Blanket Training / Church Training
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Everywhere we go, I have moms ask me this question: "How do you teach your children to sit still in church? My answer is: "Church training begins at home, not at church!" The place to train your children how to sit still in church is NOT in church....it is at home! Proverbs 22:6 gives us parents a precious promise. The problem is that not many of us parents keep our part of this verse. So I'd like to spend a few moments discussing child training, in the hopes that it will encourage you ladies to seek His face and follow His ways in this area!
How many people would get a new appliance, computer, or electronic gadget and try to work it without reading the instructions? (I know, ladies, many of us try this....but it DOESN'T work!) Who in their right mind would go to a dentist who had no training? Then why do we try to tackle the most challenging and important job of all time....parenting....with no preparation? Most of us spend more time studying for our driver's permit than we do preparing for God's highest calling... motherhood! To top it all off, we have the ultimate owner's manual....the Bible! It is worth all the time and effort to get into His Word to see what He has to say about training these precious gifts that He has given. There are many great seminars and classes that will help us to accomplish our goals of training up godly children. I will list a few of these resources at the end of this article. Please avail yourselves of them! They have been such a help and encouragement to us and to many other parents as well!
Child training involves three aspects:
OUCH! These are all the responsibility of the parent! And they are impossible to accomplish...apart from the grace of God! So many parents expect their small children to behave, and are ready to punish them when they misbehave, but they have never trained those children HOW to behave! Child training takes LOTS of time. It takes time to explain to your children what is expected of them, demonstrate it, and then practice it with them over and over. When teaching our children to pick up their toys, we must explain to them what we expect, demonstrate how to get it done, and then help them practice it! We used to sit our young ones on the floor amidst all their toys, and then go out of the room and wait until they got involved playing. Then we would call their name, and say, "Come to Mommy!" If that child obeyed right away, they were praised and given lots of hugs and kisses. If he did not obey, we would calmly go to them, help them look into our eyes, repeat the instruction, and then help them get up immediately and come to where we were. This action was repeated over and over to help train our children to be attentive to our voices....even if they were deeply involved in their play. Child training takes lots of patience! We as parents must be able to set aside our desire to do what WE want to do, and spend time training our children to obey. We must be willing to take the time to train our children to be attentive, to look in our eyes when we speak to them, and to obey right away. Most of all, child training takes consistency. If we enforce our commands occasionally, but then allow our children to ignore those commands when they don't feel like obeying, or when WE are tired, we are destroying all that we have tried to do! When we give a command and then count....one, two, three... we are training our children to obey only when we reach the highest number....not when we first give the command. When we allow our children to do their own thing until we get angry and yell, we are training them to obey only when we get angry and reach our "limit". With all of that as background, let me share two tools that have helped us so much with our little ones! We are not perfect parents, nor do we have perfect children, but we have seen the rewards of consistent, Biblical training!
"Blanket training" has been one of the most helpful tools for me! I only wish that I had heard about it before my 7th child came along!! The sweet lady who explained blanket training to me called it her "playpen in a purse"! This concept involves placing your baby or toddler on his/her favorite blanket, explaining to the best of their understanding that they must stay on their blanket, and then demonstrating the consequences of getting off the blanket with a small rod or switch. Simply switch the floor or carpet all around the outside edges of the blanket and firmly but sweetly say, "No, No! Don't touch!" Give your child few favorite toys to keep his attention, and switch the toys out every little bit, and that child will learn to stay on his blanket for quite a long period of time. Begin with just 3 - 5 minutes with very young children, and after practicing every day for several weeks, he will build up his time to play happily on that blanket until he can stay there for an hour or more! What a joy and a help this was to me when I had the older 6 children in school and needed to spend time with them! The joy of this training is that you can fold that blanket up, put it in the diaper bag, and take it easily to a friend's house, or visiting new church members, and your child will sit quietly without disrupting the visit! One of my pet peeves is when folks come to visit and just "unleash" their children to invade every room of your home! What chaos! This blanket training is easily converted to "church training" when you begin taking your young child into the services. Simply fold the blanket and put it on the pew and your child will already understand the limitations and rules!
"Church training" is a tool that we began when our children were very small! With a minister dad, they spent hours and hours in church from conception, and it was important to us that they learned early how to sit quietly in the services. Every day, we sat them on the couch, within touching distance, (After all, that's how close they must sit in church!), put in a Bible story tape, explained what behavior was expected of them, (sit still, don't touch your brothers and sisters, be quiet, etc) and then I sat across from them in a chair with my little switch. Beginning with just 10 - 15 minutes at a time, we sat together, enjoying the Bible story, and practicing for church! If the rules were ignored, the little switch was a gentle reminder of the importance of obedience. We had church training every day after lunch, and gradually their time was extended to 60 - 90 minutes. The Bible stories were used to give them something enjoyable to listen to, and to train them to listen to God's Word as it is preached! No toys were allowed, as they seemed to always distract from the main objective. As the children grew older, I printed up note cards on which they could take notes on the sermons. When they were very young, these cards consisted of several boxes, each with a common word that would be found in any sermon, such as "Lord", "Bible", "God", "Jesus", "pray", etc. Before the children could read, I would illustrate the word with simple stick drawings. Each time they heard these words in the sermon, they would put a check in the box. How excited they used to get when they filled each box up completely! We also used these little note cards during our family "Wisdom Search" time, to help the little ones be more attentive to our Bible reading. At home, we gave a prize of a quarter for the one who had the most checks at the end of our Bible reading time!
There are many little methods and tools to help us to train our children for the Lord! Let me emphasize that these must be used consistently, firmly, and lovingly in order to be effective! We have found these two methods to be a tremendous help during the many years that we have traveled and ministered in many church services and camp meetings! God intends for our children to be a blessing and a joy to us parents, but it our responsibility to teach and train them in the ways of the Lord. Thank God that He gives us the resources, and His grace, in order to accomplish this!
Child Training Resources:
What the Bible Says About Child Training by Richard Fugate
Child Training Tips by Reb Bradley
Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull
Growing Up God's Way by John A. Stormer
Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD
Preparation for Parenting by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo