Help She Wont Sit Still!!!!

Updated on August 13, 2010
P.G. asks from Snyder, TX
19 answers

So I know that this is normal for a child especialy at her age but I need help at possibly helping keep my 18 month old daughter entertained at church. We go to a small church that doesn't have a nursery. We sit in front because my dad plays in the church band and is always up and down so its easier to sit in the front. Well my daughter runs around and gets into everything and I am always up trying to get her to sit still. I take her lots of toys and juice and snacks and none of it seems to work. Our preacher will bend down and play with her for a minute while she is walking around but I feel that this is a distraction for everyone. If I hold her and keep her from getting up and walking around she throws a fit. I am exaughsted. I don't get to enjoy the sermon but I don't want to stop going to this church because I love it and the people there. I need help. If anyone has any advice please help! ..... I had an answer about getting a babysitter but that is out of the question. None of my family has time to watch her. I never have time for myself and I want to go to church but there is no way to have someone keep her for me.

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So What Happened?

Ok I have had a few answers about getting a sitter and there is no way I can get one. Noone is available to watch her. I am also a single mom so a hubby taking her outside is out of the question. I dont have alot of things that I can do. Thats why I wanted advise on how to keep her happy during the sermon.

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answers from Dallas on

Yeah, I haven't heard a sermon since I became a mother 3.5 years ago. I don't want to disrupt those who are trying to worship so I take my kids out.

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answers from Portland on

Years ago our church was small and didn't have a children's program. Parents who wanted one started one, and it's been going strong ever since. Unfortunately, the program is usually run by parents trading off on 3-month periods, because most non-parents are not comfortable knowing how to control and accommodate children's needs. But at least the parents get several months each year to sit quietly during the worship service.

It is asking a lot for a young child to stay quiet for an hour. Many 4-year-olds barely manage, and die of boredom if required to do so. Not exactly the experience you want kids to take away from spiritual education.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

She won't. Very very few children her age will. I would strongly second Peg's suggestion of starting a nursery group within your church.

In some very small communities where there are only 2 or 3 families with young children I've even seen the service split in half, with parents trading off who's watching the children for the first half or second half. Because, you're right, without a "lump-baby" (what my psych prof called those sunny disposition children who are content to just sit and have the world come to them... instead of the curious/ active/ inquistive "I'm going to go insane" children), you will NOT get much or anything out of the service. So even 1/2 a service would be better than none... yes?

I'd talk with your pastor/ father/ priest/ deacon/ etc about setting one up.

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answers from Austin on

I agree, may be time to suggest a child care program.You could lead it and get it started.

It is not fair to expect that young of a child to be seated for really length of time. Her attention span is about 1 minute. It is also not fair to parishioners who may be attending to find some peace. I am sure they are being kind, but for some people it can be quite stressful.

Maybe a babysitter at home every other week?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I was afraid my daughter was disruptive, and I'm sure she actually was, but one day a lady who looked vaguely familiar came up to me in the grocery store and asked me if I wasn't the lady from church with the husband and little girl. She said she always shook her head when we took our daughter outside and she wanted to tell us not to worry when our baby was making noise, because "that baby's just praying!" I'm sure in a church without a nursery, people are used to active children, and they all understand that it is a phase that will pass. If instead they're having unkind thoughts about your child, perhaps they will be moved to help start a nursery.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Oh my, girl I feel you!! And honestly a child 18 months old has about 1.5 minute attention span, not a lot you can do about it either, your child is a normal, inquisitive toddler and sitting for 1+ hrs is just not in their make-up. I went to a small church that I still love dearly when my first was born. We made if for about 2 yrs but ultimately it didn't work out bc there just wasn't anything for the kiddos. What I suggest is having an open discussion with the Pastor about seeing if some of the other members of the church will take turns watching your, and any other child that might show up or be born;) If there is no other place for the kids to go, just having people rotate as the assigned person will work fine. You just need someone who isn't trying to hear the sermon to play with your child and keep her interested in something other than running everywhere. If she has the full attention of someone, I think that although she will still make noise, she will be less disruptive. If there is another room, then whoever is assigned can just go with your and any other children and play there. Even if only one or two volunteer and you also take a turn, that would mean that only every third week you would not really get to participate. If it is a small church others probably realize that this need has risen up and if the Pastor just puts it out there in a positive way that the youngest member of the church needs some special care, I think it will go just fine. I am guessing that you can handle her during praise and worship because she can run and dance, so you are only really asking for help for the sermon time. She is a member of the church too and has needs, the church is a family and should be happy to help out their tiniest member;) Hopefully more kids will come and the church will grow and have a full fledge kids program but until that time a simple co-op of people helping to care for the young ones should work.:)

