Ours Was the Only One Acting Out in This Fashion- Sitting Still Suggestions??

Updated on June 18, 2012
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
21 answers

Mamas & Papas -

I know it is bad practice to compare kids, but at a christening party we attended this weekend, it was pretty conspicuous that ours was the only one acting out in this fashion. Admittedly, the other children there were either younger, i.e. less than a year, and not yet mobile, or older about 2- 2.5 or older. After romping with daddy and mommy, and going up and down the stairs and opening and closing doors at the church, when the baptism finally started, he kept still pretty well for the 15 minutes or so that the actual service lasted (largely occupied by emptying and refilling my change purse. He got a cat nap on the way to the reception. Once there, he didn't last long at all. He was not about to sit in the booster, and wanted to walk out of the restaurant, horseplay with daddy, and take me by the hand and go to the plate glass windows to watch passing traffic.

Any tips and suggestions on how to help DS have some staying power? How does one teach this skill? How can we practice at home? What alternatives can we impose. If he acts out in his seat, do we ignore him at the expense of everyone at the restaurant? If we remove him from the situation, aren't we rewarding his behavior?

We hadn't gone unprepared. We had brought his favorite quiet toy, the melissa and doug latches board, and baby food that we are confident he likes.

Thanks for your tips and suggestions.
F. B.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all -

We will on the one hand congratulate ourselves for the 15 minutes he was able to keep still during the baptism. We will also work on his sitting skills, by on the one hand giving him a chance to get the wriggles out, and on the other, practicing sitting still for longer and longer increments.

Best to you all,
F. B.

Featured Answers


answers from New York on

I would get a babysitter rather than go nuts trying to get a toddler to sit for more than 15 minutes at a time. He will learn when he is older and you will enjoy baptisms etc. more.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I have girls who are not at all hyper active etc but at that age, it was horrible. I hated going places etc. When they hit 2, a bit of reason starts to kick in. Under 2, it's the worst of all worlds. They're mobile so want everything but you can't reason with them much yet. Eating would keep them still - ie: Cheerios but otherwise I wouldn't take them some place that they'd need to be still a long time. Wasn't worth it. On airplane rides, I'd be walkign the aisle with one of them... I think it's great he was occupied for 15 min!

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from St. Louis on

Here is the thing, you are hitting the point where the we don't ever want junior to be sad style of parenting no longer works.

I don't mean this to be a harsh criticism but I just wonder if you realize what you said here. You took him walking around, going up and down stairs, opening and closing doors. Things that are very annoying to others in a church by the way. Why did you do that? Did you feel like going for a walk, did you feel like you needed to see how every door worked? You did it to placate your child. To keep him from having a tantrum. I need to tell you that isn't discipline, that is spoiling. It will only get worse.

You need to be in control. This is where we need to be and this is how you are expected to behave!

I will tell you as a spectator and a parent the only thing worse to witness than a child having a tantrum is a parent giving in. It is like, oh so we had to hear junior scream, then listen to you beg him to behave, who is the parent anyway, then you don't get control until you give him what he wants then we have to listen to him the whole way out the door while the parents are still begging.

You are the parent, time to accept you can't be the parent without disciplining your son. He will only stay when he realizes that is the only option.

I get the feeling you know you don't have a handle on this, I just hope you don't wait as long as I did to figure out there is no other option but to crack down. My oldest had what can only be called boot camp at the age of two and a half. I was not going to be the owner of that kid!

Oh, you will hear I hate you a fair few times. It is actually a good indicator it is working.

Okay JB so my ADHD kids could sit through a Catholic mass but I woke up cranky? I think I was pretty clear my oldest was two and a half, but hey, read into it all you want. Granted the last three managed to sit through a mass because that type of behavior was all they knew.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Geez, sounds like Jo W. woke up a little cranky today. We're talking about a toddler, right? Not even 2 yet? This isn't about discipline, it's about realistic expectations. There is no need to "crack down" on a 20 month old.

His activity level is totally age-appropriate. I was the first of my sisters and cousins have kids and when seeing them exhausted and annoyed at family functions from following around their toddlers all day I would share what I was told and found to be true, which is that you cannot relax for even a minute in a public setting with a mobile child until around age 3. Your son is at the age where public gatherings are all about damage control. It doesn't mean that you need to pack 9 million toys and snacks and special meals, but that you have to expect that you will not be able to fully participate in ceremonies and meals or even converse for more than a few minutes at a time. My kids have gone to church since birth but we spent a good part of every Mass in the back until they outgrew this stage. At restaurants, we used to play "pass the baby" among willing relatives and my husband and I would tag-team taking turns bringing the restless toddler for a walk or outside for a bit.

