Self-Control Is Sweet

Scripture: Judges 16

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will review the story of Samson and Delilah.
  • Students will learn the importance of self-control and its relation to success.
  • Students will participate in a self-control experiment using a treat and elapsed time to test their own self-control.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can a resist temptation by having self-control?
  • How does having self-control make us more successful?

Materials: small treats for students (enough for each student to have 2 of their particular favorite), timer, paper, writing supplies

Procedure: Review the story of Samson and Delilah focusing especially on Samson’s lack of self-control when he told Delilah that cutting his hair would cause him to loose strength. Emphasize how the problem was in his disobedience toward God. His strength came from obeying God, not in long hair. Explain to students self-control helps to make them successful people. Use examples that they can relate to: If you do your homework first instead of playing games first, you will make better grades. Over time this means you will have opportunities to get a better job and be wiser. If you choose to share your cookie with a friend who does not have one instead of eating it all yourself, then you will benefit from a better friendship over time.

Tell students they are going to test their self-control with an experiment. Let each student choose a special treat such as a marshmallow, piece of chocolate, small toy (similar to ones from a kids happy meal) etc. Different students will be tempted by different treats. Have several options available so that students can choose something that they really value. Also have options for different food allergies such as gluten or nuts.

Place the preferred treat in front of each student. Tell them that if they wait a specified amount of time without eating it, they get another treat too. Time the students with the treat in front of them. The typical time for this experiment is 15 minutes, but you can change this according to your students’ ages. Keep it challenging! After the elapsed time, give students who resisted temptation, another treat.

Tell students a researcher named Walter Mischel did this experiment to test the self-control of preschool aged children. Less than a third of the students in the original experiment had the self-control to wait to eat their marshmallow. Researchers found that kids who displayed self-control were more successful later. Self-control is one of the leading indicators of success in school…even more than IQ scores! The researchers did not try to teach the kids with little self-control how to have more. Remind students self-control is a fruit of the spirit and is very important it for avoiding listening to temptation and sinning. Ask kids to brainstorm ways to improve self-control and create a list of helpful suggestions to take home and put it where they can see it. Students can write a list on construction paper or stationary and glue the treat wrapper to the bottom to remind them of the experiment. Try to find some inexpensive frames at a craft store to make the list more durable so that students are more likely to display it.

Example strategies:
1. Focus on the future: Visualize or draw the end rewards instead of the present
2. Make a negative association (Think about something bad that goes with the bad impulse)
3. Distract yourself by doing something else
4. Remove the temptation from your senses
5. Get with other people who are doing the right thing

Additional Questions:

  • What are examples of times in life when it is hard to have self-control?
  • What did you think when you saw some of your friends beginning to eat their treat?
  • Does having friends around you doing the right thing make it harder or easier to have self-control? Why? When friends influence you to do the right thing this is called positive peer pressure. How can you use positive peer pressure in your life?

Supplemental Activities:

  • Do the experiment again, but this time chose an action plan in advance. For example: Play a game such as duck-duck-goose during the 15 minutes. Discuss how this made the temptation easier to resist.
  • Have students name a situation that they have a particularly difficult time having self-control in. (Yelling when angry, eating sweets before dinner, staying out of their parents’ things, etc.) Then have students make a specific action plan for things to do when in that situation. Next, create a chart for them to take home and check off each day that they successfully demonstrate self-control. A parent can sign-off for each day. After a week, have the student share their experiences with each other. If they messed up for a day, tell them that it is okay so long as they apologize and are making progress. Focus on encouraging one another. Discuss how it feels better to be proud of an action that required self-control than to give into temptation.