Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Keeping Littles Quiet in Church

I've been really lucky over the years...

I've raised some really good eaters.

I've received compliments on my kids' behavior...

I've even been told I should have more kids.

While we definitely have our issues and struggles, I really am pleased with my children's behavior.

One place this is also true?  Church.  I currently have a 6yo, 5yo, and a 1yo.  In the past two years, I've had to "take someone out" only a handful of times.  Once, my littlest fell, bumped her head, and started crying rather loudly.  All the others?  Those would all be "I need to go potty!" moments- something I try to avoid by having them go right before we leave but, well, it still happens.

It's not magic.  I only have a handful of tricks I employ to make this happen and I'm happy to share them:

Prepare them ahead of time

This is my number one bit of advice: prepare your children for where you're going and what is expected.  I keep it very simple- "We're going to God's house and we all want to be on our best behavior, right?"  I also review expectations through silly questions like "Which can we play with in church... a book or a drum?  When can you make noise- when we're singing or when the priest is talking?"  The kids giggle sometimes when I do this, but it keeps the ideas fresh for them.

Pack your support gear

I don't believe in schlepping a tote bag full of entertainment for children to church each week.  I also don't expect my children to stay silent and perfect through the entire mass without any kind of help.  I favor Bible puzzle books or coloring books and children's Bibles.  Books, stuffed animals, stickers, and dolls are all good choices.  Not such great choices?  Toys with flashing lights, "noisy toys", weapon-like toys, and, in most cases, toys with wheels-- they get away from children too easily.  And, for the record?  I've seen all those latter mentioned toys in church... it doesn't usually end well.

Reserve your reinforcements

I do NOT hand out puzzle books upon taking a seat.  No sir, no ma'am.  I fully expect my children to sing hymns with us and sit quietly through readings.  What I don't expect at these ages?  That they'll sit silently through the whole sermon.  Sermons can be lengthy- and lofty- and that's hard for littles.  This is when I pull out the books for them.

Take a stance on snacks

My preschoolers and beyond do not need snacks in church.  Newborns need to be nursed or given a bottle if they're hungry, in my opinion.  It's those toddlers who can go either way.  We attend 8:30am mass and my littlest often sleeps until about 8:00 am.  Since we live twenty minutes away from the church, this means she doesn't have time for breakfast.  I could either wake her up earlier or pack something.  I choose to throw Cheerios and raisins in a cup to go.  She sits quietly on a kneeler and eats during the service.  When we attended Christmas Eve mass at 4:00 pm?  No snack.  It just depends how it works out.  Unless your church has a rule, there are no laws about this... but I think it's best to figure out what works and be consistent.

If your child can text, he can also sit still

Electronic gadgets?  Have no place in church.  Be a good example and keep yours off and tucked away too.

Don't be afraid to leave... or stay

Happily babbling toddlers or sporadically fussy newborns do not bother most people and you shouldn't feel like you have to be running out the door every time your child makes a peep.  I truly try not to don't worry too much about the opinions of people who are judging me for having- gasp!- children there with me.  You simply can't guarantee perfect silence at all moments from little ones.  That being said, you should also be prepared to take your child/children out if they become truly disruptive.  Yelling children.  Ongoing crying.  Throwing, kicking, tantrum-throwing.  These all necessitate a quick exit.

Remember why you're there

You are, presumably, in church to worship.  You are not there to win awards for "best-behaved child".  You are also not accomplishing much if you wind up frustrated, angry, and short-tempered.   And so, lastly, always remember Matthew 19:14:

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
linked to WFMW

No comments: