Sunday, March 7, 2010

This is me rambling about primary. :)

First off, thank you so much for your comments on my last post. I had a sort of rough week, but that was a really rough day. Thanks for helping me to get through it! I'm feeling much better today.

Now, PRIMARY. We have the biggest primary in our stake, however it is probably half the size of a lot of Utah primaries (since that's where several of you readers are). Each week we have about 40-50 kids in attendance.

We have one by who is special needs. He has Asperger's Syndrome. He was really difficult before he was diagnosed. After that his parents have done everything asked of them by his doctor's and have been open with us about the things they are learning. They have shared with us and taught us so that we better understand how to interact with him. He is excelling!! Even participating! on his own level! I get so excited to watch him progress. It's so, so neat!

But progression and success for him are on a different scale than the average kid. Every now and then he will lay on the floor instead of sit in his chair. But the fact that he is quiet and not bugging other kids or spitting or screaming is a success for him. Although, lately, he isn't even on the floor. He's doing so good!!

Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is because I'm struggling with reverence and behavior in our primary. There are some really great times. When certain difficult children aren't there, things are much more reverent. Those are exceptional weeks. However, I don't believe that we should only be able to feel that kind of spirit in Primary when certain children are or aren't there. I think these harder kids are capable of behaving better.

I am sincerely concerned about children in today's world. I have noticed, for the most part, that the kids that are more difficult in our primary are children who have both mom and dad working outside the home, home's are not clean and tidy, video games and other technological entertainment are almost constant, and parents seem to be okay with it!

Am I saying that every mother should stay home with her children regardless of the situation? No. Am I saying that everyone's homes should be spic and span at all times? No. Am I saying that video games and the like are of the devil and should never be played? Absolutely not.

I am blessed to stay at home with my children. However I understand that some families need that extra income. Do I think that a lot of families could live with less and make more of an effort to be at home with their children? Sure. But sometimes it's not an option. And either way, it really isn't my place to say what's right for someone else. But I DO have a problem with letting the children suffer because of it. In situations where the child's behavior is affected changes MUST be made! Whether that means making arrangements to live on less and stay home, part time work instead of full, making better childcare arrangements, or simply making a greater effort during evenings and weekends, I don't know. But I do know that when something is working, you have to make a CHANGE.

As for the clean home issue, well, you've seen pictures of my house recently. It's not always clean. However, it always gets clean eventually. It doesn't last long. I am FAR from perfect. I hate cleaning. Loathe it. But when I see how it is affecting me and my children, I do it anyway. Because it helps everyone to feel at peace when I am at home.

And last, video games. We own a Wii gaming system. We play it. However, we play less than an hour a day, and not even every day. Maybe a few times a week. I monitor what games come into my home. I own nothing violent. Well, we do have a shooting game, but you aim at cans and balloons. No hunting down criminals or any other humans. No blood at all. Sure my kids are little and aren't yet interested in those types of games, but I can assure you that I will never allow them in my home. Will they play them at friends' homes without me knowing? Probably. I was a kid not too long ago. I'm not stupid. I know they will be exposed to that stuff. But not in my home. And I will strive to teach them better and then hope and pray that as they grow up they will realize that mom was right. :)

Kids now live in a chaotic world. And most of the kids in our area live in chaotic homes. My heart breaks for them. And I want to help. But these things, and others, are things that I can't control. I can only do what I think is best in my own home and pray for these other children.

What can I do? I can not be responsible for what happens in their homes, but I AM responsible for the Green River 5th Ward Primary. And that means that when they are under my supervision they will be help to a higher standard. They will be expected to behave in a way that I know they are capable.

You see, today was a crazy day in primary. Kids were noisy and irreverent, bugging their neighbors, laying on the floor, running around the room, crying for their mothers, escaping and wandering the halls. CHAOS. Are. You. Kidding me. I was appalled! I mean, I know they are children. I know they will not sit perfectly still and reverent for 3 full hours. But THIS was ridiculous!

