Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Teaching a Child How to Sit

A while back, I started this discussion about what the Bible says regarding children being with the adults during worship, prayer, and services. I want to give you some practical tools in helping you train your kids to stay seated and quiet in service.
When you first want to get your kids to sit for service you need to know that it is not as easy as it sounds. Just tell them it is time to sit and listen, right? No. It is not that easy. What you need to so first is to set up training sessions at home. Sit them on the couch. Tell them it is time to sit and listen. Read something to them. A perfect choice would be a Psalm straight from your Bible. Nothing with pictures. Start with 5 minutes and slowly increase it. Then at church, tell time it is time to sit and listen. When they start to act up, take them to the back of the church. Remind them that it is time to sit and listen. Do not put them down or let them run. Make sure that the outcome of them not sitting is not fun for them. At church, let them have a Bible, a notebook, and a pencil. Teach them to “take notes” by drawing pictures. I let the kids draw pictures of Bible things. As they become able, they can write down the verses that are being preached on. And eventually they will be taking real notes. Many kids actually can pay attention better when they are doing something to keep their bodies busy. Think about how many people doodle while talking on the phone. It is the same concept. I do not let them play with toys. I do give them a little snack and a sippy of water when they are young. Service is always during their snack time and we go early so eating breakfast is earlier than they are used to. You cannot expect a little one to sit quietly if they are hungry. So a little bag of Cheerios and a sippy of water or milk are important.
We are training Baby G to sit and listen. We started her straight from birth. Even before she was able to understand, I would tell her to sit and listen so she could recognize that cue. She is still learning and isn’t as cooperative when she is tired or hungry so I do make sure that I watch her cues to know what she is feeling. When she decides she wants to play instead of sit, I take her to the back of the room. I do not let her get down, or make noise. I hold her quietly and remind her it is time to sit and listen. When she is compliant, I take her back to my seat. (I sit in the front row.) She is not rewarded for inappropriate behavior. She is learning and for her, she is doing great. Some kids are easier to train than others are. She is just 20 months old. She can sit for most of the service without incident. She has a picture Bible, a composition notebook, a couple of crayons, a baggie of cheerios, and her sippy. We sit on metal folding chairs so I put her on a little blanket for a while, because it was unsafe for her to sit in a folding chair by herself. Now, she is bigger and able to sit on the chair, so I do not put her on the blanket anymore.
Here are the posts about why we do not let our kids go to Sunday School.
My goal here is not to shame you into putting your kids with you. My heart’s desire is to encourage you to evaluate why you do things the way you do. What is your motivation? Do you do it this way because it is how it has always been done, or because it is how your church works? Do you do what you do because you have found it to be the best for your family? Or, (being absolutely honest here) do you put your kids in children’s service because it is easier and you would love a quick break? Keeping your kids with you is not always an easy task. It does take work and there will be some days that you will question your sanity. Just like any other thing you want to train your kids. I do know that in the end all the hard work will pay off and be worth it.

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