By Joey and Carla Link
September 28, 2022
You are at church visiting with friends. Out of the corner of your eye you notice your kids starting to run around inside the building with other kids, not paying attention to where they are going. You tell them to settle down and stop running. When that doesn’t work you tell them to come stand by you, which lasts for about 2 minutes before they take off again. You finally grab their hands and tell them it is time to go since they won’t behave.
At what point parents, do you stop running interference for your children and begin training them to remember on their own? All too often, we are so focused on other things or pressing matters of the moment we don’t take the time to teach into our children’s life moments.
In reality, these children are trained. They are trained to do whatever they want to do for as long as they want to do it until someone in authority intervenes and stops them.
What does biblical training look like? Training needs to start at home with teaching. ‘On-the-spot’ training is rarely successful. For the above situation, use a family night to role play situations your children encounter that they need to be especially watchful of where they are going.
- Teach your kids that they always need to be looking where they are going.
- Teach them what types of people they need to look out for, like the elderly who aren’t always stable on their feet or the disabled. Tell them to move closer to the wall or shelves in stores to give these people more room.
- Always tell them to be listening for additional instructions from you whenever you are out with people.
- Have a word or sign that gets your kids and you on the same page when they need to be reminded to think about your pre-activity expectations.
- Use a pre-activity warning before you go.
A pre-activity warning is the use of questions to ask your kids before you get somewhere how they should handle themselves. When our kids were growing up we used pre-activity warnings on our way to church, the store, the park and anywhere else we went.
1. Pre-activity warnings are not times for lectures. You are getting them to remember the rules for themselves, not lecturing them before they have gotten into trouble.
2. Ask questions. “We are going to the hospital to see Grandma. Since Grandma is so sick she has to be in the hospital so they can take care of her. How do you think you should act in her room? If you are unsure, what can you do? (Ask Mom) When we are at the store or at church, what type of people do you look for in the hallways that you need to be extra-careful around? Do you think you would know by looking if someone was sick? (No) So how do you think you should walk in the halls here? (They might say be extra-careful or hold your hand) See how this works?
3. A pre-activity warning is a tool to support your training efforts. Before you can use it, your kids need to know what your expectations are first and they need to be characterized by obedience.
4. Pre-activity warnings work for young children too. When our young grandchildren are visiting (4 yrs. & 6 yrs.) before we leave the house to go to the park nearby we ask them what the “Park Rules” are. They will tell us they must hold our hands until we tell them they can run and play. If they are riding their bikes they will tell us they must stay on the sidewalk where we can see them and they can’t cross a street without our permission. Keep your rules simple.
Pre-activity warnings eliminate chaos wherever you go. Instead of correction and consequences your kids get the blessing of praise and encouragement because when they know what to do, they usually will do it. It is worth it to take the time to work issues through with your kids.
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”
Proverbs 1:8 ESV