Friday, February 4, 2011

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!

Thank you to Caroline today's guest blogger. Caroline is wife and busy mom of 4 blessings 7 and under! When she is not busy chasing after a crawling baby, or homeschooling her little ones, she likes to read, sew, play the piano, or go garage saling! She is the owner of The Modest Mom where she sells custom made maternity and women' skirts. She blogs at where she offers lots of product reviews and giveaways. She also is a consultant for where she sells the most amazing hair clips!

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Mama Chocolate said...

Great tips! :-)
I've only got my almost-2-year-old and my 3-month-old, but my 2yr girl is SO chatty. ALL. THE. TIME. Which is mostly good...but not so much during church!!
I'm going to start trying this plan. :-)

Civil War...and More! said...

One tip I received and implemented was to hold a baby, up to toddler-age, on the lap and hold her hands for the time allotted for "church practice" time. It works! We would put the timer on for increasing increments of time and everyone, all ages (I have nine children) would just sit and do nothing. At home is the place to discipline for wrong behavior. That way it does not disturb the actual church service!

Marie said...

I really appreciated this article, and I needed it, with 3 children ages 3-8, I need all the ideas I can get for quiet church time!!! :) Thank you!

Emily said...

We have 3 kids age 4,2.5, and 8 mo. and we have found the best time (for us) to train them is when we read the Bible after dinner. We eat dinner and before cleaning up we read the bible. This seems to be the best time to teach them: 'keep your head up, look at daddy, fold arms and sit on your bum'. Thus far it has worked well for us so I thought I'd share. In church we do allow for a small notepad and our oldest, 4 has started to draw pictures of words the minister says. It makes them focus on listening. In fact, funny thing: last sunday he told me 'mom the minister said do not murder, so I drew a murderer!' Haha, we didn't expect that!
We have also had times where we just listened to a sermon at home and they LOVE 'playing church'!
Practicing Quiet Time on an almost daily basis helps tremendously too. Kids who don't know what Quiet Time is have a harder time, I think.
In the end, it's all about training at home.

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