If he acts out, you take him out immediately - again, this isn't about discipline, it's about normal developmental milestones and you don't want other people suffering because your child is too young to sit still at a restaurant. He'll settle down as he gets older. My youngest is 6 and it's been many years since we've had to worry about behavior in restaurants or other public settings.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I suspect this has something to do with appropriate expectations and rules...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How old? I couldn't get mine to sit still in church at 2 or 3, no matter if I threatened time outs (or gave them) or promised a reward. He couldn't even sit still in movies. He just didn't understand or care about the consequences until he was about 4. It has improved drastically since then. I can take him to church without being thoroughly embarrassed anymore.

It's hard when all the other kids seem to be behaving so nicely. Just remember that you are probably more hyper-focused on your child's behavior than other people (unless your kids is having a total meltdown and screaming his lungs out!) :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

To me, the term "acting out" is used for negative behaviors. Your son wasn't showing that. He was just a toddler who was done.

The fact that you got those great 15 minutes with him, and during the ceremony, hooray!, is great. By the time he got to the restaurant, he was done with being corraled and the high chair wasn't for him. Had it been just a meal out, without a ceremony beforehand, he likely would have had his great, sit-still 15 minutes or more at the table, but that check got cashed at the church so there was zero left for the restaurant, so to speak!

Expecting more would be unrealistic for a child his age. You are doing fine already teaching him -- gradually -- to hold out longer. Be glad for the time you got during the service and, unless he was crying or screaming or fussing, be resigned to getting up and down with him in the future, when he's been very good for a short time and is then expected afterward to sit. He doesn't have it in him yet -- and that is normal! It's great you took distractions but sometimes kids his age have to be up on their feet.

The fact this was a two-part event means you did well with having one part go smoothly. It will be a while before events like this go smoothly throughout. Just keep taking him and don't scold him for being restless later, when he has just done pretty well at being occupied and still.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

It is an inherent characteristic. I have a 5yo dd and a 2.5 yo dd. The 5yo has no problems with this (she has other issues) and is really great at restaurants, shows, etc.. The 2.5 yo, from the time she could move, has been into everything. She is extremely active and extremely curious. This is a kid that runs, never just walks, from activity to activity. And she's always been "the one" who would not sit still in a lap to see a demonstration or performance.

It is incredibly difficult. Since it's our second kid (and our first is not like this), I don't think it's something discipline/parenting styles can change. Some kids need to move/explore more than others.

If I need her to sit for any length of time, she gets to play on my ipad. She doesn't get to do it very often, so it still works when I need it (in airplanes). I don't expect to be able to take her to regular restaurants until she's 3 or 4 yo. She just can't handle it.

And, yes, I might be able to beat that curiosity and energy out of her. But I don't think I'd like the long-term outcome of that.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I have many many friends who have numerous children. 99% of these kids will sit for at least an hour during church and never make a peep. They will sit and play something quietly.

I asked several of them what they do. They all said the same thing. They started very young with the kids and had practice time. It was called quiet time. That way the kids knew what it was and what was expected.

The little bitty ones would sit for just a few moments each day in a chair or on a stool. Some place designated for just this purpose. They would sit longer as they got older.

The goal was for each child to be able to sit still and quietly for the amount of time needed for the passing of sacrament. About 10-15 minutes. Once they were able to do this, even at 2, they were very soon able to spend the whole time sitting quietly because they had developed that skill.

Of course the moms had a special quiet time bag they took to church too. TI had all quiet toys, like a stuffed animal with snaps and buttons for clothing closures. Zippers are loud in a very quiet room. Velcro is too. They had quiet books, you know the ones I mean. They have stories and you sew them together. They may have flaps over parts of the pictures, a snapped shut barn door, you can put stuff in the pockets or other hidey holes. They are a tool to keep a child interested and sitting quietly.

Here are some links to how to make them:





Even if you don't know how to sew you may be able to find someone who will make one or two for you.

