Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Practicing Church

For awhile now, my husband has been asking me to practice "church" at home each day. Our kids do okay for the most part right now, but it's not terribly peaceful in our pew. Ethan did better until Simon was born, probably just because, before then, it was 2 against 1. Now these boys are ganging up on us. :)

So yesterday, after reading this post by Kim about babbling babies in church (again! thanks, Kim!), I was inspired to obey my husband and get this church thing under control. I started by sitting on the couch with Ethan beside me and Simon on my lap. I told Ethan that we were going to pretend that we were at church and said that he could read his library books quietly until I told him he could get up. And he did great, right off the bat! No talking for 40 minutes! Wow, I wasn't expecting to sit for that long on the first day, but Simon ended up falling asleep after about 20 minutes. (And I got to spend an unexpected time of prayer at the end of our afternoon!)

At the beginning it was really difficult with Simon though. He is 7 months, and likes to move! And he knows how to be vocal when he doesn't get his way. Of course I remember going through this with Ethan, but I spent a lot of time in the back when he was little. And we'd love to avoid that if possible. So anyway, I tried Kim's technique. Every time Simon protested being held securely in my lap, I just lightly thumped his cheek and whispered in his ear, "No!" He was so surprised the first time, and then proceeded to get MAD!!!!! But it only took a couple times and he surrendered and sat quietly the rest of the time.

I guess he's old enough to understand "no." Shocker.

Today's practice session went about the same, except Simon stayed awake the whole time.

I am so excited to see if practicing this on a daily basis will make for an easier Sunday morning. Have any of you tried this before?


Anonymous said...

I know that we talked about this last night, so you know what we have done.

But I was remembering today, that some friends of ours in Hutch practice church everyday. Except they do it in the morning with their personal quiet time. They each sit on one end of the couch with the two little ones between and read, study and pray. I am not sure how long it is, but kind of the same concept. Seems like it would work well, after the bulk of the training is established and you are just practicing to keep it a habit.

andyandjenica said...

I've thought about doing this, but haven't.

We're getting to that manageable stage in church now, it's a relief, but I'm sure we could still benefit from this exercise if I had the discipline to do it.=)

I'll let you know if I do.

Carl and Tisara said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carl and Tisara said...

Rachel,I just read Kim's post. It was great! Thanks for sharing. I think we may try to practice it during our family devotions...

dave & rachel said...

I got your first comment (you must have deleted it :), and yes, for awhile, distraction seems to work pretty well. But I'm thinking that lots of toys in the row with 2 kids is just too much. The toys just contribute to the noise (at least in Ethan's case, now that he's a little bigger). So now we're doing books, just a couple, and his blanket. Simon gets his binkie and one quiet toy. There isn't really room at our church to spread out on a row, so we can't have too many things out anyway. But I'm just working on getting them used to sitting quietly, because that takes training! Ethan will sit quietly with some new toy for a period of time just because he's enthralled with it, but I also want him to choose to sit quietly when I ask him to. You know? So we'll see how it goes. We have Aunt Mabel's visitation tonight and funeral tomorrow, so it will be a good opportunity to see if things are any better yet.

Eryn said...

i remember how shocked people were when they learned we "thumped" or "flicked" our children to be quiet in church. they do learn quickly!
thanks for reinforcing my view, it helps to know we are not the only ones out there doing this.

Stephanie said...

Hi Rachel. E gave me your blog address after telling me how you practice church with your children. I was very interested to read about your experiences and gain some more insight.
We actually started taking our son Caleb into church and Sunday School with us about 2 months ago.
We have a church nursery, but he got sick every Monday or Tuesday following Sunday nursury and now it has been working so well to bring him with us, I don't know if we will put him back in the nursery. I only know of one other couple who does this at our church, but I'm sure there are others. I haven't trained him as much as I need to and have struggled with giving him toys during church, because he has thrown a few of them. I think I will try giving him a few books to look at instead. We have just been having him sit still with his hands folded to help him use self-control, but even then the last 10 minutes of each service he gets restless and starts to make sounds. Everyone comments on how good he does, but I really want him to obey more because I know he can if I will just work with him more at home. Anyways, thanks for the encouragement. Keep up the good work and please share any other ideas you might have for us. Also, I'm curious, where did you first hear about this? Does your church have a nursery? Why did you decide to start doing this?
Caleb is almost 17 months old. Is flicking him on the cheek enough at this age to get his attention?

dave & rachel said...

Stephanie, thanks for your questions and comments! I will respond as soon as I have a chance. By the way, do I know you? It's perfectly fine if I don't, but I just wondered since you mentioned E. I will comment here again soon to respond to you, and maybe do another post sometime soon too. Thanks! Keep it up!

