Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thoughts on Reverence

Image from Google search, no accredited source

I have a friend who recently wrote:

"I am in a Primary Presidency in MA and absolutely love all your ideas. Our primary is about 80 kids which naturally brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Our reverence, while never fantastic, has recently plummeted. I am trying to find ideas or techniques and tools that might help us bring a little more reverence into Primary so the kids have more opportunities to feel the Spirit. I have found a few ideas online but the majority involve bribing the kids. Our kids already get candy--and lots of it--from their teachers (despite requests to limit it). I don't think providing them with more sugar would be too helpful. I am okay bribing them with experiences or privileges but don't want to do more treats. On the other hand, since it is something I would hope that we could have more routinely than not, setting up the expectation for benefits for polite behavior gives me pause.
Anyway, I wondered if you would feel like doing a post about any reverence thoughts you have. Thanks."

Sigh. Reverence.

Can you relate?
I pray for the spirit to guide me.

Let me preface first with this, if you are struggling and sometimes come home after church with a headache and feelings nothing short of frustration and sorrow... I want you to know you are doing a great job and everything will work out. If we had star trek technology I'd beam on over and give you a big hug and kiss on the cheek. Maybe split some watermelon and just relax together listening to Bob Marley. But more importantly, the Savior knows you and is ready to give you a big hug and tell you the exact same thing and help out however you let Him. Perhaps, sans Bobby.

I was struck with this quote from Robert D. Hales, “Our Duty to God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders to the Rising Generation,” Ensign, May 2010, 95–98"

" For our interactions with youth to truly touch their hearts, we have to pay attention to them just as we would pay attention to a trusted adult colleague or close friend. Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen—yes, listen and listen some more—even hearken with spiritual ears! Several years ago I was reading the newspaper when one of my young grandsons snuggled up to me. As I read, I was delighted to hear his sweet voice chattering on in the background. Imagine my surprise when, a few moments later, he pushed himself between me and the paper. Taking my face in his hands and pressing his nose up to mine, he asked, “Grandpa! Are you in there?”.... Being there means understanding the hearts of our youth and connecting with them. And connecting with them means not just conversing with them but doing things with them too."

I bring up that quote in connection to reverence in that sometimes we are the ones with the lesson to learn. Jesus, our Savior, said "Suffer little children, forbid them not, to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:14) Our children are perfect, so it's up to us to "pay attention" and alter our teaching to accommodate maximum learning by the Spirit.

Best ways to establish reverence:

1. Pray to Heavenly Father for help.
Sometimes we forget, as terrible as it is to say. But if there is a problem, the best solution is the Big Man Himself.

2. Know the primary children!!
Have a solid relationship with them where they know YOU care about THEM.

* Become friends! Call children up on the phone to see how their day was and thank them for such a wonderful talk last week, go to school musical performances, stop by a baseball game to cheer, say hi to children by name as they enter the room, pat a child on the back and say "I'm so glad you are here to today!".... We will get more out of our callings if we put in more.
* Do you spend more time talking to your counselors and teachers or the children?
* Do you smile at the children and make them feel welcome?

3. Plan lessons that involve the children, get them moving and are age appropriate.
I'm going to say something and it might not sit well, but it's true: 95% of the time, if sharing time doesn't go well it's the adult's fault.

* No one likes to be talked at. Children should talk more than you do! It's called Sharing Time, not Lecture Series of the Gospel for 5 year olds.
* Children shouldn't have to sit still (especially Junior Primary) the entire time. They should be allowed to wiggle and use their bodies in the learning process.
* If you are going to get the children moving, there will be noise... BUT SET EXPECTATIONS CLEARLY (see #4)... Please share your answer with your neighbor and remember! I should hear mouse voices, NOT lion voices!!
* Give warnings before you want to wrap things up... Ok my friends, 30 more seconds and everyone should be in their own seat! I'll know you're ready when I see your arms folded and smiles on your faces. Thank you!
* Do you follow the sharing time outline and really think about the 2 questions that are repeated at the top EVERY MONTH - "What will the children DO to learn, and how can I help them feel the spirit?"

4. Set your expectations high and make them very clear.
Church is the place where we come to worship and learn about our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It's OK to have fun, but boundaries need to be set... and they need to be clear to the children.

