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When Can You Incorporate Children in Adult Gatherings?

Jeremy:
In the context of some gatherings we’ve been having in our house with kids but I realized that this is kind of a helpful framework just to think about. I wanted to kind of run it past you, Jeff, and see what you think. In the context of gatherings we have in our house where we’re spending time praying, teaching, we really love it when kids can be with their parents. This same thing will apply to worship services, if you want your kids to be with you in a worship service. How do you decide what events to bring your kids into when they’re ready? When you’re ready? And which ones to get childcare for? So this is the way I think about it. I want my kids to be with me as much as possible. That’s sort of my default. Unless there’s some topic we’re talking about that’s inappropriate for kids, I would really rather them be with me. Whether it’s a movie theater or a restaurant or when I’m at work but I have to be sensitive to the fact that kids fall into one of these three categories and that really is how I determine if they’re ready for this event.

Okay, so the first category is pre-training. That means when I say a child’s in, “Pre-training,” that means that I just don’t believe they’re ready to be trained to be in this environment, you know? Maybe a two year old in a three hour movie, maybe it’s not a great idea to try to make them sit through that, right? 

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
They’re just not ready for it. Okay, that’s fine. So I’ll get childcare for that, no big deal. Then there’s another category, they go from pre-training to in training. Now this is a really fun transition and as fathers I think we need to really enjoy this. That is, okay, I now think that they could handle it. Let’s say you got a seven year old and you really want them to come with you into the worship service. Nothing wrong with putting them in the kids club or whatever but let’s say you decide you want them to be in worship service with you. So what do you do during the in training season? The way I think about this is you don’t go from them having never sat through a 70 minute worship service to expecting them to be perfectly quiet and happy sitting through it.

Jeff:
Yeah.

Jeremy:
You need to train them and that means that you really need to give this some time and some space. So you might say, “Okay, we’re going to go into a training season where I’m going to be constantly working with my child and really focused, maybe even a little bit less on what’s happening in the worship service and a little bit more on my son or daughter and talking to them about what’s going on. If they need to have some kind of project to be working on so that when they get super bored they can focus on something else for a bit.” But you’re really focused on that. That’s your in training period. You might go from that and go, “Okay, this was a bad idea. Back to pre-training.” That’s totally fine, no harm there. But you might discover that after four or five weeks of really doing that, your child now can get through what would have been really difficult for them to get through with no problem. So then you go from in training to trained. 

This is kind of the way that we encourage parents to think about any adult gathering that we want to integrate children into that is not designed for children, right? We really live in a world that basically says, “Either it’s designed for kids or it’s designed for adults,” and this is a disaster because-

Jeff:
It’s never designed for families. 

Jeremy:
No, nothing’s designed for families and so either I’m going to bring my kids and they’re going to be crazy and chaotic or provide childcare. Those are the only two options and I don’t like either option. I like the option where I can be with my kid even in moments where maybe the thing that is happening is over their head for a little bit. So the way that we’ve walked through that is to decide for each child, for each event, are they pre-training, too young for this? Are they in training? I’m focused on them, explain to them what’s happening, really helping them walk through this in a healthy way so that they can experience this with our whole family together. Or are they trained and I’m not worried about it, they know how this works, I work with them, no big deal? That’s kind of the framework that has really helped us step families through the process. But yeah, Jeff, how does that work for you guys? How do you think about that? 

Jeff:
Yeah, not much more to add since you nailed it but I think what I would say is that one of the axioms that has radically transformed our marriage and our family is we kind of joke, we joke about the old riff on the prosperity gospel, “Name it and claim it,” but kind of the same thing of like-

Jeremy:
Yeah.

Jeff:
Name whatever you’re doing or whatever you’re in and it solves 99% of the problems. This was one of them, right? 

Jeremy:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. 

Jeff:
Because if you don’t name it. Like, “Oh, our kids don’t know how to do this yet. Okay, cool, no pressure but we’re going to go in with this type of mentality.” That’s radically different than your kid being at the exact same place he is in that attitude versus going in with, “Oh my goodness,” just a different thing. Expectations, it hasn’t been named, right? 

Jeremy:
Yes.

Jeff:
So name it. Name what it is, name seasons, that’s a huge one. Name certain days, name certain stages that your kids are in. I can go on and on but just when you name it, it just is this … 99% of the battle is this expectation communication battle and when you start naming things it just puts you in the right box for your attitude. 

Jeremy:
Yeah.

Jeff:
For your spirit, for your tone and I think that’s really, really big. I would just say yes, that’s a huge thing in regards to this. 

Jeremy:
That’s so good. Yeah, the principle I always think about that coming from is the Genesis 2, Adam’s first job was to name things. 

Jeff:
Yeah. 

Jeremy:
I think that that’s what was happening. I don’t think it was simply like, “Come up with sounds that will represent an animal.”

Jeff:
Yeah, naming kind of creates orderliness. 

Jeremy:
I think it was, “Hey, you’re responsible.” And as the father you’re in charge of naming things.

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