One of my joys as a mother is seeing my children learn to obey and to behave and (can I be honest?) hearing comments when others notice as well. We are still in the training process with all of this - which I don’t think ever ends - but already my 4 year old has brought me and my husband “delight” as he is learning through our disciplining (that is training) him (see Proverbs 29:17 ). One way that he brings us “delight” is the way he is able to be with us during worship services at church and keep quiet and relatively still. I have had many take note of his ability to behave in church. I assure them that what they observe is the product of over a year of training.
When we first started, I used a “reward system” of giving him stickers that he could hold onto during the service but taking them away if he acted up. For us, this didn’t work so well, because taking the items away resulted in more cries and problems. Then, we offered stickers for a chart at home depending on how well he behaved with a big reward once the chart was completed. That was a good start. He was thrilled to go to lunch at a fun place of his choice once that happened. However, once I knew (and he knew) that he could behave in church, we opted to discontinue the “reward system” because as parents, we wanted him to learn that being able to go to church and worship is a privilege (and fortunately a right in our country) and not something to be dreaded or just tolerated.
Shortly after that point in the training, my sister gave me a magazine (Above Rubies). In it was an article with from several ladies across the country submitting their personal advice and techniques. (You can read it in it’s entirety here.) I used it to supplement what we were already implementing. First, we had periods at home to try training our son to sit still and quiet and listen in a controlled environment. Usually, this was during a family devotional. We started with a small, reasonable amount of time - 5 minutes. I also learned along the way that we as parents have the right to expect our children to do well (with our guidance and teaching, of course). That helps a child know that they are capable of doing what we ask.
Next, in our training journey with “Sunshine” we began telling him what we expected of him during church time - to sit still and quiet during church - and what would happen if he didn’t - immediate discipline by taking him out during the service. We would tell him this before church, when we had his focused attention. Let me tell you, it wasn’t fun for a few months. My husband often had to take him out of the service.
During the service, sometimes we have notepads, chewy fruit snacks, a picture Bible, or a small, quiet toy. I’ll be honest, though; in our experience, our son seems to behave better when we bring nothing. Perhaps it’s the fewer distractions that help him as well. You may have a different experience where having small objects or coloring sheets are helpful to you.
Finally the training has paid off! The times we have to take him out are very rare now. He enjoys being in the services with us. People often comment to us and to “Sunshine” that he is well behaved in church. To God be the glory!
....now, we have an 18 month old son that will soon begin to partake of this training process. ;-) We pray that he also will be a “delight” to his parents.
Be encouraged on your training journey!