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answers from Dallas on

Even though you want to sit with your Dad, I think it would help all your sanity if you sat at the back and gave her some space to be able to get up and move around a little. Going to church is like going to the movies for little ones. It is too long to expect them to behave like an adult.

My expierence with small churches is the children are a blessing to the adults. They usually dont mind the distractions, but instead are happy the children are being raised by parents that care enough to bring them to church.

Does your church have a magnification system for the hard of hearing? If so, wear the system and take your daughter into the foyer and let her play while you listen to the sermon.

Is your child the only little one in the church? If not maybe it is time to consider a nursery service. You could even organize it, have a rotation where the moms partcipating take one sunday with the children in a Sunday School room so the others can enjoy the service.

You may not be as alone as you think.

Best of luck

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

You may need to step out and find another room for her to play in. You may not hear the sermons each week but you'll still get the fellowship. Maybe you can sit in the back during worship or part of the sermon, but don't worry, this too shall pass very quickly. =)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Kids that age, do.not.have long attentions spans, nor do they have impulse-control developed yet... so they cannot sit still. Nor at-will. It is developmental. Not a reflection on yourself as a parent or her as a child.
Kids, do that. Especially when real young like that.
Also, it may just be too overly stimulating for her... and all the people around, the noise, and what not. This alone, can make a kid/young toddler... just NOT be able to sit quietly.

Maybe just get a babysitter for that time?

The expectations of her, has to be age appropriate. And yes, when frustrated, a baby/young toddler will throw a fit. A child this young does not even have 'emotions' fully developed yet, either. Nor social skills. Nor manners. Nor the ability to know how to manage... their frustrations. They don't have coping skills, automatically, at this age.

Or, your Husband, will need to take her outside.... when she can no longer sit there, quietly. That is what many parents do.

Kids this age, cannot even sit in a restaurant, still or quietly, at this age.

Or, maybe just you go to Church.... and Hubby/your girl, stay home? So you can enjoy the sermon....

Or, if your church has bible study groups... attend that, when you can without your girl. Just 'your' thing and Mommy time to do.
Or, if your Church sells the Preacher's sermons on tape, which is what some Churches do, then listen to it that way.

But ultimately, your girl is normal.
They cannot sit still nor quietly at this age... and not for awhile.

all the best,

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answers from Dallas on

Your post does not mention if you practice being still at home. Have a time each day where you practice. Sitting to watch a movie does not count. She can sit and be quiet while you do your bills, or some other job that she can not help with. Give her a little toy, that is only for that quiet time and church. When she obeys and is still reward her, when she does not obey make sure that there is a consequence. My dh and I take six children to church with us, they range in age from 11 to 9 mos, the mornings are not perfect, but we are able to make it through the service with minimal interruption to others. Is there anyone that you can assist you. I understand that it is just you and her, but do you have any friends, another mom maybe, that you can trust to patiently help correct when she does not obey. Maybe you could sit together and take turns. Another idea is to learn some sign language together. Then you can use the sign language to correct her. Some words that you could learn are"stop", "no", "quiet", "no play", "stand", "sit", etc. You could also learn names of animals to help keep it fun for her. It can be done, but it will take consistancy, and patience on your part. Make it a point to take her out of the service and make it unpleasant when she does not obey. Eventually, she will get the point, and then you can both enjoy the morning. This is a lesson that will be a huge advantage to her if she can learn it early. I am praying that you will prevail. Patience and consistancy are the key.

