Making the Cross-Country drive was not as painful as it has been in times past. I have a few fairly short audio stories I’ve been saving for a trip, and Lee and I were both surprised at David’s ability to follow along. This is a new development. He still kept asking for clarification, but he was getting a basic idea of the plot.
We have a CD with the story of the “Three Little Pigs” on it. Even Bethel could follow along on this story (and she was clueless about the others). I started thinking about the implications of repetitive, cumulative plot elements. I wonder whether telling these kinds of stories cultivates an ability to pay attention. I should be telling stories more.
I also spent time on the road thinking about these implications for getting something meaningful out of a church message. Among the things that I pondered how a child’s ability to follow a story can give insight to a parent seeking wisdom in this area. What things would I look for when considering an appropriate age for my children to understand anything of the adult sermon? (Note that I am not looking merely at a child’s ability to sit still. That’s a different skill.)
- Certainly, I’d remember that development varies from child to child. I want to remember that before I become critical of another mother whose child might not be ready to sit in church, or despair because another child took notes by drawing pictures of the sermon a full six months before my child even recognized the subject of the sermon.
- I think it’s fair to consider how they pay attention to sitting down to read an unfamiliar storybook. I’m interested in how much of the story he can understand. I figure this out by asking him questions about what has happened, or by asking him to predict what will happen next. If he cannot follow a story with pictures, he will not be able to follow a sermon without pictures. If he cannot talk, I’d ask him to point to certain pictures in the book.
- I’m also paying attention to how well they follow an audio story, with or without pictures. When I’m not reading a book, I have more ability to watch them. We regularly check out children’s books to listen to in the car. I check out books well above their listening skill, as well as books on their own level. This protects me from inadvertently underestimating their ability to listen, and I’m not frustrating them because they’d be sitting in their car seats, anyway. I can ask questions about what we’re listening to, and get a good idea of how much they are grasping.
- I must also remember that if my children never have opportunity to test or practice their ability, I run the risk of underestimating that ability. Now, some mothers make practicing church an art form, and explain how they have their children sitting quietly on chairs for an hour (perhaps reading books? I don’t really know). That’s not my style. I figure there are enough opportunities for practice without creating artificial environments. Sometimes I do need to find opportunities, to be sure. And I must remember that if they fail once, it doesn’t mean they’re not able to listen.
- There’s room for me to improve. My mother-in-law sat her three young boys in little chairs and taught them the Scriptures. I’d like to incorporate some sort of formal instruction at some point, or at least work to that end, even if the time is initially very short. I’d like to experiment with cumulative teaching, like fairy tales do. I wonder whether I can use that technique when teaching God’s Word to my littlest ones. I’ll have to think on it.