One noticeable attribute that signals maturity is self-control.
We want this in ourselves and we want to see it in our children. Delayed gratification, patience, good decisionmaking, and impulse control. These qualities don’t just happen. They are formed in us, and our children, by two key components:
There is a feel-good fantasy that all fear is bad for you, for your progress, and especially for your children.
Fear is cast as a cruel villain in the motivational script. It should be locked away and never allowed on stage. We are told that every incentive should be positive, freeing, and encouraging. And fear should never be used to motivate a child.
Don’t tell that to Solomon! He spends the better part of six chapters in Proverbs warning his son to have an appropriate fear of the consequences of foolishness and lack of self-control.
Proverbs 25:28 A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
A healthy child, man, or woman should fear this outcome. This condition would expose the city to predators, unrestrained violence, and the loss of everything valuable. This is a healthy fear!
Solomon goes on to apply this healthy fear to the choice of friends, sexual temptation, greed, speech, and pride.
Fear is not healthy by itself. It should be balanced with a clear vision of the rewards of self-control. For every “no” to self, there should be a corresponding “yes” to a greater reward.
This is why the Apostle Paul says he keeps himself in “strict training” (I Cor. 9:25-27). It isn’t that he just loves the austerity, hardship, and discomforts of discipline. No! He presses through that kind of resistance because of the reward he seeks. The fear of disqualification is overshadowed by an eagerness to achieve a greater reward.
The promise of reward turns our eyes away from temptation and distraction and keeps them focused on a greater, satisfying future.
I want self-control. You want self-control.
Together, fear and reward work in tandem to keep us on track. The fear of negative consequences should cause me to shrink back from foolishness, and the joy of finding reward should spur me on to seek that which lasts.