Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Training Children to Sit Still

We have been blessed with four children close together in ages. Our oldest will be seven soon, and our youngest is 9 months. I'm sure many people think we are crazy, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Lord keeps sending more little blessings our way, as I'm still in my twenties! While having children close together can be a joyful and exciting time, it is without question an extremely difficult job.

One thing that I see many families struggle with, my own included, is church time. Thankfully we go to a very family friendly church where you will see parents working with their children training them to sit still. We don't send our children off to a Children's church, and our church even has a Sunday School Class together as a family, so that is a lot of time for our little ones to sit.

We have tried various things, bringing a whole bag full of books, little activities, coloring pages, etc. but it ended up feeling like it was play time at church. The children constantly would get up and ask for another book, a crayon would drop, the children would start fighting over a book (please tell me I'm not the only one whose children do that?!) and the list could go on. So we took most of those things away, and only allowed occasional drawing on a piece of paper. But the goal, especially for our two oldest children, is that they sit still in church.

Several weeks ago I finally got so frustrated over constant commotion in church, that I came home and declared war. :-) My husband was thrilled to see my determination to conquer this problem. For several weeks now, we have been practicing sit time at home, every day before our school starts. We do this right after breakfast and chore time, before we begin our actual Scripture devotion time.

I have found that the couch does not work very well for sit time. They lounge around on it, and either get all sleepy sitting there, or they start pillow fights (with two boys most of the time it is the latter!). So I use a wooden bench I have sitting in my entry way for the two boys, and for my two year old I use her little booster seat and just put it on the floor beside the bench.

The rules are that they are to sit quietly, hands folded in their laps, legs are not to be swinging all around, for twenty minutes. During that time I am sitting on the couch facing them, a lot of the time holding my baby in my lap trying to teach her to sit also! I turn on a CD of someone talking. If they have been really good I will turn on "Uncle Rick reads the Proverbs" from The Learning Parent Company, but to start out I turned on a CD from Vision Forum that was way over their heads! I wanted to give them the feel of a sermon being preached.

If they are good during those twenty minutes, then they get a few chocolate chips. :-) If they sit really good during church, then I tell them they get a little bit extra dessert if we are having potluck together at church, or they would get a little treat at home. I'm not going to keep that up forever, but I want them to be rewarded for doing a good job, and I want to give them something to work towards.

Be forewarned. The first day we did this my 6 and 2 year old screamed for 18 of the 20 minutes. The first week was just terrible. But it has gotten a lot better now, and while church time is far from perfect still, we are seeing progress on Sunday mornings also.

So, pull out the earplugs, turn on a lecture and the timer, and sit! You will be glad you did in the weeks to come!



At September 30, 2010 at 11:30 AM , Blogger caedmen said...

Just curious, why no childrens church? This is just so different from my church I am curious as to the reasons behind it? Is there a nursury program? My son is 9 months old as well and I couldn't imagine him being able to be still and quiet through a whole sermon. How do you keep the baby quiet?

At September 30, 2010 at 11:41 AM , Blogger Karen said...

Oh goodness, I struggle with this, too. I've got 3 year old twins and a 15 month old... sitting still is a rarity in our house. Our Church does offer a nursery but we prefer to include the kids ("Let the children come to me..." Matt 19:14) We usually stay in the cry room, so we can still see and hear,and others won't be bothered by their antics. It's been bad. Bad enough that we've had to leave early and sometimes can't even make it at all. I know this is just one season in their lives, but it is tiring.
I'm anxious to know how this goes for you, and may try something similar. Good luck and God bless!

At September 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM , Blogger Caroline said...

@caedmen- No, we don't have a nursery program or children's church. We embrace the Family Integrated Model, which means the family worshiping together. Our church is smaller, with around 15 families, and those who attend like having their children with them.

As for keeping the baby quiet, many are the times I am found in the nursery upstairs, which is just a little room with a glass window where you can still see and hear the sermon. I nurse my baby there, or just hold her while she makes baby noises (cute and crying included!). It is a lot of work, but I would never want to drop my children off during church for someone else to watch.

There is a lot more behind our reasoning than I can write out here, but that is a short idea of what we do.

At October 1, 2010 at 7:48 AM , Blogger Carra said...

My hubby is the Family Pastor for our Age Int. Church so often it's just me and the kids in our Row of chairs. It gets abit crazy at times. So we going to try sitting time here at home too.
Our kiddo's are 3,2 &5 months.and at times I feel like I need another arm to keep everything straight.
Thanks for the tip, I'll let you know how it goes.

At October 1, 2010 at 11:57 AM , Blogger Matushka Anna said...

It gets even more fun when you are Orthodox and you STAND for up to 2 hours! My five are now between 11 and 3 and it was a struggle when the oldest ones were all little. Perseverance pays off and now I can count on all but the 3yo to be very good. Even the 3yo knows the limits and is reasonably good most of the time. He likes to sing along so that helps too.

At October 2, 2010 at 5:47 PM , Blogger Jo said...

I find this very intersesting topic. I was brought up within the brethren meeting and my brothers and I learnt from a very young age that we must keep very quiet other wise we got into trouble. And we did, one glare from mum and we knew, go quiet or get into big trouble when we got home.

I read in the paper yesterday about banning children on some plane flights as they are too noisy. I don't think parents know anymore about keeping children quiet through quiet entertainment. My sons were pretty good, they knew when they could be noisy and when to be quiet.

At October 4, 2010 at 1:02 PM , Blogger Jamie said...

The duggar's talk about "Blanket Training" in their book "20 and counting..." this is the same principle and I commend you on "declaring war" and sticking with it! My daughter is 1 year old, we spend a lot of time in the viewing room at our church as well. unfortunately our church does sunday school for kids and sep for adults (not how we would like to do it), we just bring our daughter to our sunday school and sit on the floor while she plays.

At October 17, 2010 at 12:04 AM , Blogger mamaforhim said...

Jo-We are going on an airplane ride at Christmas....I think it's definately different in that I have no problem bringing a bag of M&M's on board and coloring books---love those TV trays that pop out the back of the seat in front! Maybe churches should invest in those!

Back to the topic though....we have the best of both worlds....Our kids go to the childrens' classes first hour and stay with us the 2nd hour.

My husband used to be 100% family integration while I was hoping he'd give me a break by letting me use nursery here and there---that church had SS/nursery, but we did not use it unless I was volunteering.

Then the tables turned with our 3rd....after abut 6 mos., he started taking our son out of the pew to calm him when he started to howl, etc...then when son got mobile, he hated sitting period!!

Dh decided that it was too hard to expect him to sit still for the whole sermon! LOL!

We have come to the unified decision that we welcome childcare being available for when we need it, but it should never be forced on us.


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