Sure enough, Daddy found some adults to talk to and Samuel drifted off. I watched him as he inspected the seasonal decorations (fine, no problem). Then he looked around. I could see the wheels in his head turning - "what can I do?" He went over to the Children's Room which was actually closed at this time, opened the door and helped himself to a large truck to propel himself about on. Along with being an activity which did not help foster the kind of peaceful watchfulness that the coming Advent spiral procession required, Samuel was also winding himself up, not down. This is common in children (especially boys it seems) who while needing useful activity to keep their limbs moving and their will-senses thus satisfied, usually choose activities which heighten their restlessness. To me this is a clear cry for adult help. I could see Samuel was getting agitated.
Meanwhile Dad was clearly trying to decide whether to ignore his son or to rein him in. He would occasionally go over to him and shhh him or mildly suggest he put away the truck - and then limply wander back to chat with his friends. None of this of course had any effect on Samuel who continued to drive his truck, now edging closer and closer to both people and furniture. He was clearly in need of firm adult intervention.
So I intervened. My philosophy of life includes treating all children who come within my range as my own. Not all parents appreciate this - though I have never met a child who hasn't. So I walked over to Samuel and said "It's time to park your truck in its parking spot. Come." and I walked toward the Children's Room. Samuel of course followed and parked his truck. "Let's close the door - it's almost time for the Advent spiral and this room needs to be closed." He did so. Then I said - and this is the most important part - "I need a helper. Come." And we walked back to where I had been observing the proceedings, by the front door of the Church where I was welcoming parents and children as they arrived.
"Your job is to open the door for people when they come and then to shut it behind them" I said to Samuel. Samuel, a boy of many noises but few words, obliged. I looked out the window which he couldn't reach in the door and then I'd say things like "Ok get ready here come some people....open!" We had a great time. During a lull we also inspected the crack in the door and speculated whether he could see out or if it was only big enough to let cold air in.
As for Dad, he gave me a big smile at one point when he saw how usefully and contentedly engaged his son was. It was a win-win situation. Samuel, who needed to be active was engaged in a socially useful, peaceful and needed task thus calming him and satisfying him, and Dad could visit with his friends. And the Church had a very helpful doorman!
Be creative when your young child is "playing up". He or she is expressing their need to be active. But random unformed activity is not the solution - children who scream and run about aimlessly do not find satisfaction from such activity. Activity is key in the first 7 years - but it needs to be grounded, centered and formed. It needs boundaries, whether the boundaries of a game or the boundaries of a job or task. And the more "out there" a child is, the more this is so. This is the heart of discipline for young children - and the heart of living in a peaceful way with them. It is the way of health and calm. And it needs to be anticipated - Samuel was basically quite a centered little boy and so it was not hard to divert him. But other children are not so inwardly calm and once they spiral out it can be very difficult to rein them back in and to divert them to a formed activity. One must - as with most things in parenting - be several steps ahead and think through the various parts of one's day with thoughts of how one's child will best move through each part of the day. Having strong forms and rhythms always helps - we always brush our teeth before bed, we always sit at the table for snack, we always push in our chairs and take our plates to the sink - and so on. That is the basis at home. And when you go out? Lion cubs always sit in their car seats. When we get to the park, the lions need to run, run, run to the park bench and then wait for Mama Lion to catch up. Mama always pushes the shopping cart and Junior always put the fruit and veggies into bags. Keep 'em busy - imaginatively and actively engaged!
Do consider purchasing our audio recording on discipline or other recordings about parenting young children if this resonates with you and you need further guidance.