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When you're 3, it's hard to sit still - at church services and at the table

October 19, 2000

When you're 3, it's hard to sit still - at church services and at the table

Teaching your child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean


Tina Grim of Sharpsburg called recently, seeking advice on how to get her 3-year-old daughter, Hannah, to sit quietly in church and at the dinner table.

Tina and her husband, Darin, are trying to wean their daughter from the church nursery by having her sit with them during Sunday evening services at Victory Baptist Church in Boonsboro.

At home, when visiting friends or while at a restaurant, they'd like her to remain at the table until everyone has completed the meal.

They don't want her to distract other people in services, and they want her to learn how to be well-behaved at dinnertime.

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They know their expectations are high, but they also know they need to begin working with their daughter now so her behavior will be what they expect as she matures.

Preschoolers love to play-act, and this is a perfect opportunity to teach through play, says Beth Ostoich, operations director for Tri-State Fellowship and Evangelical Free Church in Hagerstown.

Show your child that these situations can be comfortable and inviting. Practice talking in the quiet voice you will use during a service.

At home, throw a tea party and show how all the dolls or stuffed animals stay at the table until the "meal" is finished.

Tell her she needs to learn to adapt to situations - being where we're supposed to be when we're supposed to be there is part of life.

"A child has to learn to live in a world that is not always going to serve him," Ostoich says.

Here are some suggestions from Ostoich, who is the mother of three children, ages 10, 12 and 14:

For mealtime:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Tell your child what your expectations are. Explain that the purpose of sharing a meal together is more than to just get food inside you.

"We really want to sit around the table and talk to each other and find out how the day went," Ostoich says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Don't expect them to sit still for an hour. When the meal is over, excuse them for playtime. Then the adults can enjoy their coffee and conversation.

For church:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Bring some comfort items - a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. A coloring book and a few crayons or other activities can occupy your child. If she gets tired, let her relax on your lap.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> During the service, encourage your child to participate. Don't expect quiet behavior out of a child when she can be animated. Encourage her to sing when the congregation's singing. Ask her to turn pages in the hymnal. If she has a Bible, encourage her to look up the passages that are being read. A child who can't read yet will be pretending at this point, but the activity may help calm her. .

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Sit in the back of the church. If your child doesn't sit still, fewer people will be distracted than if you sit in the front.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If she's particularly unruly, take her out of the service. Coach her at home again on what is appropriate behavior and try again in a few weeks.

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