Turning to prayer is an excellent tool for adults to handle the “lions” of everyday life. This process can also be taught to young children. Using this simple technique from “Experience God,” children are given a chance to practice self regulation using prayer.
- Cut out lion faces. Ours were provided by Experience God.
- Tape or glue the lions to Popsicle sticks.
- Designate a jar or cup for this activity.
- Each time your child is having a difficult moment, acknowledge that they are struggling and have them put a lion into the designated jar or cup.
- Discuss the lions in the jar at mealtime.
- Review the reason for the child’s upset.
- If crying, screaming, or having a tantrum was involved discuss alternatives. Examples may include asking for help, taking deep breathes, or walking away.
- Take a moment to talk with them about how to respond to tough situations. List prayer as an option.
- Pray for God to help us when we struggle with these lions.
- Pray that God can give us strength to trust Him when we struggle.
- Pray that we are able to continue to love others and be kind when faced with these lions.
Owl (2 year old) hit Ladybug (3 year old) with a train.
I told him “no” and took the train from him and put it on a high shelf. Hitting is an immediately punishable action in our house that we react to with either removing an object or a time out.
I then checked on Ladybug and asked her if she was alright, saying, “I’m sorry that Owl hit you. He knows so many better ways to tell you he’s angry. I wish he would use them.” This technique of putting the focus on the injured child as opposed to solely on the one doing the wrong doing comes from “Siblings Without Rivalry,” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. We use this technique to avoid reinforcing or encouraging negative attention seeking behavior.
Owl started to have a tantrum.
After making sure Ladybug was OK. I helped Owl take several deep breaths and asked him why he hit his sister. He said, “because she wouldn’t give me the green train.” We put a lion in the designated jar, which combined with breathing helped disrupt the tantrum. The resolution at the time was no more trains until after lunch.
At lunch we talked about the tantrum and discussed what happened and what could have gone better.
Instead of hitting Ladybug, Owl could have asked for help or said he was mad about her not giving him the train.
I then had both kids tell me how they could work together to play nicely with the trains.
We then said a quick prayer that God would help give us the strength and the courage to do the right thing even when we were mad or someone wouldn’t give us the train we wanted.
They were allowed to play with the trains again after lunch. They were told from the outset that if there was any screaming or crying from either party that the trains would get put up for the rest of the day. They did well for about half an hour and then there was a roe over who could do what with the tracks. The trains were picked up and another lion was placed in the jar for discussion when both kids were calm.
Each lion placed in the cup was a reminder that prayer is always an alternative when faced with a difficult situation.
Key Learning Points
- God is with us in all situations both good and bad.
- Prayer is talking to God.
- We can ask God for help.
- We can tell God thank you for helping us during difficult times.
- We should always act in ways that we would be happy for God to see.
- Lunch time worked best for discussing the lions. The kids were well rested and both were able to focus on the conversation while they were eating.
- Write down what happened for each lion, so you can remember for the discussion.
- It’s OK if they ask for a lion to put in the cup. There is not a bad time to pray. It also helps avoid them acting unpleasantly just to get a lion.
The exercise encourages us to see challenges the way Daniel saw the lions; as obstacles God can help you overcome. The lions weren’t a perfect solution for every scenario and there were certainly days we ran out of lions or I ran out of patience……. BUT it was a fantastic start in prayer-assisted self-regulation! We used the lions in the container for a little over a week and then the kids automatically started referring to tough parts of the day as being lions. Prayer slowly became an added answer to what they could do instead of crying or screaming when something upset them. As a family, we still do a lot of deep breathing and time outs, but we have also managed to start using prayer too!
If you give it a try let me know how it goes.
Wishing you many tantrum free days and lots of prayers!