I asked my brother, John, for some parenting ideas. He and his wife have 6 wonderful, responsible children, age 20-32--but they used to be little kids, just like yours. Here is his advice:
1.Children are not just short adults. Don’t put them in “adult”situations that they will have no way to understand (like taking them to a nice restaurant, or a reception) and then being angry with them for not having good manners or sitting quietly with nothing to do for an hour. See #5 below.
2 For the same reason, don’t act as if children understand everything the way an adult does. Children's brains cannot comprehend many things yet-they don’t have the cognitive skills to understand some concepts until they are much older. For example, the concept of “good” is hard for children to understand. When they are young, “good” is equal to “what I want”. A child thinks “it is good for me to have the toy you are playing with because I want it. If I have to hit or bite you to get it, then that is good”. It takes time to create the idea that some things are good even though you don’t want them or won’t see the benefit for a long time. Heck, lots of adults haven’t got that figured out yet. See #5 below
3. Because of #2 above, it helped me as a parent to not get exasperated and say (in a loud or angry voice) or think “I’ve told you that a hundred times”. I realize that on an average, a child may need to hear that message 10,000 times before they will have the experience and ability to “get it”. So I just tell them kindly the concept for the 100th time without expecting them to really “get it”, but with confidence that they will eventually get it if I keep telling or explaining it to them kindly and lovingly. See #5 below.
4. One of the very best things I learned is that “distraction “ is a pro-active skill for parents. It is helpful in a million ways. If an argument is underway or starting (between parent and child, child and child, etc), say “Let’s go for a walk”, “Can I read you a book”, “Let’s see what I have in my purse (pocket), etc. Often fights or arguments are over petty things that won’t matter in half an hour. Rather than continuing or escalating the problem, just let the argument lie on the floor and die because it can’t compete with a distraction that is more interesting. See #5 below.
5.A child’s testimony [of God ]begins with the very elementary thought and feeling that they “like” church. Getting mad at them to “hurry or we’ll be late” falls in the concept of #2 above. From a kid’s mind, what does “being late” mean” ? Why is it bad to “be late”. You can’t explain it to them now, so just set their clothes out on Saturday night, go to bed early and get up early enough that the family isn’t running around getting upset. During Church (incorporating #4) bring quiet, age appropriate distractions to help engage them in the meeting. If they are restless and noisy, take them kindly to the foyer. In that more relaxed environment, you can begin teaching reverence, knowing (because of #3) that they aren’t going to “get it” that Sunday, but that they will eventually “get it”. Walk quietly around the church with them telling them gospel stories, getting a drink, etc. All these can help create the feeling in a child that they like to go to church. It always bothers me to see parents yank their kids angrily out of a church meeting and then insist they sit quietly on their lap in the foyer, spanking their leg if they wiggle. When I see that, I think, “there is a teenager-in-the-making who won’t like church”. Of course, that is judgmental of me, but Cathy didn’t ask anything about being judgmental!
Thanks, John, your children turned out "good" and they have proven your points! (see #2)