Catholic Activity: The Art of Self-Denial
One of the most important things you can do for your child's development is to teach him to practice self-denial willingly.
If your child is to become successful as a human being, he must learn to deny himself immediate pleasures to achieve a future good. We must all deny ourselves to achieve eternal happiness in heaven. So too on a worldly level. The husband and wife who fail to deny themselves at least some material pleasures during their early years of marriage will reach old age penniless and dependent upon others. The student who cannot deny his impulse for pleasure when homework assignments must be done, pays the price ultimately by failing in his studies and finding that he cannot achieve a suitable station in life.
Learning to say no is therefore the most important single lesson that your child must learn. During his lifetime, he must say no to temptations that besiege him on all sides; he must say no to discouragements, defeatism and despair; if he is to reach any stature in the spiritual or even worldly order, he must say no to urges to take things easy, relax, or give up the fight. For this reason, parents who try to do everything for their child ultimately do nothing for him; by preventing him from developing self-discipline and the ability to say no, they prevent him from acquiring the most important attribute of a complete person.
How can you teach your child to practice self-denial? Mainly by setting up rules for his conduct and behavior and adhering to them firmly. When you do this, you make him aware of penalties that he must pay unless he controls impulses of one kind or another. Must he be home for dinner every night at 6 P.M. or lose desserts for a week? He must then say no to playmates who urge him to play another game of ball that will last beyond the designated time. Must he maintain a certain scholastic average or spend extra hours at his books each day until the next marking period? He will then learn that it is easier to deny himself to achieve passing grades now than to make greater sacrifices later.
The concept of self-denial appeals to youngsters. It represents a challenge — an opportunity to prove their mettle as strong-willed boys and girls. When they learn how to win over their lower instincts, they prepare themselves in the best possible way for the greater challenges and battles they will face as adults.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959