Friday, 7 September 2012

Sunday school effects

Kah Yen had been attending sunday school for almost two months and each week we take turns to accompany her (One parent is encouraged to be there for the 18-month to 3-year old group). Other than doing a lot of singing, dancing and story-telling, the sunday school also imparts to children good behaviors like self-control through simple and consistent instructions, which I like very much. Examples are some of the things below, I call them sunday school effects.

(1) Pack up time

These 3 magical words are constantly used throughout the sunday school class. When the class is about to start, the main teacher will say "pack up time" and the children will help to put all the toys back to their respective baskets. During singing session, each child is given a scarf to dance in one of the songs, when the song ends, teacher will again shout "pack up time" and the child will pass the scarf back to the teacher one by one. It is the same during the musical instrument time too.

These 3 words indeed works like magic. There is no need to say "Children, can you please help to pack up the toys?". No you don't ask for their permission, you give them instruction, simple and clear.

At home Kah Yen is usually co-operative when it comes to packing up toys. If she doesn't want to play with certain toy anymore, she will usually pack it up before passing back to me, like putting all the crayons into the plastic bag, erasing her drawings on the magnetic drawing board, and puting all plates and cups back to her picnic basket. But when the toys are massive, like 50+ pieces of building blocks or dozens of construction cars, trucks and signboards on the floor, then we will need to engage her with "Pack up time" and she will help us with the packing.

Guess who is going to pack up the toys?

(2) Self-control hand

For a less than 2-year old to learn the idea of self-control, it isn't easy. Again the sunday school does it the simple way. The teacher asks the children to clench one hand with the other and hold them in front of their chests, like chinese wishing people "Gong Xi Fai Cai" during Chinese New Year, the parents are encouraged to hold the children's hands inside theirs to help them. And the teacher will count from 1 to 10 and 10 back to 1 before the children can release their hands. Sometimes I can feel Kah Yen's hands are trying to break loose inside mine, I will hold her tighter and don't let go, and overtime, she learnt to wait till the counting stops. The purpose of this is to help the children calm down from certain situation and hopefully divert them to something else after it.

Recently I have used this technique twice at home. First time she was playing sticker book on her high chair while we were taking dinner, the stickers were a bit too hard to take out, she was getting impatient and was going to throw the sticker book at our table. I quickly held her hand and did the "self-control hand" with her. After we'r done, I offered to help her take out a few stickers and she was contented to play with them quietly again.

Yesterday we sat down and read a book before sleep as usual, and in the middle of it she insisted on flipping the pages randomly herself, which was very disruptive to my reading. Usually I will just let her flip till she's done with it, and I will pick up reading again from where I left, but yesterday, I held her hand and did the "self-control hand" with her, and magically she sat quietly reading the book with me afterwards. The funny part is, when I was on the last few pages, she suddenly clenched her hands all by herself and started counting "2, 4, 5, 8!". It was so cute I almost burst out laughing seeing it.

(3) Sit still and focus

For sitting still and focus they use this phase "Cross your legs, fold your arms, and finger on your lip!", it is a bit long and I always guided Kah Yen to follow this instruction. But over time, it became a habit. For example, during the station games, when the children have to go from one station to another in small group to collect their bible verses, I notice Kah Yen will automatically sat down, cross her legs and fold her arms when we reached a new station. 

At home, we don't require her to sit still on the floor so much, but we do use the "Finger on your lip!" follow by "hush..." quite often when we need her to be quiet. Example, when Daddy is giving thanks for dinner, if Kah Yen talks I will put my finger on my lip and she will do the same and stop talking.

(4) Quiet time

This is different from "Finger on your lip!", this is to encourage the children to lie down and be quiet for an extended time. During quiet time, the children are told to lie down and listen to the audio bible being played. The parents are encouraged to lie down with them or lay our hands on them. This seems to be Kah Yen's favorite time. She often does it without any objection.

At home, sometimes in the weekend afternoon when we are tired playing I will switch on the soft music and tell Kah Yen to have some "Quiet time" with mummy, both of us will lie down on the floor for a while together. This is also very useful when I read children's bible to her before our night prayer. Usually just before bedtime she is over-excited and jumps around in her cot, but recently before I start reading, I wil tell her "Kah Yen, mummy is going to read the bible, lie down and it's quiet time", and she follows. I am impressed. Though she often gets up and does her usual stuff again after only a few minutes, but I think she is already doing very well.

There are other things the sunday school has taught the children too, but I am mostly impressed with the above. It is not as easy as it sounds though. Patience and perseverance will do the job. The important point is: lay out the rules with simple and clear instruction, show them how to do it, and do it consistently with them. After all, they are great observers and absorb things really fast. Train them with good behaviors and very soon we will start to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

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