Behavior in Church - Glenshaw,PA

Updated on August 08, 2007
J.M. asks from Glenshaw, PA
13 answers

Hi Everybody,
My husband was in a golf tournament this am and I took my 3 yr old to church by myself.

I had snacks, juice, and pencil / paper occupied him for about 25 mins, and then his behavior when nuts. He would not use volume control with his voice, drew on the pew with his pencil, even after I told him to keep it on the paper, stomped his feet to make loud sounds, etc...I took him out twice and made him sit on the naughty steps.

They were having a social cookie hour after the service, but after the third time of naughty behavior, I took him from the church, told him he was not permitted to participate in the party, and we went home. He screamed and cried the entire time that he wanted to go back and be a good boy. However, I took him straight home.

Our service was incredibly long today...almost two hours if I would have stayed. I don't like using the nursery because I want him to sit with me and learn how to act in church. I know it is a lot to expect at this sit quietly for 90 mins. Any ideas of what to occupy a three yr old with in church?

We have talked all day today about good behavior in church with my son. He seems to get it, and made an extra effort today being good, ecspecially at meal time.

I want to go to chuch each wk with my family, but it was very challenging today.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We go through this every week with at least one of our kids. Consistency is key. just keep taking him out when he misbehaves. Leave your "fun stuff" in the pew and sit him on a hard chair in the foyer. After he stops screaming ask him quietly if he is done and ready to go back and play with his things. If he says yes then take him back in.

Be sure he understands that it is HIS behavior that is taking you out of the service, not you being a mean mommy. If he wants to have his stuff then he has to behave appropriately. He will stop acting this way, I promise.

Also, you might want to not let him have everything at once. Give him one book and when he gets bored something else. If he colors on the pew again then, at home, tell him that he was not acting nicely with the pen and so he doesn't get to have it at church anymore. Make him accountable for his actions.

Good luck!

PS. We have four kids under 4 years and I swear this works.




answers from El Paso on

I don't know if this will work for you, but this is what my mom did for us when we were little and I have seen other parents doing similar things.

We would sit with other kids our age one behind the other and have little puppet shows. sometimes we would pretend that we were giving the sermon or our puppets were the ones leading the choir. We also danced on the pews during the songs. That way we got a bunch of energy out in a blast and then we could sit again for a while.

I saw a mom a few weeks ago who sat in the last pew and let her child stand in the isle and do jumping jacks and such.

God understands that such little people need to move around and don't let other people upset you if your tiny man is running about.

Both of my kids are really little 15mths and 1 month. We decided to take our services when they are really good and if we go we sit in the crying room so they can yell and run around like wild ones without disturbing anyone.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I would not expect your child to be quiet in church at this age. i keep my 4 yo with me for the music at the beginning, then bring her back for communion and the closing. In between, she goes to nursery, or my church does a sunday school during the service and she goes to that. Think of all the years he has to sit in church in his lifetime. He'll get it.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I also used to expect my sons to behave in church until I realized that it was an unrealistic expectation. The Pastor/Reverend does not give his sermon on an age appropriate/developmentally appropriate level for a three year old child. Your child is probably NOT behaving badly, he is probably bored with a situation that is beyond his capacity of understanding. We as Mothers beat ourselves up constantly for not being able to "control" our children's behavior in adult like situations. Kids are kids and need to be allowed to act like a kid!
We ended up finding a church with "children's church". My sons began learning about God and the Bible on a more age appropriate level. Also my husband and I were actually able to get what WE needed from the sermon without that stressfull feeling of making our children behave or not be disruptfull to others around us.
I think that having your child with you in church is a great idea but not at this age. It would be like putting him in High School Algebra and expecting him to follow. Developmentally, three year olds, especially boys, have limited attention spans-thus the reason pre-school does not begin until age three and even then it is broken up into short time frames of activity.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have a 4 year old and I am Catholic, so our services run about an hour, and I would NOT expect him to sit through that.
Just the sensory input/output in that place could put any child on the brink on mischief.

Don't feel you failed, it's the age. If your church offers a sunday school program or nursery that would be the way to go.

Best of Luck



answers from Erie on

I also have a 3 year old and we attend church weekly. I'm not sure how your church works, but with our service, the first half is congregational singing and the choir sings and there is usually a time of prayer and church announcements. My daughter stays in the service for these, since they are pretty interactive and keep her attention. But once the preacher starts the actual sermon, I do take her down to the nursery. That way she does learn to sit and stay quiet for awhile (usually 45 minutes or so), but it's not so long that she totally loses control. And she knows that if she sits quietly upstairs, she gets a snack when she goes down to the nursery. But I do bring a coloring book, some stringing beads, and usually a stuffed animal or two (so she can "teach" them how to sit nice and quiet in church). Hope this helps.



answers from York on

Hi, I'm sorry, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you said, "I know it is a lot to expect at this sit quietly for 90 minutes." I really think you should just take your son to the nursery, because it's basically impossible for him to be good for that long at his age. Even if he wants to be good and he understands that he needs to be good, he's not old enough to be able to control his impulses. So, maybe you could take him to the service with you for a small part of the time, but then take him to the nursery. It's unfair to expect him to be good for that long, and church can bore even the best adult! lol



answers from Lancaster on

HI J.!

