Thursday, July 8, 2010

Parenting with less stress {Taking them to church}

 I don't know about you but church is a big part of my life. The time spent learning, fellowshiping, praying and worshiping with other Christians is essential to my spiritual help. When I had children it was a huge goal of mine that my babies/children would not stop me from getting the most out of each service but instead I could raise them to love to go to church as well and that they would get a lot out of it as well.

  As my children are not grown this is of course still a work in progress! However with my youngest being 4 we are over some of the hardest times and we made it through and enjoyed going to church the whole time. Today I thought I would tell about some things that helped me to enjoy and get the most out of church even while having young children. I would really love if all of you would chime in a share you tricks and tips too! I certainly don't have everything figured out in fact sometimes even now my children will do something in church that will totally leave me wanting to hide. But life goes on and over all going to church goes pretty smoothly!

 I thought I might preface my tips by mentioning that I know their are a wide variety of ideas out there on kids and church. Some are very conservative (no toys, no noise, just sit there and pay attention!) while others are pretty liberal about what their kids are allowed to do. I would consider myself to be somewhere in between. I want my kids to be quiet and try to listen but I do let them have toys, books and even snacks depending on their age. Here are odds and ends of ideas that have worked for me in having kids that enjoy going to church and a mom that can enjoy being there and participating too all without (at least not usually!) bothering the other church goers.

The only photo I could find of one of my kids in a pew- my Mom and Megan

  • When they were babies I nursed them right in the pew/chair. Nobody even noticed but it certainly kept my baby happy. They also sleep a lot when they are really little.
  • A pacifier was nice. However Mara was the only one that seemed to think it was worth anything of my children. But with her I did like it for during church.
  • As they got a little bigger I would bring a bag with little things in it that they could look at. I made sure that none of them were rattles or keys that shook together or anything that would make noise. I would take them out one at a time and let them look at them. I also learned a trick from mom to do things like stick a little toy in their sock, they would pull it out and that game could be repeated for a long time very quietly. Good toys that I have found are: little dolls, farm animals, finger puppets, board books, cars, etc.
  • Little snacks were nice too as the babies got a little bigger. Things like raisins, cheerios and small crackers. I would have them in a very little container and they could pick up one at a time to eat. If they weren't nursing still then a sipper cup with water in it was brought as well.
  • If they need a little soothing I found it very helpful to whisper very, very quietly in their ear. It didn't necessarily need to be words, sometimes it helped to just blow very softly.
  • Another thing that can kind of help to calm and entertain is to just softly rub you fingers up and down the small child's arm or leg. Rubbing the back of a larger child can help them to remember to just relax and be calm too.
  • As they passed up the infant stage training began. One thing that I wanted them to be completely aware of was that we didn't leave the church service (go to the nursery or whatever) to have fun. We would go out to quickly and efficiently change a diaper or take them to the potty but then we went directly back to the service, no playing. If we had to go out because they were making noise then I would discipline them if they were of understanding age, get them quiet and back in we would go. This was a very important step for us in raising kids that can sit in church.
  • As kids got older they could participate and listen more but they still get the wiggles so it is nice to have something they can keep their hands busy with while they listen. I really like paper and drawing utensils or coloring books or busy books for this time. (You can see some of the busy books I have made here and here.) I also have often brought books for them to look at thought when they start being able to read then I tend to not let them have books so often because they read (instead of just looking) and they don't hear what is being said.
  • Also as my kids have gotten older I try to prepare them for whatever is going to happen at church. Currently on Sunday mornings we have a song service, a communion service, (with a 2-10 minute meditation) and then the kids actually go off to class during the sermon. There is still a fair amount of quiet time required during singing -though they can sing too- and communion but not nearly as much as when we had class first and then singing, communion and a sermon all of which the kids were a part of.  Anyway, I like it both ways but I would gladly go back to having class and then sermon with kids. On Sunday nights we do a variety of things,  sometimes a speaker, sometimes prayer time, some times Bible baseball, sometimes a video and sometimes singing and sharing. And then on Wednesday night we have singing and then classes for all ages. And then we do like to go to rallies too which are another opportunity for the kids to sit quietly. :-) Anyway,  as you can see things aren't always the same way each week and so I try to prepare my kids for whatever the activity is going to be. When we have bible baseball we study ahead so that the kids will know the answers of the questions (this has been especially important as we had questions on books like Zechariah and Malachi!), but whatever it is we are doing it is nice for them to be able to prepare mentally for whatever it is we are going to do.
  • Another big thing is attitude. I love going to church and I get excited about it and my kids get very excited about it too. It is a big part of our lives.
  • Also, It would be very hard to do this by myself. It is possible but I am glad that I didn't have too. Ken played a very crucial role in helping to train our older two and my parents have also been a ton of help! Which reminds me that as my children get older and I don't need to be concerned about their behavior so much, I hope I can reach out and help other young parents if possible.
This is what has worked for me, please share what has worked for you!


Miriam said...

Throughout the life of our five kids (ages 11.5 down to newborn) we have attended a couple of different churches. The environment of the church differs from one to another. I have always found felt books to be very quiet and entertaining for the toddlers and preschoolers. Bigger kids can color quietly. Kids who are old enough to read take notes, which was originally my husband's idea. It's fun to read what they write!

JustCorey said...

I was always in childrens church away from my mom when i was younger. It wasnt until junior highish that i started attending services with her. At that point i was keeping my step siblings quiet through service, so trying to take notes didnt work to well. But i did draw pics for them to color that noramlly went somewhat with the sermon.

