You looked so forward to being in church last Sunday, but by the time the service was over you had wrangled with your preschooler in the pew, your blouse was spotted with juice drops, the floor was littered with Goldfish Crackers, and you’re more ready for a deserted island alone without food or water than you are for the Sweet By and By!
Been there? Most of us have! But there is hope for you and your child to be able to sit through an entire service and actually hear the message and get a blessing out of it! Read on!
The picture below is the best place to train your preschool-aged child to learn to sit in church…
This is your living room or family room couch. That’s right, the best place to train your child about church is in your own home. If you wait until Sunday morning to try to teach them to sit down rather than run the aisles and to whisper, rather than shout out their requests, you’re headed for disaster and major frustration. Here are my suggestions for training a preschool-aged child to sit in church:
- Clear the area you’re going to sit in and make it free of distractions. TV is off and toys are stashed away.
- Get one or two quiet activities like a Bible flannel book or other quiet book, and perhaps one quiet toy like a coloring book and a few crayons (no markers!). These toys will be reserved only for your Quiet Time, so they’re “new” each time they’re brought out. Purchase or make several books/quiet toys to keep only for this teaching time and Sundays. Take a look at this! Find similar ideas on Pinterest!
- Set the timer for five minutes to start. Gather yourself and your child and tell him he is going to sit on the couch with you until the timer goes off. Give him one book or toy and tell him he may play with it while you sit on the couch, but that he may not get down or talk. It’s time to listen. Show him how to sit, and remind him this is QUIET TIME. Tell him If he talks the toy will get taken away – he must play without talking.
- Turn on a Podcast of your pastor, if available. If your pastor’s sermons aren’t online, use another broadcast. Have your Bible out and you sit still and listen.
- When/if your child starts talking, try not to answer with words, but put your finger to your lips and shake your head “no.” Don’t answer a question for those five minutes. Give a couple silent warnings the first couple of days, but after two heads shaken, take the toy away as you promised you would do. If the child throws a fit or screams, take him out of the room, go to his bedroom or yours and remind him what you’re asking. If he continues to disobey you may need to apply loving discipline to correct his disobedience. The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Prov 29:15
- When the timer goes off, discuss how they did. “You talked to Mommy, but remember, this is Quiet Time; time to listen to pastor preach. Or, “Yay! You sat so quietly and played! I’m so proud of you and so is God! We got to listen to Pastor preach and that makes God happy!”
- The next day and for the whole week, keep up with the five minutes. The next week extend it to ten minutes. Keep at this until you’ve worked up to 30 minutes. A three or four year-old will be able to sit and play without food for thirty minutes. They’ll wiggle, they’ll sigh, but don’t give in and don’t give up! It will be worth it!
- If you have more than one child, have a separate bag for each child. Give only one toy at a time, and have each child on either side of you. Be consistent! If they talk, warn once, then remove the toy.
- If they throw a fit, discipline in another room, but then bring them back in and complete the five minutes. This will be the same routine once you take them into the service at church. If they disobey, you must discipline, and it shouldn’t be just that you go out and play in the foyer – that’s what they want! Either discipline, then bring them back to the back row where you were wisely seated, or sit out there with your arms around them so they are not able to get down and play.
- Make this training time at home something to look forward to – not a miserable drudgery. That can be accomplished by the activity you choose to put into the bag, but again – just a quiet toy – not treats or lots of toys. Make it biblical, if you can, so they’re also “hearing about God.”
Who knows? You might even glean some wonderful Truths during your at home Quiet Times! It won’t be long – just a couple of months until you’re able to sit in church and actually enjoy the service. You know what? Your child will enjoy it a whole lot more, too!
Any questions? Any other suggestions?