Stephanie said...

nope, you do not know me. E told me about you and your family. I live in Tulsa a few miles from E.

dave & rachel said...

Oh fun! I miss Eryn so much. She has always been such a good friend to me.

Well, let's see if I can answer your questions. The reason Dave and I decided to teach our kids from early on to sit in church with us is because we both want to be able to hear the Word of God taught on Sunday morning. Our church doesn't have nursery workers, although a nursery is available and sometimes people do utilize it. I did a lot more of that with my first son, not realizing that he COULD learn to sit still much earlier than he did.

I went through a real spiritual dry spell during those months, just missing the fellowship and closeness of being an active part of the church. And we were noticing too, at home, Ethan was doing things that we told him not to, already showing signs of disobedience and a strong will. I kinda felt overwhelmed by it, and so Dave and I read every Christian parenting book we could find, and we sought out older Christian couples who had raised kids who we wanted to emulate.

One couple encouraged us to start training for obedience very early on. Not to worry too much about rules right at first, but just focusing on making sure that your child obeys everything you say to them. Sometimes this is accomplished just by guiding them through the actions (like one parent calling to them to "come" and the other parent walking them over, in repetition until they naturally obey), and other times it requires a small swat or flick to help them associate a negative response to their actions. I had never heard of this before, but I was willing to try it. And it works! Our children are so much smarter than we give them credit for, I think. And we are finding with our 14 month old, that since we started much earlier this time, it is easier to train him.

Well, so when we started training Ethan that way, it just naturally followed that we could teach him to sit on our laps for short periods of time without writhing around or arching his back to get down. And so we worked on it little by little until he could sit through an hour long church service.

My husband has noticed that if we are having trouble with the kids being disobedient during church, it is usually because I'm not requiring obedience out of them at home during the week. And I think this is so true! It is easy for me to let some things slide when they are both being generally sweet and cute, but this just gives them mixed signals and tells them that sometimes it is okay to disobey.

And from Scripture, we see that the Lord wants us to teach them to obey. So that is my job right now. :)

I know this is long, and I hope that at least some of it will help you. I have no idea what your situation is or what your goals are for Caleb. But I did want to suggest a couple resources we found to be very helpful. We read Shepherding a Child's Heart by Ted Tripp, which was so good. And then I also found this website on parenting written by a mom with 10 kids. It is www.raisinggodlytomatoes.com
and I have found such helpful articles on there about how to train my kids to be joyful, obedient, not throw fits or temper tantrums, etc..without loosing my mind. :) I hope it helps you too!

Anything more I can answer? How do you know Eryn?

Stephanie said...

I met E through a friend at church, Lisa. We actually didn't start hanging out until Lisa and her husband left for the mission field. Lisa nd E are best friends and Lisa and I met weekly to pray together before she moved and then prayed through email and SKYPE. Now, 2 years have passed and Lisa is back and we all hang out together. It has been such a blessing to see how God orchestrates relationships so perfectly in his timeing. I am blessed to have E as a friend.

Thanks for the resources. I already took a look at the info online and the advice looks very similar to the advice we received in our parenting class that we took when Caleb was 6 weeks old. It is a good reminder and I will definetly use it as a future resource. I have heard of A Shepherd's Heart, but have not looked at it yet. I'll have to check it out.

I truely believe you can never have enough good ideas and advice especially when there has been so much unhelpful and even harmful advice thrown our way. I received a degree in psychology and worked as a nanny with 4 children (one with special needs) for 3 years and then worked at a Children's Home as a Case Manager for 3 years before I had Caleb. All of the experience and knowledge I received from those jobs and degree had shaped my beliefs into a more secular viewpoint and by the time I had Caleb I was a very mixed up parent scared that I was going to give him an attachment disorder and therefore parenting out of fear. I think I probably called every individual in our small group at church and friends outside of the church by the time Caleb was 6 weeks old. I was desperate for some wise counsel and worn out from parenting him out of fear. God is so good to give us wisdom when we ask for it and now I feel like I have an abundance of good resources to help us train our son in the way of the Lord.

Caleb is such a joy and I look forward to having many more children if the Lord blesses us with them. Thanks again for giving me some more resources.

dave & rachel said...

Stephanie, I have met Lisa, before she and her husband left for the mission field. I didn't know she was back! How fun for you guys! She seemed like such a genuinely sweet Christian, and I know Erin LOVED her friendship.

