September 22, 2008,
S.C. asks from Patchogue, NY on September 17, 2008
Keeping a One Year Old Quiet in Church
I have a 16 month old son who started attending Church with me when he was about one month old. He was usually well behaved.... but now he knows how to walk - and that's all he wants to do! This past week I got nothing out of mass, because I spent most of my time running after my son instead of listening to the priest.
I always bring a small container of puffs with me, but they are gone by the homily. I pack a few books but they only hold his interest for a few minutes. Other than that I am at a loss. Most of his toys play music or make noise, and the quiet toys... well he finds a way to make them noisy, too! By the way, he is also the king of temper tantrums and I can't exactly ignore them in church like I would at home.
My church does not have a quiet room. They used to offer babysitting but I'm not sure if they still do; although I wouldn't consider that to be a solution. I bring him with me so that he can learn at an early age the importance of our religion. I don't want to suddenly introduce church when he's in elementary school - I believe that he should already be familiar with it and know how to behave.
Do any of you have secrets as to how to keep a one year old quiet and well-behaved during a one hour mass? I'm desperate and I don't want to fall into another bad habit of skipping church! Thank you!
EDIT: My apoligies, my request was poorly worded and misunderstood by many (that's what I get for doing this in the middle of the night!) I don't expect my one year old to sit quietly for an hour - what I was hoping for was that moms would have suggestions of quiet toys or activities that would keep him occupied and hopefully prevent him from trying to run away. And of course, I don't expect him to actually get anything out of mass at this age. Another mom here worded it much better for me: I want him to understand that going to church is part of our weekly routine. Also, I have been attending the same church my entire life and I really love it there and would rather not switch to a different parish. I do like the idea of having a "church bag" with toys that he only gets while in church.
Thank you so much to those of you who encouraged me to keep attending church with him. I'm not expecting perfect behavior - I just want to do what I can to nip it in the bud before it gets worst.
Ironically though, when I was younger I was always amused by disruptive children at church... who knew one of them would be mine?!?
God Bless, and thank you!
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L.H. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
Practice makes perfect! Spend a few minutes each day with him on your lap doing quiet activities. Whisper to him and try to help him use a whisper too. Then gradually try to increase the amount of time you do this. You don't have to get up to an hour by any means, but this routine will help establish a habit and will teach him what is expected of him in church.
Some quiet activities I've used are stickers--stick them not only on paper, but on him. Counting/games with his fingers/toes. Those lacing activities with a cardboard cutout and shoestrings to lace through the holes. Books with velcro attachments--you could make your own. Books with pockets to stick things in. Try to make the church activities special, and only let him play with them at church so they don't get old too fast.
Good luck, and stick with it. It is worth it in the end.
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T.F. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
I applaud you for wanting your son to go to Church with you and to learn about his religion. We started taking OUR son to temple when he was just a baby in a sling, and that worked great. Then he got older and started shrieking and running around, so we stopped bringing him to regular services OR we would take turns stepping out with him whenever he got to be too disruptive. Also, our temple has a "Tot Shabbat" once a month - a service designed especially for very young children. We never miss that.
I agree that it's important for your son to know his Church and to be familiar with it, etc. But an hour is way too long to expect any young child to sit quietly. Perhaps you can bring him just for the very beginning of services, then go for a walk and rejoin the congregation at the very end. Or, try introducing him to the Church through other events and activities, ones that don't require such quiet stillness.
Finally, if you have to miss services because none of the above work and there isn't a babysitting option, don't think of it as a "bad habit of skipping Church". You aren't skipping it; you are making an informed choice to not participate until your child is more ready to participate with you. I'm sure you will find lots of ways to help him understand your religion at home.
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M.K. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
I think you have to keep things in perspective. Your son is a year old. Your son is a baby. He IS behaving...like a baby! He will learn about religion through your example, living life well, being kind to others, showing and practicing patience and compassion. If you're losing your cool with your son in church, that gets you off the path.
