Are You Considering Taking Your Kids to Church?
Perhaps you already attend some weekend religious service or Mass. Or you’d like to turn it into a more regular affair. Or, maybe you’d like to start for the first time. If you have young children, or if one is on the way – don’t let the thought of devilish temper tantrums amid angelic peace scare you from what could be a heavenly time.
“But they’re at their worst in church.”
“They don’t sit still and it will be disruptive to those around us.”
“I don't get anything out of it, and my baby won't, either.”
These points may be true, but it also depends on how you look at it. We can’t remember all the meals our parents fed us, but we do know they provided us nourishment. That weekend observance will probably do the same whether we realize it or not.
Faith in action is a lot like your newborn growing – it takes baby steps. And opportunities abound to help children grow in their faith.
If we make weekend church-going a practice for kids as automatic as eating, our children will know it to be part of their weekend habit. Chances are, they’ll even find a friend or two there, and it should be a pleasant experience.
I must be in the front row
If behavior is a sticking point, you could aim to sit near the front. Yes, the front! No, I haven’t lost my mind – it could help them to be more connected and see things much better, and it just might keep them more in line. So what if it backfires? Most people will be able to relate – outbursts are part of life, and they had kids once, too.
True, bad behavior can be an issue, but we’ve all been there. Most clergy will agree that young children aren’t just the future of the church, they are the church – right here and right now. However, there are little techniques one can employ to quiet them that don’t have to involve Cheerios or sippies. For toddlers, small soft, action figures can keep them busy. Even Band-Aids keep their fingers wrapped up in trying to open them, and sticking them on-and-off their shirts. Lift-the-flap picture books also keep kids engaged. For ages three to seven, it can help to have a small notepad and pencil in your pocket. Pull it out when you sense something brewing, and the doodling will keep them occupied. Older children (age eight and up) should flat-out know better. But a little incentive doesn’t hurt, either. The promise of a donut or breakfast out afterward may work wonders. This isn’t bribery; when it comes to children with a propensity to talk, it’s called “behavior modification.”
If you’re worried you may not get much out of it, why not find a way to scan the readings ahead of time? Some pastors put their sermon on the Internet, and you could always catch it after-the-fact. Using the sports analogy, a little preparation goes a long way.
Our own households can be excellent training grounds for nurturing that quiet peace. Use the privacy of your home to help children exercise their silent behavior by devoting some time to prayer once in a while. There’s something liberating about turning off the computers and TV. Sure, you may hear a few groans when you pitch the idea, and the prayers may be far from perfect, but like all new things we eventually get used to it. If they’re old enough, let children lead the prayer, and they may become more engaged.
Don’t give up
If the potential of a raucous service still has you worried – don’t. If this is something you truly want, just keep going and don’t get off the “Sunday service train.” If you have a cold attitude toward it, your kids will, too.
There will still be times when things don’t go as planned, but just remember that they’re still kids and have a propensity for acting up. They’ll do this at the dentist, at the grocery, and yes, in church. But as parents, we must learn to cope with it and work on the problem, rather than give in to the bad and eliminate the good.