I think parents with toddlers can look to the other parents who do get their children to behave. There must be something they’re doing right. Count the number of toddlers who are behaving in the church. Most of the toddlers are not running to the altar or screaming.
A lot has to do with the relationship you’ve built up with the toddler, and whether or not they have a bit of fear for their parents. Just as a parent fears God, a child should fear getting his parents upset.
It helps to make sure your children eat and exercise before Mass.
Here is another way to look at it. A busy mother has trouble getting dinner on the table. She complains every day to her friends how the kids’ activities take up so much time and energy.
Meanwhile, her neighbour always prepares dinner in the morning before work. She boils the potatoes and vegetables in a double boiler and marinates the chicken so that when she gets home, all she needs to do is throw the chicken in the oven. She also limits her children’s activities.
Which is the smarter woman? Somebody is always smarter than you, and you have to talk to them and do things their way.
My four-year-old isn’t a toddler anymore, but she has a really hard time in Mass. We talk to her frequently about the readings. We’ve explained the Eucharist in terms she understands. Father took her for a tour of the Sanctuary. We sit right up front so she can see. The fact is, she finds much of Mass boring and she has difficulty engaging in it. When she’s bored, she tries to seek stimulation. The problem is, Mass is an environment where pretty much anything that you can think of to do that isn’t sitting silently and listening to the priest is inappropriate. And sitting silently and listening to the priest is the one thing she does not want to do. Now, she’s not allowed to run up toward the altar or even get into the aisles, but she does pace around in our pew. I don’t allow her to crawl around on the floor and examine people’s shoes, but I let her sit when she’s supposed to be standing because somethings just aren’t worth the battle. She goes through phases where she asks constant questions, just for attention. She has to be separated from her brother because she will do whatever she can to get him crying so we can take a walk to the “cry room”. She will insist she has to pee even when she just went. Whoever says that a 4yo “doesn’t really know how to be manipulative” has never met this kid!
Last night we went to a performance of “Annie”, which she absolutely loves. She watches her DVDs of Annie over and over. She has all the songs memorized. She’s been looking forward to seeing the play for weeks. Even so, she could only sustain her attention on the play for a few minutes at a time and kept having to be reminded not to turn around and stare at other people or ask me questions. She stood up for most of the performance and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She’s short enough that even standing she wasn’t obstructing anyone’s view. She wasn’t being disruptive or rude, but I just noticed that she struggles with being completely still and silent even when its something she really likes! If that’s the case, how much harder is it for her to sit still in Mass, which she finds pretty dull, despite our best efforts?
Meanwhile, my 2yo can sit and stare at anything. He’d watch grass grow. I’m afraid he’s a future couch potato.
If children were potatoes, no one would have trouble getting them to be quiet in Mass.
Love the encouraging article. It’s very comforting for my stage in life right now (as the mother of the loudest 4 and 2 year olds in mass). I don’t love that people always have to respond to these type of articles with “well if you were a better parent your children would be quieter.”
Do we really want parents with young children at mass? Because when criticism is the first response it doesn’t seem like it.
I agree. I think parents need more compassion and understanding, not criticism.
Thanks for posting the article, CajunJoy.
I found another article on that site that blessed me…made me remember how very hard it is to wrangle several young children.
Not all children are the same, and parents can’t make them all the same. Some children are born to wiggle, and some are rock steady. Thank God for them all.
One of my kids can’t sit still, but after Mass he can answer questions about the readings and the homily. When they updated the translation of the Roman Missal, he noticed. “He’s saying different words.” Another is a quiet daydreamer who appears to get little or nothing out of the Mass. Which is better?
Or the struggling mom’s child has a developmental issue, and there isn’t anything “wrong” with her parenting…
Not all toddlers are created equal. The archaic notion that every willful toddler will behave if simply disciplined isn’t always true. Some children act out more the more they are disciplined. My brother was far more willful than my sister or I and no amount of discipline changed that
Yes. I am in this situation.
I have had to endure people’s condemnation and unasked for advice from other “perfect” parents. It doesn’t help at all…just drives the mom further into isolation and despair.
Since Roe v. Wade, 60 million or so “children” never got the chance to be noisy or disruptive in the house of their “Father”. I really think the Lord looks on a church on Sunday with “disruptive” little ones and smiles, just happy they are there.
Do your best but don’t be ashamed of your “noisy” kids. Remember, Christ said, “unless you become like one of these little children, you shall not see God, for such as these little ones is the kingdom of Heaven made” Kinda makes me think heaven isn’t all angels on clouds accompanied by the dulcet sounds of their harps, but rather heaven is kind of a raucous place, filled with the sounds of children, a sound that gladdens the heart of their Creator.
The analogies on this website are amazing
A 100 likes for this joeybaggz!
Thank you, Joy. I am always amazed, or maybe disappointed, at those who are bothered by little ones in Mass. You know, people constantly ask If Jesus ever smiled in the gospel accounts. Well, I don’t know about then, but I have to think it tickles his heart to see a two year old playing with a doll or a truck in the pew on Sunday. And at the mom or dad who brought them. Screaming and crying, I can understand if the parent doesn’t try to remove the little one to a crying room or quiet place, but curious, happy little tykes, at least for me, make the mass more joyous.
My mom would give us a little pinch on the leg if we misbehaved in church. I remembered that with my 4 yr old and gave her a little pinch - she loudly said, “why did you pinch me?” Never did it again
Uhhg. That was sappiest thing I’ve ever read on CAF. Congratulations
Sappy, maybe, true, yea. Unfortunately.
I realise this isn’t a Catholic church, but it’s where my wife wants our little one christened and this blog post seems appropriate.