Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to Thrive (not just survive) in the Pew with Children

Not too long ago someone stopped us after Sunday Mass and said, and I quote,

"You should give parents lessons on how to help children behave in Church!"

What does one even say to that?! Uuuum thanks? *Gates of Heaven open and a flood
of light shines down - I have found my calling*


If there is a curriculum out there on this topic, I need to read it just as much
as the next parent. We do get a lot of compliments on the way our children act during
Church, but I'm pretty sure half those people are hard of hearing... possibly...

and you know, just don't hear the bulk of the chirpy little chorus coming from our pew.
Because really?! They are good, but I'm not raising angels here.

Whatever though. I'll take what I can get.

Here is what we've found works best. At least for our family.

Brace yourself...

DISCIPLINE. And you guessed it - that begins at home.

If your little ones won't listen to you in the grocery store, they are definitely
not going to listen to you in a Church. Which pretty much means I should never go out in
public again. But life must go on. Patience, waiting quietly, the art of whispering, polite words,
obedience - are things that can not be taught overnight.
And different children with varying
temperaments should be factored into that all too. Oh the joy.

Not every child is going to "get with the program" right away and there will be some who
will fight you every day until the day they move out from under your roof. Truth.
So have grace. Grace on yourself. Grace on your children. Grace on your cow.
"Mulan," anyone? Nevermind.

From the beginning, we have taken our children to Church with us. Never letting their
presence or age be something to hold us back from worshipping God the way that we feel
called as man and woman - husband and wife.

We only take our kids "out" of Church or to the cry room for brief periods of time -
to give them time to calm down or stop crying if they hit their head on the pew or smashed
their fingers under the kneeler- it's a painful rite of passage for every Church-going kid.
Not funny though. #catholickidproblems

If the child is in "trouble" for who knows... a.) throwing Cheerios b.) hitting another sibling
c.) refusing to whisper d.) kicking or screaming ... I could go on through "Z", but I'll spare you.

We administer a consequence during that brief exodus from Church - could be anything from
taking away a promised Sunday treat, time out, naptime after Church, etc. - and then

I think when kids know if they misbehave they get to run around in the narthex or cry room
it only encourages the behavior and sets the parents up for a vicious cycle. I mean if I got
to go play in the water fountain and jump around in my Sunday best... I'd hit my brother too.

Also found helpful:

1.) Sitting towards the front

2.) One snack + water bottle

3.) Books + activity

Sitting towards the front of the Church, where the kids can actually see what's going on,
has proven to be a successful strategy. The back pew or cry room has failed time and again,
in our brief experience as parents, to be a "free pass" for not paying attention.
I think giving children the "privilege" of sitting towards the front empowers them -
giving them a sense of being "trusted"
- like a big kid... like momma and papa.

Now I know some people have issues with food or "games" in Church, especially Mass,
but in my humble opinion... THEY ARE KIDS. Tiny hearts. Short attention spans.
I always think that Jesus gives us EXACTLY what we need - no matter how old we are -
and He knows what children need and I have no problem helping my kids stay "tuned in"
by passing them a fruit snack during the homily or flipping through pages of a Children's
Bible or other holy book. It works for us. Just sharing.

Well this is your Jedi-master signing off. May the force be with you.
That's a joke. Although, I am a Star Wars fan.

What are your tips and tricks? Do share all.

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  1. these words are SO TRUE. at our church, sadly, there are some parents who take their kids out, bring them to the nursery, and let them play--almost like rewarding them for their bad behavior in church. I SO appreciate parents like you who train your kids. i want to be just like you when i have kids. keep up the great work!

    1. Hey Marly! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. You are too sweet! You seem to come from such a wonderful family / mother and father - I'm sure some day you are going to be an awesome momma!!!

      Totally agree though - "rewarding" the bad behavior can be a vicious cycle! I think it's easy for us as parents to think it's making the situation better, but in reality it is just training the child to misbehave for a "free pass to the nursery". It's hard. Every kid and situation is different too! You never know what's really going on - or if there is a disability, sickness, etc. either. To each their own! But I hope many can THRIVE!!!

  2. It is just beginning to get interesting for me with Ethan! Now that he is cruising along the pew and babbling a lot more he is a much bigger distraction than when he was cooing from his bucket seat! He loves to sing whenever there is music playing or when we are singing and it is getting quite hilarious as each week he sings louder and louder with the choir even though he has no words yet!! Cherrios have become my best friend! Keep the tips coming I'm sure I am going to need them!

  3. I know a woman who had an extremely troublesome small child, and she would go out of mass at least 3 times usually. She asked the priest what to do and he just told her it's okay to stay home! This isn't that uncommon, and it makes me really sad. You're a great testament that keeping kids in church is possible!


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