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Monday, October 17, 2011

Avoiding "Sanctuaries of misbehavior" for children

A grocery store is one place that can be a sanctuary for misbehavior.
The key is to not allow any behavior you wouldn't at home.

It is easier to enforce family rules when you're in your element. When we are at home, we can deal with individual situations consistently every time. It is easy to set boundaries and let children deal with the consequences.

However, grocery stores, church and even our home when guests visit can become "sanctuaries of misbehavior" unless we, as parents, are consistent with our parenting guidelines even there. In other words, children can figure out you may not be able to discipline them the same way during church as you would at home. Indeed, they figure out they can get away with things they couldn't get away with at home. They test their boundaries in all situations.

For instance, I recently shattered my kneecap, article forthcoming. Since this happened, I have had to adapt my parenting style a little since I cannot always move to enforce discipline. My wife and I began to notice the kids weren't as quick to obey me since they knew I wouldn't chase them down and help make it happen if they didn't obey quickly. Some would probably term their behavior "running wild."

Maybe sometimes the correction for misbehavior will have to come after the fact. For instance, a friend of ours taught us to use "reverent practice." When the children misbehave in church, whether it be by attempting to wander the aisles, crawl under the pews, or backflipping off the pulpit, we for a while had reverent practice when we got home. This also happened after irreverent prayers or family home evenings. In reverent practice, we place the children in chairs and have them fold their arms, put their feet in front of their chair, not fidget, and remain quiet. Until they do, they remain on the chair. The contest of wills isn't always short, but it has been effective in teaching our kids to remain reverent during the appropriate times. Now, we rarely have to discipline during or after church.

We also have a zero-tolerance standpoint for noise. If they make an unholy racket in Sacrament meeting, we escort them to the foyer, where - this is important - they stay on our lap or we hold them, aloft from anything that could be considered fun. Otherwise they would view these forays to the foyer as a reward for being loud during a dry talk. The lap approach probably won't be appropriate with teenagers, so it's best to start early so you don't have to when that time comes.

How many times have you seen a child screaming their head off in a grocery store, fully knowing the embarrassment they are causing, while you can't take the established recourses from home like timeout or sending them to a room or whatever to scream their lungs out? What can you do about this? Exit the store immediately. Go to the car. Sit the child in their carseat. Return to the store only when they have calmed down. I've also had to use the car approach for midnight screaming sessions or naughty children once we've reached the lap/foyer stage at church.

If children can sense the boundaries are always in place, no matter the locale, they will modify their behavior eventually to fall in line with expectations, unless they are stubborn or discipline has remained unenforced for too long.

What do you do to avoid sanctuaries of misbehavior for your children?

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