* Hands need to be raised, we need to listen to each other respectfully, keep all body parts to ourselves.
* Follow through on things you say, if you've warned Johnny about kicking Billy and told him you're going to take him to mom if he does that again... take him to mom! Primary needs to be a place where children feel safe, it's OK to go over rules with children often... just do so in a manner where they are engaged. Can you show me with your hands what we do during sharing time? What about with our feet? Can you blink your eyes very fast if you think we should listen to others while they share answers? Or with older children, Can someone tell me something Laman and Lemuel would do during primary? What about Nephi?
* If you want the children to listen to you when you talk, then listen to them when they talk. DON'T TALK OVER CHILDREN. If they can't hear you, then they need to quiet down. What you have to say is important, so wait until you have FULL ATTENTION. You don't have to be overly stern about it either, "My friends, I love you. I have an important Duty to God to be a good teacher. You also have an important Duty to God, and that is to learn of Him. Neither you or I can do our duty unless we have on our listening ears and our mouths wait their turn to speak. Please take out your pencils (fingers) and write in the air, I can do my duty! Exclamation mark! Thank you. Now pencils down, eyes on me, by raise of hand who can tell me..."

5. Be Energetic!!
I'm not talking spazzy cheerleader energetic... just a hint of enthusiasm, moderate volume, happy to be at primary energetic. I know it might seem contradictory to be upbeat when you might want more of a calm atmosphere, but if you can grab their attention and keep it, you'll have your window of opportunity to share what is most important.

* In all honesty, how do you learn? Do you learn best from talks at Sacrament that are dry, lifeless and monotone... or do you learn from talks that are peppy, to the point and positive?

*******Now, going back to my friend... you've mentioned a few things that have red flags popping in my mind:

1. You are absolutely right to NOT want to give the children candy. They don't need it. Hello, thank you Jaime Oliver and Food Revolution. Not to mention the handbook which the PROPHETS have given us states for us to not have food in primary!! As for teachers that are not following the handbook, if you've asked them to stop and they're not, take it up with the Bishop. It really is a serious matter and again, you're right... sugar will not help the matter.

And before I get some crazy comment, here it is "What is the policy for food in Primary? Food should only be provided when it is included as part of a lesson or as a snack for the children in the nursery class. Be sure to consult with the parents of each child about any dietary restrictions that may be caused by conditions such as diabetes or allergies (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, 239)." Don't get upset with me, take it up with the Prophet.

2. Bribing children.... no thank you!!! They are perfect, despite what we may be thinking as they spend 4 minutes straight picking a booger and then eating it. Yum.

There is a big difference between bribing and rewarding good behavior.

I prefer the spontaneous positive reinforcement... "Oh my! You all are being such great listeners! Thank you so much, you know what... Sister So and So can you please go get a member of the bishopric and bring him here so I can tell him what a lucky ward we are to have such fantastic children who listen so well! And then do so!! Or tell the children, wow... everyone has participated so nicely, raised their hands politely and helped out our lessons so well that I'm just going to have to call your parents!! I'm going to go home and surprise 3 wonderful primary friends with a phone call!!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

I also liked choosing sticks for a reverent superstar of the day. You want to keep it positive,so tell the primary they were all so helpful and wonderful you can't choose one yourself- you have to draw sticks! (Like popsicle sticks with all the children's names on it in a can) It makes them feel special and you're using the fairness of a can.... make sure everyone gives themselves a big pat on the back though because primary wouldn't be primary without ALL their happy and reverent shining spirits! And never use this to threaten the children, like I'm going to take your stick out so you can't be chosen. Keep primary a happy place, children don't need downers and grumps in their lives... they need loving, supportive and patient leaders.

Draw a mystery picture or phrase on the board. Say the only way to figure out the mystery is to have good manners and listening in primary. Reverence is the key to unlock! Then as you go throughout the lesson, thank children and state what they have done right and draw a piece of your picture. Tell them how proud you are that they could earn their whole picture at the end by being so great!

Reverence-O-Meter! Right on! Draw a thermometer on the board, then fill in with chalk as you notice the children participating and showing good manners. Make sure to tell them what they did right as you fill in, "Oh Sara! You are so helpful, thank you for raising your hand to share your answer, and I'm going to fill in a little more on this because the class behind you was listening very carefully and showing you respect while you spoke. Thank you!!"

