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Self Control: Activities for Children

In my latest podcast, I addressed three different areas where children seem to struggle with public behavior.

Why is it so hard? Why can’t they behave?

The struggle to get them to sit still is REAL!

And let’s not neglect the disconnect with the older generation over this issue. Countless grandparents are fussing, not so quietly, about the lack of discipline in kids these days and parents defensively insist they are doing everything they can to raise their kids right.

So where’s the breakdown?

I’m going to propose that the answer is partly a lack of boredom. It wasn’t that long ago that people could be completely entertained by their thoughts and not need any additional outside stimulant to keep them focused and entertained. However, our society has all but eliminated the need to get bored an therefore we rarely do it.

Furthermore, it’s uncomfortable. We even know this as adults. See how long you can sit and do nothing before you are instinctively reaching for your phone, a task, or the remote control.

Thinking is a skill, and deep thinking is a skill that is severely underdeveloped in our current society. I don’t mean people are stupid. I mean that we aren’t exercising a muscle of sorts that used to get regular exercise by default because we had nothing else to do.

Consider this quote from one of the Little House on the Prairie Books:

“On Sundays Mary and Laura must not run or shout or be noisy in their play. Mary could not sew on her nine-patch quilt, and Laura could not knit on the tiny mittens she was making for Baby Carrie. They might look quietly at their paper dolls, but the must not make anything new for them. They were not allowed to sew on doll clothes, not even with pins. They must sit quietly and listen while Ma read Bible stories to them, or stories about lions and tigers and white bears from Pa’s big green book, The Wonders of the Animal World. They might look at pictures, and they might hold their rag dolls nicely and talk to them. But there was nothing else they could do.”

Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, copyright 1932

We’d like to think this was abnormal, but it was quite the regular thing for many families.

We can also consider the numerous other ways children by default were left to their imaginations as their sole entertainment:

  • Riding to and from town or church.
  • Playing outside with no toys.
  • Listening to a preacher- with no children’s programs.
  • Reading books with no pictures.
  • Having one doll, or one ball, and that was all.

By necessity, children for centuries have had to make their own fun from their own head simply because there was nothing else for them to do- until now. Now, they need not get bored ever. In fact, their little brains are so overstimulated many are crying out for the silence while also not knowing what to do with it.

Just like adults never had to fit in a workout because the daily farm chores were more than sufficient, so children never had to practice self control and sitting still on purpose because there were so many times when it was necessary for them to do it.

So as you train your children, or as you watch your grandchildren be rambunctious, consider the times we live in. Let’s be gentle, but let’s also consider how we can help them develop the skills they need for those rare moments they will need to sit still and pay attention. And, perhaps we adults could stand to practice the same thing once in a while.

To listen to more about this topic, click on the link below to check out this podcast:

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