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answers from Dallas on

All I can say is "this too shall pass". It's very difficult at this age, I feel your pain. I think your best bet is one of two things. One, know that truly this will be better in 6 mo to a year- I know that sounds like forever, but in the grand scheme of her life it's just a blink. Soon enough, she'll be able to sit better and you'll be able to enjoy the sermon a little better. The other thought is this- are there any other families that you are friends with who have a small child/children a similar age? Maybe you could suggest trading weeks, where one week you take the children out to the foyer once they get too restless, and the next week they take the children out. Or even if it was just once a month, that would give you an occasional break. Also, see if there are any teenage girls or older "grandmother" types who go to church there that might enjoy sitting with her and taking her out once a month or so. My oldest son was just like your daughter, and it's tough, but I promise this phase won't last forever!

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answers from Dallas on

stickers. they work magic for my son in church. i take a normal sheet of printer paper, a few sheets of stickers, and we sit there and take the stickers off and put them on the printer paper. he likes to pick which sticker and sometimes that takes 3 minutes for him to decide. we get through 1/2 the church service this way. :)

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answers from Dallas on

My oldest has been in church with us since he was 2 and my youngest since birth, so I have some experience. First, sit in the back row. It isn't fair for everyone else to be distracted and even if they say they don't mind, they do. Don't expect too much from a child this young. I would take her and insist she sit quietly and look at books or play with a toy or have a nonmessy snack and leave when she is at her limit. Take her out for 5 minutes or so and then return and pull out something new. When you feel she can't handle anymore that day then just leave. It will take lots of patience and training, but you can do it, if you put the effort into it and don't expect more of her than she is capable of achieving. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

An 18 mo can sit through church quietly and without running through the aisles. I'm sure after a long day of playing she is happy to sit still for 15 minutes in front of the tv or with a toy while you make dinner or get her bath ready.
Unless it's saturday evening church, the service is probably interrupting her natural activity time. Kiddos her age are very schedule oriented without realizing it. What would she be doing around this time on Monday-Friday? If the answer is -running like a wild child then you have 2 options that should work:
1) Get her tired Before church - and I'm not talking lack of sleep tired:
She needs more activity, I know that an hour or so before church seems to early or busy to take a kiddo to the park to run out some energy but it will be well worth it.
2) Set a routine for how you want her to act during church at that same time every day of the week. This may be difficult if she is in daycare but if you are a SAHM, here's what you do: Starting at the same time you will be having church, set her down for a "quiet time". This isn't nap time so leave the lights on, music going, tv on, whatever will get her attention and distract her. Those baby einstein videos are great and age appropriate. Give her the same things you do at church whether its juice, snacks, books, etc.
Put a "special sitting pillow" on the chair or couch for her to sit on. (Make sure it's something she can take in public because you are going to start bringing it to church with you!)

Introducing a new routine needs to be consistent and gradual so you have to do it every day but start out with only 5 minutes and lengthen it a bit longer each day. Her body will get used to winding down at that same time every day over a one or two week period. The other thing to remember is that there should be as little frustration as possible coming from you. Remember that kids at that age respond much better to "yes, we will sit here like a good girl" instead of "no you can't run or get up".

Hope this helped, good luck!

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answers from St. Louis on

P., just be patient.. she is very little and this is a phase that will pass.
First of all, do not leave her at home, otherwise she will not learn when to be quiet or calm. Before leaving the house, just remind her that church is the house of God and you all have to be quiet and calm. She will learn this eventually. Repetition is the key.
Take some small books and a couple of leaf paper with crayons and let her scribble and look at the books. Stickers or a baby doll with a bottle will make the trick too.
She is still very young so you will have to be very patient, you always will have to find something she likes to keep her amused, but keep in mind not to give her something you know she will loose her temper with and would make her frustrated.
Most of people in church know and have experienced the same like yourself; they will understand (well not all of them but that's life) , but if you stop going because of her, she will never learn. So, another thing you may want to do, just go only for 30 minutes or less so she gets used to it little by little. God will understand as well.
Take it easy, she will learn!