Just keep at it. I have a 2.5 year old and my husband never goes to church. For a while we were walking out of the service at least 5 times each Sunday! It's really embarrassing but you have to just suck it up for a few weeks.

PS- this may not be what your going for, but on days when I think I can't deal with it, I coordinate service time close to nap time so that he'll be more mild. :)


answers from Pittsburgh on




answers from Allentown on

I think learning to sit through a religous service is very hard for a young child. I can remember being in Temple, seeing parents struggle to keep their children quiet during services.

Only you know your child and know how long he is capable of sitting through a service. I don't think it's unrealistic to take him out or take breaks after a certain amount of time. I know some parents who wait until their child is at least 5 years old before taking them to any religious service. Does your church offer any type of children's service? Or does the nursery staff do anything with the children during the services when the parents are attending them? Perhaps you should talk with your Religous leader or Religious school leader about the possibility of incorporating a childrens service while the children are in the nursery, so they won't be missing out completely?



answers from Allentown on

That was the best thing you could have done for your son, following thru with your word. I know it's incredibly hard for a 3 yr. old to sit sooo long and be quiet, especially when there's nothing that is geared towards his level of understanding. I have tried it both ways...having them sit in church and having them in the nursery. I have always liked the nursery because it gives something to my child in the way of bible stories at their level of understanding. And I benefit as I am able to sit and concentrate on the service and what our Pastor is saying. I started having my kids sit with us when they were older in elementary school. I don't think any kid at any age likes to sit thru church. My oldest is 13 and she still doesn't like sitting thru a sermon. :o)

That being said, I have had my children sit with us in church too at that young. What I've found is even at that young of age, they are testing you and the boundaries you set. They are seeing just how much they can get away with and what you will tolerate. And believe me, they know how to push your buttons and will go right up to the brink of what is acceptable behavior and then some. Little stinkers aren't they? LOL I have found with my kids, being firm in my word has always gotten their attention. Just saying no without consequences only makes matters more difficult for you and him. Be sure you do exactly what you say you will do if he doesn't behave. Example: leaving the party or not being able to do something special, etc. This will definitely get his attention and he will start to put two and two together as it were. Unfortunately we as Moms have to deal with the fallout, the crying, the pleading, the tantrums, etc. It might take a couple of times of consequences for his behavior( Be sure to have tylenol on hand for your headache...LOL )before he'll learn.
As for ideas of keeping him quiet...I've brought puzzles along to church for my kids and books that do things...pop up or show how to tie a shoe kinds of things, coloring books. I've even brought a few little small NON Sound making toys to keep them occupied. Or when I am desperate sometimes letting them go thru my purse and discover what's in there works. Again, it's not my favorite thing as picking up the contents of my purse after church is no fun. LOL Hope that helps a little!



answers from Pittsburgh on

I think with your son only being 3 years old you are going to have to make a compromise. I know you would rather he be with you, but making him do something that he isn't capable of doing is going to frustrate both of you. Would you be willing to let him spend part of the time in the nursery? Can you not take him on the days the service is extended? I would also caution you about punishing him for not being able to sit still for 90 minutes in a place where there isn't much to hold his interest or for him to interact with. Try to put yourself in your son's shoes.

I think it is sometimes hard to know the difference between when a child is being naughty and when he is responding to a frustrating situation that he doesn't know how to handle. I think we sometimes put unrealistic expectations on our kids then get upset when they can't meet them. So in essence, we create difficult situations for them and then punish them for not acting appropriately. I am not saying that he doesn't need to learn proper behavior in church but perhaps at his age 20 or 30 minutes is all he can handle. Maybe at age 4 or 5 he will be able to attend the whole service.

In your bio you wrote the hardest thing about being a mom is...patience. You are not alone with that thought. But find some patience and give your son time to develop the skills and maturity he needs to be able to sit through a full church service. Until then, consider alternatives so you can both have a rewarding experience.



answers from Pittsburgh on

A little about me Im a sahm and my husband works mid nights and I go to church practically every Sunday,I have a now 4 year old daughter and take her with me so hubby can sleep. I'v tried practically everything with her so I totally understand.Here is a few suggetions Trace his hand and then tell him to make a animal from that take a few of his favorite books. Do they have what we call toodler time at your church? If not maybe you could see if they would be willing to start a group for the little ones that are in that transition from nursery to school age. Not sure if that will help but I will keep you in my prayers God Bless.

H. C

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