Wednesday, April 20, 2011

All in a Day: Getting Children to Sit in Church

The key to this and many other issues with young children is realizing that the home is the training ground for life.  A wise parent will find ways to train and prepare children at home for the challenges they will face in other arenas, such as being able to sit properly in church.

Think how ludicrous it would be for a basketball or football coach to show up at a big game, expecting his team to compete without ever practicing or working out or doing any type of training before hand.  No amount of coaching at the game will make up for their lack of preparation!  Obviously, such a team would be humiliated, and the coach would soon be out of a job!!  For some reason, as Moms we tend to expect our children to be able to perform at special events without training them ahead of time in how to "play the game."  This sets them up for failure, and causes us much frustration and embarrassment.

For a child to perform well in a public situation, we need to have prepared them ahead of time through training in self-control and practicing of the expected behavior.  Then, we help them succeed through positive coaching at the approprite time.

Here are some of the specific strategies we employed to train our children to sit quietly in church:

1.  Wisdom Search

This is what we called our family devotion time, where we read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each morning, searching for wisdom from the scriptures to apply to our daily lives.  We taught the children how to sit quietly and attentively during this time, which helped prepare them for sitting properly in church.  The babies were either nursing, sitting on my lap or playing on a play quilt on the floor.  The other children were expected to sit quietly in a chair or on the couch and follow along in their Bibles, if they were able.  All readers, even beginning ones, took turns reading verses (or portions of verses), as they were able.  This time at the top of our daily schedule for years definitely helped our children learn to sit in church.

2.  Sit Time

This is one way I trained the children to develop the self-control needed for sitting quietly for an extended period of time.  I used this strategy with pre-schoolers and elementary-aged children with great success.  I instructed each child to sit in a certain, confined space -- usually a chair or bar stool.  (Sitting on the couch was too much freedom for the younger children.)  The children were required to sit quietly -- no talking, no getting up and down, no climbing over the back of the furniture, etc.  They were allowed to look at or read a book or sometimes play quietly with a small toy, but they were not allowed to get up until the timer rang or I said Sit Time was over.  I often relied on this strategy to reduce the stress of trying to get dinner on the table, by scheduling Sit Time during meal prep each day.  This "killed two birds with one stone" -- it enabled me to have a more peaceful meal prep time, while training the children in self-control and helping them practice sitting quietly for church, piano recitals, doctor appointments, etc.

3.  Blanket Training

Although I initially resisted this idea, I eventually embraced the concept of blanket training an older baby and found it to be a lifesaver for me!!!  The wise mother who encouraged me to employ this child training method said it was like having "a playpen in a purse!"  I started around 8-9 months training a baby to stay on a baby quilt, by teaching them to respect the boundaries of the blanket, by "popping" the leg or hand that ventured off the blanket.  It was *Very Hard* on me to train a baby to do this, but most of the babies learned quickly if I was consistent, and the rewards were definitely worth it.  I would start with just 5 minutes on the blanket, and gradually work up to about 30 or 45 minutes.  After my 8th child was born, blanket time truly saved my sanity, as I put out three blankets in my school room for the baby (Luke), and the two pre-schoolers (Hannah and Chris) who were all just 18 months apart!  I rotated the toys on their blankets every thirty minutes and that is how we made it through the school morning!  :) 

After training a baby to a blanket at home, I could lay down a blanket and put baby on it anywhere -- it truly was "a playpen in a purse!"  I often put a blanket-trained baby on a small quilt at someone else's house, at a doctor's office, at a home school meeting, in Sunday School class, or in the "cry room" at church -- which brings me to my last point.

4.  The Cry Room

I realize that not every church has one -- but they should!  :)  The church we belonged to for many wonderful years had a very useful "cry room" at the back of the auditorium (or a "bawl room" as our pastor used to call it!).   This was a perfect place to sit with a newborn, private enough to throw a nursing shawl over my shoulder and feed a hungry baby, and ideal for sitting with a blanket-trained baby or toddler, or working with a restless child-in-training during a long service.

These are the strategies that helped me transition my children to sitting in "big church." 

I'm sure you will want to check out what the other All in a Day bloggers have to say about this topic:

Carrie @ Our Full House

Christi @ Where the Creek Meets the Lake

Elizabeth @ Yes They're All Ours

Kathy @ Kathy Mom of Many

Kristy @ Little Natural Cottage

Lori @ Happy Busy Mama

Monica @ Natural Mama

Renee @ Bakers Dozen

If you have a blog, see below on how to link to us! If you don't have a blog, leave us a comment about how you train your children to sit in church.

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Mrs. Stam said...

I love all those tips, we are using some of the technique you have shared here and will be trying new one.... thanks for sharing :-)

Katie said...

Enjoyed this post! I'm a Mama to 2 (2.5 & 8 mo.) in southeast Ga. and really enjoy your blog. :)

Jules said...

A mother once said to me that I was 'lucky' because my children sat up quietly in church whereas hers were noisy and disruptive but luck had nothing to do with it. It was all about the training.

I haven't used all the techniques you've described but I agree that we need to prepare children ahead of time by teaching self-control and self-discipline. I also think as parents we need to be careful not to give our children the message that church is boring or something to be endured. I've seen so many parents offering 'fun' activities to their children to do in church in order to pass the time and when the kids are teens they are still unable to sit through church without being amused (either from the front or by occupying themselves with some other activity). This is sad. I believe that we can teach children to worship and be involved from a very early age. My husband and I worked from this belief and now we see our eldest son doing the same with his family. From the time our children were old enough to stand up and sit down they were expected to do so along with the rest of the congregation; they were to bow their heads for prayer, sing when others sung (even if it was just humming along because they couldn't yet read), and open their Bibles along with everyone else. We never had them complaining that church was boring or that they didn't want to go and even now that most have left home they still attend regularly.

meagan preston said...

I have a 2 and 3 year old and I am trying tips 1 and 2. What do you suggest if little ones keep getting up and leaving? And how long did it take for them to stay seated through the entire scripture time or sitting time. My kids used to love to sit in my lap for story time. For some reason, they will not any more. And now that they are out of a high chair and boosters, I can get them to sit through a meal.

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