I still recommend that if your child is one of those, like mine, that can't sit still for 1 minute much less 15 then start now, today, and practice sitting for one minute. Once they can do that, you know, by next year, then move it up to 2 minutes. Then so forth. It takes consistency and the ability to be patient.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

It sounds like pretty normal kid behavior to me (assuming we're talking about a toddler-aged child?). At that age, we were pretty realistic and just didn't take our kids to activities where we knew they'd be quickly bored. If we attempted events and things didn't go so well, we were prepared to just leave and did when we needed.

I'm not sure there's too much you can do to teach a child to sit still until they're preschool aged or so and can really understand the why behind it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

How do you teach it? Well... you practice. At home, have some quiet activities each day. At this age, they are mainly looking to engage in rough-and-tumble activities which is developmentally appropriate. Each day, you should have a little bit of "table top" time (preschool language). He's young to expect a long period of time, but lots of short exposures to "quiet play" will make it easier for him to engage in the quiet play "on demand".

If the location necessitates "quiet", then don't engage in romping around ahead of time. Instead, get there at the last possible moment and let him run around AFTER! He's way too young to understand why it's okay to run around before the service, but not during.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

I'm sorry, but all those responses you got about needing to be tougher or practice time at home or keep working with him and he'll learn either never had a child who did this or have forgotten!

This is my life! My 6 year old is doing wonderfully. My 3 year old has good days and ... not so good days. We go to Mass (almost) every week. Most weeks I end up taking him to the chapel, since our church does not have a cry room. We belong to a wonderful parish, and so many people have taken a moment to tell me that he really will grow out of it.

You did just want we would have done. A couple of things to consider for next time. Have a bigger bag of tricks - maybe a few more toys or snacks or books. Plan to take turns taking him somewhere where he can walk or run or climb. Stairs are great! Consider the posibility that you just won't stay for the entire event, and give yourselves permission to do so. Or just to leave for a bit and come back.

We went to a wedding a couple of weeks ago. It was outdoors, very hot, reception in a tent ... the boys didn't last to dinner. We found the mother of the groom just before we left and said goodbye to her (we really wanted to say goodbye to someone). She laughed and said she was surprised we lasted that long! She remembers.

Hang in there! They have to grow up sometime :-)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

i'm questioning all tlhe movement before hand, it might have been better to keep him in a different area ,so when you entered teh church he knew it wasn't playtime. and if this is a toddler, ONE toy is not enough,
catnaps are notorious for making them even more cranky, sometimes its' better to keep them awake instead of letting them sleep for 10 mins or less.

no you don't make the other people in the resturant suffer, YOu take him out and tell him sternly that you need to finish your meal and that in 2 mins you will be going back in and he better behave, Then eat quick and get the heck out of there. because your kid is telling you he's had all lhe can take.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Janesville-Beloit on

Mt daughter is about the same age as your son. Up until about 5 months ago she would sit beautifully in a high chair or wherever. Then, it all changed! Now at 21 mo she is super wiggly, loud and wanting to get down and explore. I haven't found a great solution, and I also agree with the posters who said this is age appropriate. A couple of things that have worked short-term for us (neither of these are the greatest parenting, but desperate times....) are letting her play with things she doesn't normally get, like the iPhone, and also having special treats that are a novelty because she doesn't usually have them. That's all I've got! :)
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

We always brought things to do. Running around a little is okay, but no rough and tumble stuff.

At restaurants, bring things to do at the table. If he doesn't want to be in a booster, a high chair with seat belt will keep him restrained. He needs to stay seated at the table. Nobody appreciates a child running around a restaurant, and that trip to look out the window will only be cute for a couple of times.

Stick to your guns. Best of luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

This is why kids should learn to sit and eat dinner at the dinner table with the rest of the family. That is the best practice. He has to stay in his chair until everyone is done. It will be a battle at first, but he'll get it.

From the day my children/grandchildren started solids, they sat in a high chair at the table. I have never had a problem taking them anywhere where they had to sit still, at least not within the first hour. After that it does get dicey!

If he acts up at the restaurant, you don't ignor it because, like you said, he will be irritating other diners and that's not okay. So you remove him from the situation, but not to something he wants or will enjoy. If you have to, take him to the car and put him in his carseat. He needs to learn that no matter how "bad" he is, he is not going to get his way and that it is better sitting in the restaurant with the rest of his dining companions than sitting in the car with just mom or dad.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I know exactly how you felt in that situation. We've been to that christening before.......my child running up and down the rows of chairs while others ate, etc. In addition we've been to weddings where my son nearly knocked over the Virgin Mary...........For a long time I was embarrassed as I felt we didn't do anything wrong raising our child; why was it OURS that was always somehow getting away, having to get carried out of situations, loud, etc. etc. etc.