I completely agree with you about all the conflicting advice out there. And honestly, kids are different too, so one method is probably not going to work for every kid. That is why I was so encouraged when someone gave me practical stuff to teach my kids that God says in His Word. We've been looking for verses that talk about attitudes and actions the Lord wants us to have:
Philippians 2:14
Colossians 3:23
Ephesians 6:1, etc...
and teaching Ethan those verses and working on encouraging those kinds of behaviors. Our goal is just to soften his heart to our authority, so that later on he will be ready to submit to the Lord's authority in His life.

It sounds like you are doing a great job with Caleb. Children CAN be such a joy, and it so helps a mommy's day when her children are generally sweet and cheerful, not pouting or whining all the time. I have found that I just have to pray, pray, pray for wisdom in training my boys because somedays it just seems like they are not getting it! But I know it will pay off, and it will for you too!

Stephanie said...

wow, i wrote a comment a few days ago, but somehow i messed up because it isn't posted, so let me try to repsond again.

thanks so much for the scripture references. God's word is so huge and sometimes I feel a little overwhelmed in thinking about teaching it to my child. I have been thinking a lot lately about how to introduce scripture into Caleb's life and the verses you posted are some great encouragement to do so.

When did you start introducing scipture into Ethan's life and how did you go about it? I so want Caleb to come to know our Lord at an early age. I would love any suggestions you might have to offer.

I totally agree with you that our job as Christian parents is to help our children learn to respect and submit to authority so that some day they will do so with God as their ultimate authority. That one truth is one of the strongest things that keeps me consistent even when I feel like I'm being harsh or don't feel like discipling again. I know that "God disciplines those He loves."

I don't think I can pray enough to ask for wisdom for each moment of my day in training Caleb in the way he should go. God is so good to provide the wisdom I need for each circumstance. It is still a challenge though and I love it. Thanks for taking the time to share your life with me. Happy Mother's Day tomorrow.

dave & rachel said...

Well, I started reading Ethan Bible stories from the very beginning. And we really started introducing God's Word through Scripture songs too, very early. But when he was about 2 and could talk, we started learning memory verses. Ephesians 6:1 was the first one he learned, and we just practiced it every day at breakfast. And I reminded him that that was "his job" to obey, because God says it is right. This is when I read my Bible too, and often I will just read a few verses to the boys. I want them to see me read and learn to love the Word of God too.

I sometimes feel like I'm being a little too harsh too, or just expecting too much...but that's usually when I've been hanging out with friends who aren't as strict with their kids. And that is totally okay. But like I said before, Dave and I both really want to soften our children's hearts to authority...and there is no other way to do that than to be very, very consistent about requiring obedience, in a firm, loving way.

The other thing we're really working on--and I don't know if you're there yet with Caleb or not--is attitudes. We try not to allow the boys to pout or whine or throw fits, because it is really just disobedience. They don't WANT to obey, so they want to whine about it...or argue. And with Simon (14 months) we have started flicking his mouth when he says "words" that are unkind or if he crys to get his way. And it is so shocking, Stephanie, because he totally knows what he is doing, and stops immediately. Now none of the baby books will tell you that you can teach them not to throw a fit, but I think it might be true. :)

It is so amazing to me how early children show that they are sinners!

Happy Mother's Day to you too! Are you doing anything special?

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the advice. We have been singing and reading Bible stories to Caleb as well, but haven't started working on specific verses and maybe it isn't time to yet.

Caleb has just started showing a sinful attitude the last few months and we have honestly only been working on it for the past month. I too am amazed at how soon they start to disobey with their attitude. It's a good reminder to me also to work on a good attitude myself.

Anyways, I have had a splendid Mother's Day so far. First thing this morning when I walked into Caleb's room I found a sweet card from Caleb waiting for me on his changing table that my husband, Jason, helped him sign. Then, I walked into the kitchen and their was a few dozen fresh cut roses in a vase with a note from my husband. Then, when we got into the car their was another card from Jason. He is very creative and loves surprises. He took all of us out to my favorite breakfast place, here on Route 66, and then we all went to church. He works in the evening so he has left for the day, but I still have some precious time left with my sweet son. He is taking a much needed nap right now and I think I will lay down for a few minutes too.

I would love to hear about your Mother's Day.

dave & rachel said...

Sounds like your Mother's Day was fun!

The boys and Dave gave me a gift certificate for an hour long massage for Mother's Day. I'm really looking forward to it!

After church, we went out to Dave's sister's house for a BBQ where the guys cooked. So fun and really nice break!

But today my kids are sick with fevers, and it's back to the old grind. :)

Stephanie said...

It sounds like you were and will be pampered.
I am so sorry your boys are sick. It is so sad to me when Caleb gets sick. I can't imagine having 2 sick at the same time. I'll be praying.