5 Ways To Help the Active Child Sit Still

The Merrill family is not the best at sitting still. Not all of us are wiggle worms but we do have our fair share. When the children were younger, learning to sit still was a necessity for us for several reasons. We have a big family and if all five of the children were wiggling it really caused a commotion. We also went to church, a lot of extended family dinners, and banquets and if my children weren’t behaving, no one around us, including me, could concentrate.

Trial and error led to these tricks I learned to ensure we would sit still as best we could. No child or family is perfect, especially mine but these steps did help. Here they are — the 5 ways the help the active child sit still.

1. Have a plan and be prepared 

Try to know as much as you can about where you are going and how long you are going to be there. Then think ahead of how you can manage the time so your child will have success sitting still. Make sure your expectations are reasonable or the child will become frustrated. And remember that different children have different thresholds for tolerance. The trick is to slowly stretch their tolerance.

2. Wear out the wiggles

Before the event get some exercise. Something about being outside works best. Let them be loud and run. Many churches have playgrounds and parents use it as a carrot for the child to visit after church if they are good. Thinking about the playground during the sermon probably would make me wiggle more. Go early to play before church (who cares if their clothes are disheveled if they are sitting still?) and then play, again, after. Ensure daily that your child spends time in sports, dance, time outside or on the playground. Also, regular exercise has a cumulative effect in calming (don’t ask me why—I’m not a doctor). Finally, if they can fit in exercise before school, it can make a huge difference in school performance. I know it’s hard, but go for a morning run with your child (see my story about Grant and his rise to running fame)!

 3. Let them doodle 

If you know that you will be at a long dinner in a restaurant bring crayons and coloring books. Active people can listen while they doodle. Video games are not good practice for listening and sitting still. The child will be absorbed in the game and will, therefore, be escaping the event. Even with crayons have a time when they must be put away so that the child is expected to fully take part in the dinner/conversation.

 4. Take a break 

If you see your child is succumbing to wiggles, let them stretch. If you get to a restaurant and there is a wait, go take a walk rather than sitting and waiting. Also, if your children are very small order your food, then take them for a walk or to the restroom to wash their hands while you are waiting.

5. Praise good behavior and give consequences for bad 

You really cannot praise your child too much in this area! “Have you become a mouse because I thought only a mouse could be as quiet as you were today.” “Thank you for sitting so still, it really helped me concentrate and I appreciate it.” On the flip side, if your child has a random bad day express your disappointment. If they have repeated offenses develop consistent consequences – a loss of privilege, an extra chore, etc.

Wiggles are difficult for a lot of children (not just those with ADHD) and are usually not driven by rebellion. So try not to get frustrated – they are just bored and full of energy. And since the Merrill family has not yet wiggled ourselves out of the woods of hyperactivity, if you have any other ideas we are open to experimentation in the pursuit of calm behavior!

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