Bring our Savior into the matter. "You guys, do you see what picture I'm standing next to? Who is this? Jesus, yes!! You have been holding your feet so still, and singing so nicely during the songs and thinking so hard for all our questions... how do you think you've made our Savior feel? I bet you're right, I think Jesus is smiling a really big smile because you've made Him so happy with your good manners. Thank you so much!"

I also wanted to bring up when you use good manners with children, you'll get it back. Don't expect thank you's, please's and excuse me's when you yourself aren't using them... I think I'm starting to ramble now, so time to get back on point. There is no need to "bribe" children. We don't want to be the reason behind tomorrow's future political failures.

3. Always make sure as the children come in, that the proper tone for the sharing time is set. Prelude music should be playing, there should be soft voices... you can have a child that is being reverent come up to the front and hold a picture of Christ, then choose another child to hold it and have the other one sit down as everyone files in. The room should already be set up (if possible). When you have a good start, that makes things easier.

You can click HERE to see what the church has to say on teaching and expecting appropriate behavior.

You can also click HERE to hear me babble some more on behavior in primary.

If I may end by repeating again this phrase from Elder Hales, "Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen—yes, listen and listen some more—even hearken with spiritual ears! " Prepare good lessons way ahead of time, pray to Father for guidance, and get to know those whom you teach. These are the keys to having a happy Primary, and when you have a happy Primary- reverence is sure to follow. Lastly, REFLECT. Think about what is working and what is not. Take whatever you are struggling with to the Big Man and He will lead you.

I encourage anyone else out there to share ideas that have worked for them too! This is a very common issue, one that every primary has to deal with at one time or another. Don't stress about it, Jesus is awesome... it will all work out. Much love to you my friend in the Bay State... hooray for outlawing greyhound racing! And thanks for your kind words and for writing!


Anonymous said...

In our home we're working on using the words Reverence and Quiet properly. Usually in Mormon Primary vernacular reverent=quiet.

We're trying to teach our children that REVERENCE means profound respect and adoration.

We're trying to help our children develop testimonies so that they will Reverence the Lord.

When children (youth, adults) truly the Lord they will be quiet or observant or meditative or offer praise in appropriate ways.

The Children Sing said...

Hooray Sofia, I hope you can hear me clapping my hands, reverently of course. Your ideas are great!The need on this subject seems to be inexhaustable. Since you asked for additional ideas, I hope it is appropriate to share mine through a link to a couple of posts from my own blog.

Ruthie said...

Thank you, thank you for this post! Great ideas and a very good reminder to always stay positive in all we do and say in Primary, recognizing good behavior and remembering how precious their little spirits are. We are having some reverence struggles in our Primary lately (we have a new presidency, so we're in a transition period) and this post was just what I needed!

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Anonymous- Thanks for sharing!

Sister Mower- Oh how I love your blog!!! Exceptional!! You have quite the spirit with you and I'm grateful for the resource.Thank you for your thoughts on the matter, I applaud you!

Sister Ruthie- Thanks for the kind words! You're going to do a great job, so all my love and best to you!

Saley said...

I love your ideas on reverence. One thing that has helped me while teaching songs is when the children get wild I tell them we are going to plug our ears and listen to our quiet voices. We all plug our ears to sing the song and that keeps their hands busy and they think it is fun to listen to their strange voices and they really pay attention to my lips to get the words right. It has worked everytime to calm them down and get their attention again.

Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Sister Saley- Wow! Thanks! I just tried this with my family for FHE to learn a new song... Great idea and very very fun! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

6L's said...

love this whole post and the additional comments here. thanks so much!!

kimntwins said...

I made a huge poster board with each class on a horizontal string. I call it "reverence race" I move each class toward the finish line as they demonstrate reverence. The class that wins gets to send two kids up to dismiss the other classes. So far, it has worked surprisingly well!!

Anonymous said...

Sister, you have no idea how much this helped me! I had a very difficult Sunday today, especially because other sisters came to tell my class how irreverent they were. I was devastated, I went home thinking about them, how much I really love them I how much I do want them to feel the Spirit every Sunday during Primary and during class. I have three very challenging boys. Your suggestions really made me understand what I need to do, especially the one about praying!! I have done that for my class but I think I need to do it more specific. Thank you so much!!! I wish I could hug you!!

Anonymous said...

I can no longer find the section in the handbook about snacks in primary. Was that removed in the 2010 revision?

Unknown said...

I also cannot find this. Anyone know the current location?