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Training Children to Sit

When my oldest was 15 months old, I began training him to sit still.  When we had our second child, we kept up with the training, and as we added more children to the brood, the little ones followed their older siblings’ examples.  We’ve come to a point where it’s given that our children are expected to sit and participate during Sunday service.  This is such a blessing and I really take delight in having my children with us on Sundays.  Our youngest is 20 months old now and she does not sit well on Sundays.  Once again, we’re revisiting our training session.

I took the time to train our toddler while the older children were at a basketball camp last week.  I started with holding Bethany on my lap and not allowing her to come down, and when she wiggled in an effort to come down, I told her ‘no’ and told her to sit on my lap.  We did this for about 10 minutes while playing a sermon on the background.  Our first session was a real struggle for Bethany and she did not like it a bit!  When it was all over, she was relieved to get out of my lap.

We repeated the process the following day and this time she was content and not crying.  I had her sit on a stool and she was quiet and obeyed the entire 10 minutes.  The following day I had to mop our filthy floor, but Bethany kept getting in the way.  Instead of sending her away, I had her sit on a stool while I mopped.  She sat and watched me mop the floor for about 20 minutes.  Even though she struggled a bit 10 minutes in, she did great on the whole.

There are so many benefits to training children to sit still while they’re young and one of which is learning to have self-control.  For those who are interested in training their children to sit still, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Start training the children at home first.  When they cry and want to get out of their chair, you don’t have the whole public giving you the evil eye.
  • Start out small.  You need to see your child’s abilities and see how many minutes to start out with.  If your child really struggles, you can start with 3 or 5 minutes.  Once they can sit for that long, increase the time to 7-10 minutes and so on.  In the past we worked up to one whole hour with our oldest while listening to a sermon.
  • You may want to start the training by having your child sit on your lap or be buckled down in a high chair.  Once the child knows he must sit and not cry, you can transition him to a regular chair or couch.
  • During the training session I don’t give the child any toys, papers, pencils, crayons, etc.  I have done so in the past and that proved to be counter productive.  All those items became a distraction and we ended up not having a successful training session.
  • When it’s time to sit in the public, e.g., at church, I have the child on my lap and have her sit for as long as she can handle it.  Once she becomes a distraction, I take her out.  We keep repeating this process until she’s able to sit through the entire service.
  • Some kids are harder to train than the others so even though it may take several training sessions for some children to get the idea, it may take lot more sessions for the others.  In addition, don’t think that once you’ve got your children to sit beautifully for a period of time that this habit will continue without any more efforts on your part.  Once in a while the already trained children fall apart, but don’t give up, just go back to the basics.  As long as you’re consistent and persevere, it will become a habit for them.
  • Don’t give up!  It’s rather tempting to call the session off when the child is crying, but keep it up until the timer goes off.  Children are fast learners and they catch on fast though some take longer.

Here is Bethany sitting on a stool while I mopped the floor:

Posted in Parenting, Photos.


2 Responses

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  1. Vikki says

    I loved this post! I have a friend who has eleven children, and she does this same type of training. Her children do EXTREMELY well during church (ours is a family-integrated church), so the benefits are definitely worth the work!

  2. Debbie says

    Hi Lois,
    We are in the Santa Cruz area and I would be interested in keeping in touch with what your church is doing with families (activities) so that we could come up and fellowship some time. It is very hard for us to find likeminded believers around here. We sat under John MacArthur for a couple of years a long time ago and long to find really committed followers of Christ.



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