When I was growing up, I remember constantly hearing my father say, “There is a time and a place for everything. This is neither the time nor the place.”
Usually, hearing these words were all we needed to make us stop what we were doing, analyze our behavior, and make a necessary course correction. I’m pretty sure this wise advice was passed down from my grandfather to my dad. Now, my husband and I are trying to instill this council in our own family.
A Case of the Giggles
Our family is a praying family. We pray at church, at meals, at our bedsides, and as a family morning and night. So, you could say we we’ve had a lot of practice.
Recently Spencer and I gathered all the children together for a family prayer before bed and found that it was impossible to get it started. Londyn and Porter, ages 13 and 11, were laughing hysterically and could not reign it in long enough for Londyn to say the prayer.
Londyn and Porter are best friends and love to laugh and play together. This particular evening they had been making up funny words and nonsensical names for each other like “limeade pickle punch.” Each time the names were said or revised, they both would laugh uncontrollably.
Even when we all knelt in a circle for prayer, the silliness would not abate. I felt that surely they would see the need to get in control of themselves, because silly behavior was not appropriate for family prayer time.
Spencer looked at the children and said, “I know you’re both having a fun time together, but this is not the time nor place for silliness and so I am giving you a ‘no answer.’ You need to stop being silly and get calm.”
Londyn and Porter both responded with “okay” and we bowed our heads to pray. We waited with eyes closed and heads bowed for Londyn to begin the prayer. Several silent seconds passed by before being interrupted by another peal of giggling.
I must admit that when I hear those sweet giggles, it’s very hard to keep a straight face.
We gave them a few more seconds to make the choice to self-govern, but when the giggles continued, I decided that needed a little more encouragement.
I don’t usually do this, but I did a double correction. I calmly said, “Londyn and Porter, just a moment ago your father gave you a ‘no answer’ and you said ‘okay’ but you didn’t keep a calm face, voice and body and you didn’t do as directed. What you should have done was all four steps to accepting a ‘no answer.’ Since you chose not to follow through, you’ve earned an extra chore to be done after the prayer. For your extra chore, you’ll both load the dishwasher together.”
My children immediately became calm. They agreed to the consequences I’d outlined, we had a very nice family prayer, and then they got up and quickly did the dishes before bed. It only took them about three minutes to do the task. They checked back with me, I praised them for a job well done, and they went to their beds, giggles trailing behind them.
This simple story of silliness at prayer time is an example of how a family benefits from having predictable ways of correcting problems. We pre-taught them vocabulary like “no answers” and we calmly followed through with the same pattern we always use to correct inappropriate behavior, so they knew exactly what to expect. Our family’s government structure lead us that night to self-control and calm correction instead of frustration and manipulation.
During my kids’ giggle fest, it would have been easy to choose to be frustrated and angry at the disrespect the children were showing for a sacred and meaningful time for our family, but that would have taken the spirit of love and unity out of our home when we needed it most. Instead, implementing patterns and a vocabulary the whole family understood promoted self-analysis, which is essential for self-government. Also, it enabled a feeling of love and calmness to stay in our family prayer circle.
Next time your children are forgetting that there is a time and a place for everything, try using my father’s wise words or your own terms for self-government to help analyze behavior and promote self-government. This will keep your home filled with the spirit of love.
Want one-on-one parenting training with Nicholeen? Come to Cancún, Mexico in October for a Teaching Self-Government Couples Retreat. Details here!