I’ll never forget the day my mother said, “The goal is self-discipline.”

I was in the middle of all four of our kids being pre-teens and one of our little darlings had pushed the envelope one too many times with me. The consequences had just rolled off my tongue. (That’s always dangerous territory when the doting grandmother is a witness because fortunes could shift one way or the other.) Once the lengthy punishments had been issued, the teen stormed to safety of their bedroom. That’s when Mom said “it”.

It angered me a bit because that youngster obviously needed us to beef-up the electrification of the fencing around the perimeter, not take the fence down.

But of course, she was right. I began to think more about her admonition. All our teens would soon be out in the cold, cruel world and they would need to reign themselves in. Their dad and I wouldn’t be there on a daily basis to guide them; they’d need to use their own judgment. Their life-training would come into play and they’d have to make choices about friends and activities that would affect their future.

*Heavy sigh*

This life lesson reminds me of learning what “hot” means to a young toddler. We learn real quick and in a hurry when we touch the furnace or the oven door. We learn because there is a natural consequence to touching something hot.

The same happens throughout life. When we’re in school, we learn that not studying can lead to poor grades. Later, those poor grades affect our college or vocational training choices.

We have almost endless choices for how to act, what to say, how to dress, what to eat, what to drink, which friends to align with, who to marry, which job to accept, which dream to follow and how to prioritize our time. All these choices have consequences; some good, some not so good. Some consequences affect just me, others affect people I love. Whew!

I remember when my kids were young and one of my friends didn’t make her older elementary-age kids dress for the weather. She told them the temperature and then let them choose their clothes. When they chose poorly, she didn’t run another set of clothes to them at school. They learned to make a better choice next time. She didn’t have to rant or make any comment because there was a natural consequence and she let them live with that. Such wisdom.

When we shield our children from these easy lessons, then expect them to appreciate the tougher lessons when they are in high school, we can have issues.

There are a few memorable moments as we raised our kids to be responsible adults. One is that all our kids did household chores. We divided up the responsibilities and knocked out the work in record time. I miss those days and wish they would come each week and help us with the house and yard.

Our kiddos were capable of doing laundry. In one of our homes, we had a cabinet with shelves right across from the washer/dryer. I took a piece of masking tape and labeled what kind of clothes went on that shelf, then wrote the laundering instructions for those particular items. No muss; no fuss. They also learned to iron their own clothes.

Sarcasm has always been a favorite tool of mine. Because we had always done chores together, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Steve and I expected a clean house by about noon on Saturday of each week. When the teens lobbied to sleep in on Saturdays, we decided that if they work was done by 5 pm each Sunday, that would be acceptable. The punishment…consequence…of not doing that would not be threats. We just waited it out. When the child needed a ride to the mall or a friend’s house, we’d say, “Oh, I’m so sorry! We realllllllly want to do this for you, but since we didn’t get what we wanted by 5 pm last Sunday, we aren’t going to be able to give you what you want today.” (Please read as positively dripping with false sincerity.) This still makes me laugh.

For all the things I would love to change, there is no denying that our family is pretty amazing. Our kids are self-disciplined and I appreciate my momma for reminding me that was our goal as parents.

Now, I have this portion of red velvet cake staring at me and I will not eat all of it in one sitting because I have self-dicipline. I will not. I will not. I will not.

It’s gonna take me a couple of days.