Whether you have your own children in Primary or work with other Primary leaders who do, this post is for you. Even if your own children aren’t in Primary, being aware of the pitfalls and opportunities may lead you to offer inspired help to a leader who is in that situation.
When I served as Primary President to my own children, I really enjoyed interacting with them each Sunday as we explored the gospel together. However, I noticed this situation had challenges of its own. I saw myself overcompensating or undercompensating for the understandably different kind of love I had for the few children in the room who would go home with me after Primary.
Here’s what I learned:
1) Even-handed turns. Use popsicle sticks with each child’s name or some other method to choose turns to hold the picture, play the game, or do the activity. Otherwise I would either gravitate towards that face I love, or overcompensate in the other direction by not calling on my own in order to not play favorites. Letting the popsicle sticks keep track kept me from feeling guilty whatever I chose, and pre-empted the inevitable complaint, “You never call on me, Mom!”
2) Use other Primary leaders when needed. My own kids would tune me out when I reminded them of reverence rules for the nine thousandth time. But when one of my counselors asked them to keep their hands to themselves, all of a sudden this was new information to my kids. Sometimes that worked much better.
3) Ask God to help you leave home tensions at home. When things were particularly difficult at home with a certain child, sometimes those hard feelings would spill over into Primary. I would walk in the room ready to give my own the chilly treatment for something unrelated to their behavior at church. In all fairness, I had no way of knowing which other children had likewise refused to get out of bed and made everybody late, teased their brother, could only locate one Sunday shoe, or groaned again about the very fine breakfast put before them. I prayed to have God help me start the day over as soon as I entered the Primary room, so I could be their Primary leader instead of their disciplining mom. Then when we returned home we would pick up the situation if needed, with both of us refreshed from our time together basking in the Spirit. Being reminded of eternal gospel principles helped me remember that life is so much more than lost shoes or breakfast grumbles.
4) Reinforce learnings. Just because you happen to know the answer to “what did you learn in Primary today?” doesn’t mean you can’t ask it in a different way and really solidify an insight or concept. “What was the most interesting thing you learned?” or “What would you do if you were faced with that situation we talked about today?” or “How do you imagine we as a family might do better in living that principle we discussed today?”
5) Invite their feedback about your methods. You have a golden opportunity to receive valuable “customer satisfaction” information. Ask your kids, “Was that game too confusing today? What do you think would be a more interesting way to learn the scripture of the month? How did you feel when we sang that song?” You might learn something, because your own child knows you well enough to tell you the truth.
6) It’s OK to be their very own parent sometimes. A child may need their mom or dad during Primary, and it’s OK to leave someone else in charge while you attend to your own child’s needs.
God bless you to bask in this special time for your family as you worship Him in Primary together.