My husband and i like the idea of always having our kids with us and agree with the ideas you have posted here. I have also seen your busy books and was thinking about making some for my nieces and nephew, and eventually my son when he gets older.

Nola said...

I do similar to you. I find it most helpful that when I bring the child out if they are noisy, that they do not get toys while out, and that I bring them back in quite soon again. However, its a very tiring stage. My husband helps and we share this stage. We are in it right now with our second child. Our first is trained but still does the occasional thing that makes me want to hide LOL. But like once every few months at the most! Its easier this time since I know it CAN be done and I know that it has many benefits. I remember going to the dentist and having my oldest at 2.5 sitting in a chair waiting beside me while they cleaned my teeth. She had some books to look at but that was it. It was a result of being able to sit in church.

Its not an easy thing though and I don't think all children are as easily trained to sit, but I think its possible for all to sit. I personally also do the same as you with a few quiet toys and books. My oldest now that she can read and write, we write out the main verse from the sermon and she copies it, and then she can draw a picture about it or read from her picture kid's Bible. We keep a special book of paper just for this and also she has a lap desk...ours was from a garage sale but its a little rectangle that sits on her lap (no legs on it) and it opens up. The top is hard plastic and the bottom is a cushion. Ours is made by crayola. Its really nice for her to use in church.

I've never tried blowing in the ear gently...I will have to try that. My daughter loves us to blow in her hair...

Nola said...

P.S. I meant my one year old daughter for the ear blowing thing LOL

'Becca said...

These are great tips! My son is 5, and his dad usually does not come to church with us, but I've been bringing my son since he was 2 weeks old, and he's always behaved pretty well for his age with only the occasional lapse.

I strongly agree about making sure that when a child has to be taken out for being disruptive, that's not a fun time but just waiting for him to be ready to go back--sort of boring.

I don't allow snacks (other than nursing when he was a baby/toddler). Most Sundays we can have a leisurely breakfast up until 15 minutes before church starts, and we go to coffee hour (with food) right after, so he can survive without eating for an hour and a half! We also go to a Tuesday night service followed by potluck dinner, so the times that I take him straight from childcare to that, I bring a snack to eat on the way.

My explanation for no snacks is that if we receive communion on a full stomach, our bodies hardly notice it. We want to feel that heavenly food becoming part of us. (But the side benefit is not worrying about chewing noises, crumbs, spilling, etc.!)

I will take him to the bathroom if he really has to go, but I try to get him to go before church, and as he gets older I'm asking him to wait for a less-important part of the service rather than miss the Gospel reading, sermon, confession, or communion.

I encourage him to learn the words and songs that are the same almost every time, by practicing on our way to church. I did this even when he was a baby; it seemed to help him understand where we were going.

In the Episcopal Church, anyone who is baptized can receive communion. My son was not baptized as an infant because his dad isn't an Episcopalian and I wanted my son to choose baptism and understand what he was doing. He started wanting communion when he was almost 3, so we started talking about what communion means and what baptism means, and he was baptized a few months later. This got him paying a lot more attention to the communion part of the service.

Melissa said...

I want to thank you for this blog.
I have an almost 2 year old who has always loved to go to church to "Praise Jesus and play with the kids" (nursery). We have never had a problem with him behaving well in church. My husband leads worship and so I am in the pews with Noah. I would hold him and we would sing and clap and enjoy the worship service. He had even started raising his hands as he saw me and others doing the same. Then we have a time of pray and the kids are dismissed for nursery and children church and life is good.

He loves music, so when we are at home we play worship music and dance and play different toy instruments and praise Jesus. He is also will sit on my husbands lap and pay the drums or piano together. Trying to gently encourage a natural interest of his. He also has learned to sit still and hold our hands when we pray most of the time and is very respectful.
Over the past few weeks he has just become an like a wild money in my arms. It's like a switch when off and he is no longer content with being in my arms, but wants to be on stage playing music. As weeks pass he becomes increasingly unmanageable.

We have an evangelist in town this weekend and I was very excited to go to the services. But as soon as the music started tonight the joy was over. He was ridiculous and screaming trying so hard to go up front. The old tricks of books and toys and snacks and pacifiers were not going to work. I left early to go home. I just didn't know what to do. I had no help, because my husband was up doing the music. We both cried the whole way home. (and I am crying again now as is write this a hour and a half later.)

I need some help and encouragement. Everything we were doing felt right and like we were raising him in the way he should go and trying to teach him how to worship God at a young age. Looking at it now I feel like I have created a problem that does not have an easy fix.

Abbi said...

My heart goes out to you in this time right now! To me it doesn't sound like you have done anything bad in the way you have trained your son. He is hitting what can be a harder time for training however. I would encourage you to be diligent! Obviously you don't want to allow him to go up on stage and he is at the point that he has noticed that and that is what he wants. If you are firm with him on this point I would guess he will learn to give this desire up and once again enjoy singing and praising in the pew. From what you have said I think I would take him out when he starts acting up and sternly talk to him about needing to sit in the pew without being fussy and then try taking him back in. This training period isn't very fun but when you are consistent the kids will learn that you intend to be in church (and them with you) and they need to be in the pew doing what is appropriate (singing, listening, praying etc.). Just don't give up!

I don't know if those thoughts will help or not but I will keep you in my prayers too. Remember that if you lack wisdom to ask of God as He gives generously! (James 1:5-8)


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