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Lent – a time of spiritual revolution
February 29, 2020

No meat, No ice cream, less screen time? Or the virtue of temperance?

By Sophie Barcant, BA (Psyc), B.ED Trainer, Facilitator, Parenting Coach/Consultant


Lent is here. In many Catholic households’ conversations are taking place about who is giving up what. Let’s rekindle the lost virtue of temperance.

Why should we, you may ask? Well for strength of character and for all-round better spiritual, emotional and physical health which, of course, helps us be happy.

In our western culture where indulgence and consumerism are perpetually promoted to the detriment of our souls and health, we are in dire need of rediscovering this virtue. Having this virtue enables us to excel in all noble endeavours, be they academic, athletic, or otherwise.

St Paul to Timothy said, “Be controlled in all things” (2 Tim 4:5).

My granny said, “All things in moderation.”

We and our children have lost control over our passions. Sadly ‘having’ and ‘doing’ are how we and our children now feel valued and included. ‘Being virtuous’ does not seem to have as high a ranking.

Most of us would agree that seeing someone eating like a glutton, chainsmoking, overdrinking, preoccupied with their bodies, posting selfies excessively online is disdainful. Is this a quality we want our children to have?

Let’s explain to our children that temperance builds character. It makes a person stronger as it enables them to say ‘no’ to temptations and unhealthy activities.

It is a quality which genuine people respect and find attractive because it denotes intelligent self-control.

The virtue of temperance is not formed only by mere negation, like denying oneself of ice cream, soft drinks, meat or less screen time. Rather it is a matter of moderating pleasures that in principle are good in themselves.

This virtue can be taught positively. Let’s have sensible conversations with our children to help them understand how to look after all their belongings.

Giving them responsibilities and chores (household contributions of service) in keeping with their age is a great start: tidying their spaces, caring for younger siblings and pets, material jobs in the home e.g., preparing breakfast, putting out the rubbish, setting the table. Its fruits also relate to decency and modesty.

Like fortitude, this virtue must be exercised like a muscle daily.

We can encourage children to live it by simply asking: “Have you spent enough time revising today? Have you done anything kind for anyone today?

Have you taken care of ________? Are you satisfied with the quality of your work? Do you think you should have such a big helping of ____________? How much time do you think is reasonable to spend on those video games?”

Questions like this tend to stimulate their conscience and in time can help them regulate themselves.

Ranting, threatening, commanding and nagging them do not instil anything good, but only breed resentment and resistance.

Some however have weaker willpower and need assistance. They must be calmly timed and the devices disconnected or taken away until the next time of use is permitted.

The virtue of temperance frees our heart so we can dedicate ourselves to things that might be more arduous but are more important, such as study. It is closely related to the virtue of fortitude which builds resilience, the ability to withstand setbacks.

Let’s develop mindfulness to overindulgences that harm our and our children’s souls and health. Let’s master our wills and not say ‘yes’ to everything we “feel” for, as this leads us to becoming slaves to our whims.

We are models for our children. From the very start, they are relentless witnesses of our lives. They judge everything.

Having this virtue is how to gain the greatest honours, both on earth and in heaven, said St Josemaría Escrivá.

For more about this look at:

“Those who are masters of themselves have marvellous possibilities to dedicate themselves to the service of God and neighbour, and thus attain the greatest happiness and peace possible here on earth.” —J De la Vega, JM Martin.


Follow Sophie’s parenting approaches drawn from Love and Logic and Positive Discipline on, FB and Instagram.