Self Control: Activities for Children

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If you need the short version of this podcast, it’s this: If you want your children to be successful in public, you gotta practice it at home. Do it.If you need the short version of this podcast, it’s this:
If you want your children to be successful in public, you gotta practice it at home.
Do it.

Let’s talk about several different areas where we wish our children would behave- where it matters to us.

1. Public Locations:
That’s all…just anywhere out THERE!
Grocery store, doctor’s office, restaurant, church, funeral, walking across the street, library, playmates, the toy isle of Wal-Mart…

Did I catch yours?
Or maybe yours is in my second category:

2. Public Locations:

Grandma’s house, for the sitter, that friend that volunteered to watch your kid at the playground so you can take the other one to the bathroom that’s across the street from the playground for the 10th time because they are bored with the swings and can’t come up with what else they want to do, but the last time you tried to prove they were faking you took them home with wet pants.  Or whomever else they are supposed to be impressing at the time- the pastor, the neighbor, the FedEx driver…

Listen, I get it…we aren’t supposed to want to make our kids little soldiers- but we do think it should be reasonable for them to act like humans, not wild animals.

So, first, let me encourage you…my kids have done their fair share of embarrassing me.
Listen, sometimes, our best efforts can’t contain such creativity. But there are so many other things that we can do something about if we just take some action ahead of time.

So today, I’m going to tell you some of my strategies that I’ve used over the years to help them learn to be still.

Ok, so strategies- the main idea is, if you want your little ones (or big ones) to show self control in more stressful situations, you’ve got to practice in non-stressful situations.

When my kids were little we had a lot of church services the had to sit still for. Somehow they had to learn to sit there quietly.  How?
By practicing at home.
Almost daily, for a while there, we’d pretend to have church.  They thought it was fun.  We’d sit on the couch, really still and look at books.  We later included one of my kids volunteering to preach or lead the music and the other kids and I would obediently open our Bibles or our Hymnals to the proper passage the three year old was babbling about and listen, sing, or participate. Three things happened during these times. First, they had fun- they didn’t know we were practicing self control.  They just thought it was pretend.  Second, they learned how to sit still and participate in an environment where they were praised for it and not scolded for misbehavior.  And third, they got the change to see from the speakers point of view what it feels like to have distracting little children misbehaving in their congregation.

You can practice all sorts of things…going through a grocery store, talking to a doctor, interacting with a neighbor…while I don’t normally spend tons of time playing pretend with my kids, these types of pretend times- where we were learning the skills of being polite, practicing self control, and pretending to be responsible- those I was down for.  And don’t think I did this every day…even a few times a month can make a huge impression.

Another trick is to learn ways to set them up for success.
When my kids were little I created a little bag of things to entertain them.  They never play with these things unless they are having to wait patiently somewhere- I had a little watercolor set, a felt book of stories, a deck of cards, some miniature animals, a couple fidget toys, and a few other things here and there. All the things I put in my bag were generally small- except for the felt books, quiet, and usually were things that more than one person could play with.  I needed an arsenal sometimes.

Do you set your kids up for success?  Are you creating a way for them to be successful while they wait?

And words…self control with words.  Let me tell you, it’s not enough just to say, “Don’t say that.”

Practice what to say.  We don’t say, shut your big yapper.  We say, “will you please lower your voice?” or “thank you for sharing.”

We don’t say, “You’re mean!” We say, “I’m having a hard time with what you just did. Or Please don’t do that.”

Are you practicing?

Finally, be aware of the influences that seem innocent that might be sending mixed messages to your children.

Want your children to have self control and not try every wild idea they come up with?

Put the Calvin and Hobbes books away for a while.

Want them to learn to be respectful to their father…stop reading Berenstain Bears to them.

Do they listen to music promoting rude independent attitudes, but then you want them to humble submit with obedience?

I’m not someone that says all these books, movies, shows, are bad.  But if you have a child that’s particularly struggling with something- look for what is influencing him on a regular basis and back off for a while until he can discern between funny and inappropriate, between a cool idea and dangerous, between silly and disruptive.

We want our kids to demonstrate self control, but are we acting like it?  Are we choosing things that support that desire at home, in their everyday environments? Or are we simply hoping that it will magically happen while we are out.

Self control takes practice.
And it’s practice for us as well…to be intentional. To make decisions about what they watch or listen to, to plan ahead for them, to role play at home so they are better prepared for outside interactions.

It won’t fix everything, but let me tell you…it will cut down on so much mischief!

So, what one thing stands out to you from this episode that you can implement this week?  Just one thing!  I challenge you to pick something and try it!

Thanks so much for joining me this month for the fruit of the Spirit: Self Control.  Come back next week as we begin a whole new focus on Love- how we can love others well!  See you then!

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