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answers from Dallas on

Wake her up early on Sunday. Take a drink and a snack. Take quiet lift a flap books, stickers, etc that she is only allowed to play with during church. Practice playing church at home and practice whispering and sitting in the pew. For now, you would do best to sit at the back and take her out when she gets loud or if she is struggling to get down. Also, if you are sitting on the very front row, all of that open space is an invitation to run. If you move back, she will be somewhat trapped by the row in front of you. My first child was a super well behaved kid, but at about 18 months she started crying every time we sat down to start church. My youngest is now almost three, but we rarely make it through a service without me having to take her out. For her it was not that she would not sit still - it was that she could not be quiet. But it does get better.

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answers from Dallas on

Seems like you need to "train" her to behave in church. It will take a few times, but she'll learn. Try sitting in the back for a while. Tell her that if she gets up, you will have to leave the church. As soon as she does something, get up and take her outside. She will probably want to go back in, so wait a minute and then take her back in. In the meantime, don't let the outside time be too much fun. Have special toys that she only gets at church. You'll have to keep getting up and removing her from church each time she gets up and tries to run around in order to teach her that she can't do that there. I bet after a few times (maybe a few weeks of doing this) she'll sit still better. You HAVE to do this because it IS distracting to the other people, even if they are too polite to say anything. It's also distracting to YOU, I'm sure you aren't able to enjoy the sermon with her running around either. I found a water color thing at Walmart recently for $5.00. You use water to color the pad and it's vivid colors. Once it dries, you can color it again. It was in the toy section. Another idea, but I don't know if you want to do this or not, is to bring a leapster or dvd player that you can put head phones on her and let her watch a video during the sermon part of the service. At 18 months, she probably wont' be able to sit still though the whole thing, but maybe if she's entertained with the band and the beginning stuff, she'll sit though the sermon with enough distractions. Hang in there! I know it's hard because you need church and you want her to know that is what you do on Sunday mornings!

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answers from Dallas on


I had this issue with my 2nd daughter. The first one was so perfect and sat quietly and clapped/praised during worship. People would say "she is spoiling you all that is not how babies act in church", etc. My 2nd one wanted to run down the aisles. We even tried sitting her on the floor between us and she would get up and dash out into the aisles. My husband was tired of getting up leaving the service so we finally put her in the nursery early. I know you don't have the nursery option, but I said that to say we've been where you are.

My recommendation would be for you to sit in the back and when she gets too restless, get up and go out. Let the others enjoy the sermon. I know you don't want to miss it, but think of all the others who are trying to listen and are distracted by your daughter each Sunday. After awhile she will learn to sit, but in the mean time be kind and take her out so others can hear. My husband and I took turns leaving (until I eventually gave in and put her in the nursery), so that we could hear at least every other Sunday. This way she starts out in service and at some point you/she will be able to sit thru the service and color with a coloring book or something. Also try involving her in the praise and worship. Example, hold her hands and clap them, pick her up (if you can) and sing the songs to her as you sing, etc.

Stay positive and remember This too shall pass. The time will fly by.



answers from Dallas on

Dear P.,

I understand what you are talking about. When our daughter was born we brought her to service and she was perfect, until she got to about 18 months. Then she couldn't sit still (though she did at home) there was just too much to catch her attention. So that's when we started taking her to the nursery. Surely you are not the only parents who would be able to take advantage of a nursery program? Ours is invaluable as it allows us to attend service, but also to take part in programs such as Sunday school, Bible study and volunteer projects.

Why don't you talk to your church leaders and start one? I'm sure there are some individuals (whether parents or grandparents) who wouldn't mind volunteering their time every few Sundays? I know lots of women whose grandchildren live away from them like to use that time to play with the babies, and teenagers like to use that as practice for babysitting. Also, potential new members might appreciate the nursery so that they can actually pay attention to the sermon.

You could really make a difference in not only your own life, but in many others too!

May God Bless!

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