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Activities for Children- Self Control

Today we are talking about self-control and activities for children. I hope that today’s article will give you some entertainment as well as some practical ways to help your children develop self-control. 

If you want your children to be successful in public, you have to practice at home.  

I honor you for spending time to be a better mom and parent. Challenging yourself to find new solutions to become more like Christ is amazing action. Great job! 

As we look for more resources, first we need to consider the problem.

Different areas where we wish our children would behave are:

  • Public locations: Grocery store, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc. 
  • Public locations #2: Grandma’s house, friend’s house, babysitter’s house, with a friend at a playground

I get it, we aren’t supposed to want to make our children into little soldiers, but it should be reasonable for them to act like humans and not wild animals, right? 

Let me just say, my kids have done their fair share of embarrassing me… One of my kids told the neighbor to “Shut her big yapper” because he overheard a catchy phrase from a Saturday Night Live clip that we listened to and thought was funny. 

I had another child tell someone to, “Go down to Hell,” because he overheard a pastor praying rather fervently. We had to have a conversation with our child explaining the difference between declaring that the Devil goes down to Hell and declaring that our friends go down to Hell.

 I have also had a call from the man across the street to inform me that I have 3 little boys watering the flowers with their pants down. 

Listen, sometimes our best efforts to help our children behave cannot contain such intense creativity. We will never capture all the dumb ideas, and if you think that is the measure of a good parent then I have 2 things to say: 

First, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and certain feelings of failure as a parent. Second, I would question whether you are stifling their creativity.  Take courage, though. There are many things that we can do to improve their conduct if our kids have enough practice. 

So, how often do our kids have to practice these skills? I heard one time that a TV program changes interest every 3 seconds. Most adults change interest in conversation every 7 seconds on average. Many kids don’t have to sit in church anymore (which I love) but they aren’t having to sit still like they would in an adult church service. The dentist’s office that we go to has screens on the ceilings so they can watch TV while getting their teeth cleaned. My son just went to have an MRI done and they set up a reflection so that while he was in the tube he could watch TV while sitting in the tube for 30 minutes. 

I am grateful to live in the 21st century and I will be the first to give a big shout-out to the electronic babysitter when my kids were going crazy and I needed a break. Every once in a while they will encounter a situation where they do have to sit still and have patience and self-control. The problem is, if they haven’t practiced anywhere they won’t be able to sit still and display patience and self-control. Today, I will give you some strategies that have helped me throughout the years.

Strategies: The main idea is that if you want your kids to show self-control in more stressful situations you have to practice in a non-stressful situation. 

  • Practice at home: When my children were little, we would pretend to have church. My kids thought it was fun! In the beginning, we would practice almost daily and then after a while, it became more sporadic. They would sit on the couch very still, reading and looking at books. Sometimes, one of the kids would volunteer to preach or lead the music while the other kids and I would be obedient in opening our bibles or hymnals to the proper passage. 

Three things happened during that time: First, they had fun! They didn’t know we were practicing self-control. Second, they learned how to sit still in an environment where they were praised for it and not scolded for misbehavior. It was a neutral stress-free environment for them to practice doing it the right way. Third, they got the chance to see what it was like to have misbehaving children in their congregation. When they took turns leading, the leader would get frustrated with their siblings for being a distraction. 

Gradually, the role-playing helped them learn how to behave on Sundays. You can try different environments, like the grocery store, being at the doctor, speaking with a neighbor.

  • Learn ways to set them up for success: If you want them to have self-control in public situations, set them up for success. If you know you want your phone while waiting and will have your children waiting with you, take something for them to do! I started carrying a little bag of tricks in my purse or the diaper bag. At one point, I even had a whole bag of entertainment. My mother called it the going out to eat bag. She would keep the bag in the back of the van and at a dine-in restaurant she brought the bag in with her. My siblings and I thought it was the most awesome bag in the world. She kept travel games, happy meal toys, and other things that we didn’t get to play with any other time. So when we sat down we could pick one toy to play with. When my kids were little I created my bag. I had a watercolor set, a felt book, fidget toys, etc. Most things were genuinely small and quiet. 

So, the question is: Are you setting your kids up for success(?) OR Are you just assuming they are going to entertain themselves in a situation where they haven’t had to practice before? Are you creating a way for them to be successful while they wait?

Self-Control with Words

Let’s also talk a little bit about self-control with words. It is not enough to say “don’t say that!” Some kids more than others need practice on what to say or the funny insulting thing is going to come out of their mouth. Sometimes a lack of self-control is evidence of a void of wisdom, not the neglect of it. They may not have the discernment to know what is funny, what is rude, and the difference between the two. It is something subtle that we learn, even as adults. It is important to 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”. Be aware of the influences around you that seem innocent that might send mixed messages to your kids. If you have a child that seems to try every wild idea that comes to mind, put the Calvin and Hobbs books away for a while. Maybe you have a child that is struggling with respecting adults, have them put the Berenstain Bears books up.  I am not a person that says all movies, books, and music are bad , however if you have a child that is struggling with something in particular removing what may be encouraging that behavior will help! 

Finally, we want our kids to demonstrate self-control, but are we acting like it? Are we choosing things that help support the behavior that we expect from them? Self-control takes practice. It takes practice from us too. It is important to be intentional in the decisions we make regarding what they are exposed to. Plan ahead and role-play at home. These things will not fix everything, but practicing will help cut down on so much mischief. 

What one thing from this article stands out to you? What is one thing that you can implement this week? I challenge you to pick something and try it with your kids. Then, comment below and let me know what you tried or if you have other ideas!

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