I took one crying child out in the hall and tried to calm him. After a while, I took him to his mother. When I came back, another (one of our hardest) had run out of the primary room. His teacher was trying to convince him to go back in. I gave him a choice. He could choose to go sit reverently or he could go sit with the bishop (for this particular child, going to mom is what he wants, so instead of rewarding him we take him to the bishop). He chose none. So I chose for him. When I couldn't find the bishop I just took him to his mom. Because I have other responsibilities. I can't spend the entire time in the halls with difficult children. When I returned I spent the rest of the meeting separating kids who were having a hard time staying reverent, pulling kids out from under tables and chairs, and just trying to keep myself calm.

I had had enough. When the children joined for singing time they went nuts. I stood at the front of the room and told them how disappointed I was. I told them that I knew they could do better. I had seen them do better. That this behavior was just not acceptable. I explained to them exactly what I expected from them and then waited while each of them slowly started to obey. When they were ready I turned the time over for singing time.

Ahhhh. They sat as reverently as I've seen any other primary sit for the remainder of the time. A few individuals needed reminders, but as a whole, they were awesome!! Such a simple solution!! EXPECT MORE. That's it.

This is how I plan to handle every bit of every Sunday from here on out. I plan to meet with all primary leaders and teachers and explain to them that I expect THEM to expect this kind of behavior from the children. These kids ARE capable. I have seen it. These teachers are not called to simply teach a lesson each Sunday. They need to help teach these children reverence and how to listen to the spirit. I can't do it all by myself. I think many of them are overwhelmed with the chaos and have simply given up. They try to manage it rather than reverse it. Hopefully we will all be able to work together to make each Sunday as calm and reverent as the last 20 minutes of this week were.

Any tips? Anything that has worked for you in your families or if you are in the primary, with your primary?


The Larson Family said...

I know how you feel with the huge primary. Ours has 170 kids!! About 140-160 show up any given week. It is so insane sometimes. And there are those sundays like you described where it is just like running a zoo. I think you are right though. You have to expect more and then recognize and praise them when they meet your expectations. And I think that the teachers are critical. They need to have rules in class and in primary and the kids need to know they are serious about the rules. That is what helps us, although there are always reverence issues in a large primary. Good luck! I hope next week goes better for you.

Anonymous said...

I feel for ya, friend! I think you did the right thing in letting them know that you know they can do better and that is what you expect. Hopefully, your teachers will be on board with it and really work together to make it better. Fast and pray with and for them - the teachers and the children. I really think some kids aren't taught respect as much as they need to be. It has to start at home, but you can make a difference while they're with you all. Have you thought of or ever had the bishop come in and talk to them about respect and reverence and what HE expects of them, as well? It might help. Sending hugs...I've been there and know the frustration. It will get better. Keep trying! My last few months in primary we saw a lot of difference, even with the new year starting and the chaos that can bring. Be consistent. You're doing a great job! I know it! HUGS!
Love ya! ~Shan

Nancy Roberts said...

Aaahhh! I so feel for you. You don't know me, but I'm posting anyway. I was in your shoes a few years back, and I have to say that Primary President is the hardest calling I have ever had. It's hard to love kids that you want to beat instead. I think for the most part when they learn what is expected and when they feel loved they will comply. But that only works for the ones that don't have 'issues'. The ones with 'issues' you obviously have to deal with case by case and pray alot! I would resort to parent involvement first, but in some cases that is the REAL problem. I once had a mom that would stand out in the hall which created a huge problem trying to keep her son from 'escaping'. I finally called her to serve in the nursery just so I could get her away from the Primary hallway. At the time I was serving I was pregnant with my 5th child, for other 4 children were perfectly behaved little angels so I had little compassion for the ones who just couldn't be reverent. Then the Lord taught me a huge lesson and sent me child number 5. Let's just say he is a kid with 'issues'. I fiercely love that little monster. Even though he does not always behave and probably has sent his teachers home in tears, he loves them, because they love him. It makes all the difference. My advice to you would be much like my advice for parenting (not that I'm an expert)....let them know what is expected, be consistant, let them know you love and care about them (but these are the rules), and pray alot! Good Luck! Primary Pres. is a very challenging calling, yet it is so rewarding.