Consider that God and Jesus would smile down at your baby for being himself and for enjoying his body that now can walk and his life on Earth. Babies are more spiritual than we can comprehend. They have no hang-ups or judgments. They just love and enjoy life to the fullest extent with their whole body and spirit.
However, if that's not enough and hard to enjoy in church and the sermon is that important to you every week, then the only way you will hear it is to have him in another room. Check into childcare.
Just my two cents and humble opinion.
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R.T. answers from Syracuse on September 18, 2008
First of all, I give you credit for taking your son to church. I too went through the same thing with each of my four children, and while some days I thought I didn't get much out of the Mass itself, eventually we got through it. It is a long time for a child to sit still, but please don't give up.
I used to tell my children on the way to church that we were going to practice being as good as we could for as long as possible. It was a game in a way. They had their usual moments (noise, fidgeting, wanting to get up and run) but I would tell them that it was the priest's turn to talk and not theirs so they'd have to be quiet. I would also say that Jesus was watching so it would be best to be the nicest they could be to make Jesus happy. Since my kids are now 13, 11, 8 and 6 it's hard to remember exactly what worked best, but I do remember making the comment that I had survived the weekly wrestling match after Mass!
Occasionally I would take my wiggly child to the back of the church and stand near the entrance or even go into the vestible as we don't have a nursery or cry room either. I spent some time there pointing out the stained glass windows and having the children point out the angels in them, or have them look for something else in the church. When the homily was over, we'd go back to our seats.
One year old is probably the hardest stretch of this because he's just getting mobile and wants to explore, so possibly you could stay after Mass and let him walk about the church. Most of the priests I've known have been very understanding, even making sure that people who commented on noisy children knew that it's best to have the children in church because they will have had it as part of their lives from before they have solid memories.
H.G. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
There's no sunday school for kids?? That's too bad, because sunday school introduces religion to kids in an age-appropriate and fun way! It's not realistic to expect your kiddo to be "good" during church at this point. He's a smart, active guy...just like he's supposed to be!
Honestly, I would consider finding a church that wants kids to be included in its faith! A family-oriented church will have a sunday school/nursery, and will teach children more and more as they get older. (Starting with songs and stories, and moving into more depth with time.) They will also have youth groups, and child-led services a couple of times a year. This keeps church exciting and meaningful for them- and keeps you going as well!
You should never be embarassed by your little guy. It sounds like you are a wonderful mom! Attentive, and really attuned to his needs. Maybe the problem is simply that your church doesn't meet YOUR needs?
G.M. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
While I appreciate your devotion to your religion & wanting to introduce your child early, he really is too young to get anything out of it. You are also being unrealistic if you expect a one year old to sit still during an hour long mass, most adults can't even do that. Maybe leave him w/ sitter while you go.
C.B. answers from New York on September 18, 2008
You are really asking an awful lot of your little boy. He is not misbehaving; he is merely being a normal toddler -- they are not programmed to sit quitely for any length of time!
It's not a bad idea to introduce him to religious rites early, but don't forget that he has no attention span to speak of, and that the abstract ideas that go with rligin are far above his ability to understand.
My suggestions: Don't bring him every week; give him a break once in a while. On the weeks that he does accompany you, sit in the back, try to keep him occupied as long as posible, then quietly leave as soon as you see that he is reaching his limit, BEFORE he gets relly antsy and cranky. If you push him beyond his limits, he will associate church with unpleasantness, and you definitely want to avoid that.
I would also look into arranging a toddler's group; surely you are not the only mother in your church with this issue. If the church does not have the space to set up a break room, perhaps you could arrange a rotating playgroup, leaving children with one or two parents at someone's home while the rest of the moms go to church.
A.S. answers from Rochester on September 18, 2008
Quite honestly, I don't bother going to church. My 3 1/2 year old and 1 year old are too much for us to handle. I cannot listen and enjoy mass while focusing on the kids. Think about what church means to you - I still get spiritual enlightenment in other ways and I don't need church for that. :)
I'm waiting until they're a bit older...then we'll go again.