, and crime.

These results show that self-control can have a deep influence on a wide range of activities. In other words, the lack of self-control breaks down walls of protection and exposes you to things that can destroy your future.

2. Self-control can actually be learned.

One of the myths parents buy into is that you can’t teach self-control because it’s a part of how a child’s personality is wired. Most counselors agree that anyone can learn self-control. It’s not easy…it has to be intentionally and continually developed. But just like you would use your skill to build a wall back in places that are broken, you can build more self-control into your home.

You can affect how your kids learn self control when you

  • implement the right structure and schedule.
  • pursue moderation in how you eat, play video games, watch TV, use your computer.
  • establish a system for homework and chores.
  • instill healthy financial habits of giving and saving.
  • create values in how you speak to each other and express frustrations.

Experts tend to agree that developing self-control is as much of a physical discipline as it is mental gymnastics. The problem is that it means we have to first be willing to make it personal. We have to confront areas in our lives where we lack self-control so we can be a better model to our kids.

This is where it hits home: it is easier to ignore the issue of self-control than it is to do something about it. This month, look for ways to build self-control into your own life and the lives of your children. You wouldn’t neglect fallen walls in your house or a damaged roof…be at least as attentive to the habits that are going to determine your kids’ futures.