Guest Author - Shannon Swanson
Primary Wiggle Worms
This past January, my three year old son graduated from the nursery and moved into “Sunbeeps.” Since then I have felt extremely sorry for his sweet Sunbeam teacher who works so hard to keep him focused and still. Though he is getting better, he is and has always been such a wiggle worm (to say the least), and we have always had a hard time keeping him still, especially in church.
I have been thinking over the weeks what I could do to help his Sunbeam teacher, and, as I am sure we are not the only ones facing this challenge, I have had some success with a few ideas, both for parents and for teachers.
The first one is to get a feel for what goes on in Sharing Time. Are those who are presenting doing all they can to engage the children? Is there enough “activity” and songs? Granted, children do need to learn how to be reverent and patient in church, but Primary should be enjoyable to a certain extent too.
When it comes right down to it, the main point here is that if yours is not the only child having trouble keeping still and you think you just might have a difficult time keeping still in there too after sitting through Sacrament Meeting, maybe some suggestions could be made as to how to engage the kids more to help them learn both Gospel principles and learn to like Sunday School.
One thing that works great for many kids (and just about anyone for that matter) is to give them plenty of incentives. For example, at home, I give him sticker charts any time we are working on a “challenge” that he is facing. Once he fills it up, he gets a special treat, toy, etc.
This can be done by the teacher, the parent, or both. For the teacher, she could bring sticker charts to each class and give one out to each child that participated well in class that day. Once a child fills it, he or she can choose a prize out of a special prize bag, or whatever else she may feel is appropriate. You can teak this idea however you want to make it work for you and your class, but remember that consistency is important!
Some other ideas are to incentivize by allowing the class to spend the last 15 minutes or so outside if it is nice out, to allow those who participated well seconds on a snack that you brought, etc. Again, consistency is key and it all depends on what you feel is appropriate for your class, and don’t hesitate to allow more than one.
Make It Clear What is Expected
For us, sometimes we just expect kids to know what is expected of them. But sometimes we forget that they are still learning social rules and behavior. So instead of telling them what not to do (because they won’t hear the “don’t” part), tell them what they should do. For example, instead of saying, “Stop running off,” say, “Stay in your seat, please.” And if they have trouble listening to you, they miss out on your incentive later. Period.
You may want to work with them and help them know how to deal with how to stay still. Ask them what they can think about or do with their bodies to help them stay still and focused. Ask them questions about what is going on with Sharing Time to keep them focused.
Finally, always expect the best out of them. Treat them like they are all the best kids in the world, no matter what. If you remind them before class that they are not to do this or that, you may be reminding them that you know they will have the tendency to misbehave. And that is what they will give you. But if you tell them sincerely how well they are doing this and that, they will feel great and act like it.
Work With the Parents
First off, you may want to tell the parents about how you incentivize your class and your expectations just to make sure they are okay with it. Also, ask them if they have any ideas on how to deal with their children-what works and doesn’t work for them. But try not to talk about it in front of their child. Children pick up on a lot more than we give them credit for.
If their child is really being a problem, try to hold off on getting the parents involved. I feel that it is best not to condition the child to having mom or dad jump in every time there is a problem. However, if you need to, you may want to see if there is anyone who can help you teach your class so that the other kids don’t miss out when you are dealing with those who need special attention.