My husband comes from a large Italian and Catholic family - events are not 1.5 hours or something like that - it's ALL freakin' day in assigned tables in gorgeous banquet halls.......it's gotten to a point where we get an invitation and I get anxious. A few years ago I told my husband - I'm tired of the looks, the comments, etc. Our son is a happy rambunctious child that, at a backyard BBQ acts perfectly appropriate - I said either we DO NOT go to these functions or we make a plan as to leaving, etc.

One thing I do - at these events either in between courses or before or after services, etc. we go for a walk - or jog, etc.

My son is now 5 - he's still very active, but nothing like when he was around 2 or 3!!!!!!!!!!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I don't have a bunch of suggestions because anywhere we go, my kids are ALWAYS the loudest, most rambunctious, playful kids in the room!! I know I am pretty loud and so are my parents so I think part of it is genetics!! That being said - until my daughter was 4, I didn't have much fun eating out with her or taking her anywhere she was 'required to sit' for more than five minutes!! Since turning 4 about a year ago - she's been a lot more fun going places and sitting still/quiet. My son (3 in August) does fine in church for the first 10 minutes - because he gets food and listens to music (a band) then he goes to the nursery. For meals - I take my Kindle Fire and cell phone and that keeps him for about 10-15 minutes. THen if the food (or bread) is not there, he'll need to get up and go somewhere! Usually I take he and his sister to the bathroom or my dad will take him for a walk.

It sounds like you did all the right things - and some kids at certain ages are just not going to sit quietly/be quiet. You can practice at home but I"ve learned that some kids are just loud naturally. Mine are those kids! They can be quiet/sit still/do quiet activites at home but out in public, they act like they've never been out of the house (sometimes...other times they are well behaved! But it seems we remember the bad times more often than the good!).

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answers from Seattle on

You know those kids who come out of the womb knowing how to sit still? Those aren't my kids ;-) We're movers and shakers. Here's what worked for us around the same age:

Direction ->
Warning ->

So, for example:
Jimmy I need you to stop banging your legs on the table (attached is a redirection like, you can wiggle your toes in your shoes instead, or, here is a crayon and a piece of paper). I need you to sit quietly. ->

Jimmy, if you aren't able to sit quietly, we're going to go to the car. ->

Okey dokey, off we go.

This takes some time. There are going to be fits on the way out the door, meals that are left half finished, alluring parks abandoned in the pursuit of discipline.

Stay calm, don't give a big reaction, and don't get into making threats that aren't followed up on (ex: if you don't ___ we're not going to ___, did you hear me? I mean it this time. This is your last chance! THIS is your last chance. Cut it out or I'm going to ____...)

Say it. Give a chance to correct the behavior. Remove kiddo.
I've sat outside with a screaming kiddo many-a-time, and I'll tell you what, it doesn't feel real awesome. But, for us, it's been really productive in teaching our kids how to behave/not behave.

Good luck sister!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Gamma G has the right idea.

When my kids refused to sit still in church or wanted to misbehave in restaurant, we had practice time at home.

I sat them in a dining room chair in the living room in front of the TV (which is off) with me beside them. I told them that since they couldn't sit nice in church, then we had to practice sitting nice at home so the next time we went to church they would know how to sit nice there. The we would simply sit nice and still. If they started fussing, I would hold them down on the chair and not allow them to move. We had a lot of weeping and wailing at first, but I always responded that they had to learn how to sit nice and reverently in church. They learned in less than a week. The next time they misbehaved at church, I simply asked them if we needed to have more sitting quietly and reverntly practice at home. They almost always got quiet, but if they didn't them we would have more practice time.

During "quiet" practice time, there was no tv, no snacks, no play time.

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

That's been my son his whole life! He's five now, and I asked his summer school kindergarten teacher if she had any suggestions on how to help him sit still. One idea she had that you may be able to adapt for your son, depending on how verbal he is, was to have him sit still and close his eyes for a certain amount of time and listen. When time is up, ask him to tell you what sound/sounds he heard. My son is 5 so we tried 5 minutes, but by about the 3 minute mark, he was squirming pretty hard. Maybe start with 1 minute, and make a sound that he might recognize, like a ball bouncing on the floor. HTH!

1 mom found this helpful
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