Four Year Old Getting "bored" at Mass


#1

Hello, friends. I am the proud dad of a four year old and a two year old. My wife is gracious enough to let me take the four year old to mass while she stays home with the little one (the two year old isn't ready for church yet, unless they are doing exorcisms at the front door!)

My four year old is incredibly well behaved at mass. She is quiet, she says the Our Father with us all; she loves the sign of peace. When the deacon calls the children down, she is the first to go (and often holds the hand of smaller children on the way down). She even gets to carry the gifts down from time to time! She's being a very good girl, and for a four year old, this is saint-like behavior.

BUT, lately, she has been telling me that church is boring, and she has started to try and skip out of going (thinking of reasons to stay home, etc.) It breaks my heart to find that, at age four, she is already feeling dutiful toward church! This can't be good. We read Bible stories at home, she knows who Jesus and the Blessed Mother are...our faith is a part of our life, so we are doing all that we can to hold up our end (in other words, it's not like mass is some disconnected event that happens once per week. We are Catholic. We pray together day to day, etc.)

I can't expect her to sit still for an hour and listen to the mass; she's just too little and I'd be setting her up for failure. I do let her bring her coloring books and a snack. I often times pull her up on my lap and explain to her what's going on (like the Eucharist), which she is interested in (this is a family mass, obviously, so there is a certain level of...let's just say background noise...:)

My question to the moms and dads out there in forum land is this: any advice? Is this just par for the course, something that we need to go through? Any suggestions or 'best practices' you could suggest? I want church to be something my little girl looks forward to and likes. We even have a treat at the Italian bakery afterwards as a celebratory reward when she is good (which she always is). Any thoughts?


#2

[quote="Michaeljc4, post:1, topic:197204"]

My question to the moms and dads out there in forum land is this: any advice? Is this just par for the course, something that we need to go through? Any suggestions or 'best practices' you could suggest? I want church to be something my little girl looks forward to and likes. We even have a treat at the Italian bakery afterwards as a celebratory reward when she is good (which she always is). Any thoughts?

[/quote]

Two questions:

1) When did you start taking her to mass?

2) Why don't you feel comfortable attending mass as a family?

With children of similar ages, I have followed the path of taking them, regardless of their temperament that particular day. There are lots of tips on how to help them with their temperament while at mass in these forums. But I think the answer to the first two questions might provide more light into what is happening with your daughter.


#3
  1. I started taking her when she was about 2 and a half.
  2. The little one is in full terrorist mode. She wouldn’t be able to sit still for 3 minutes. She yells. I love her to pieces, but she’s not ready for church. She’d just be miserable (as would everyone around us!)

#4

Oh how I wish I had the same problems. I am a father of 2 boys, 4 and 2, but my wife is not Catholic and I was complete failure as a Catholic up until a couple of years back (getting better though).

I am in agreement with the previous person. Attending Mass as a family unit is the ideal. I remember how awesome it was to have my parents, grandmother and siblings all around as I played quietly (tried to anyway) with my cars in the pew.

If it is the core four, there is going to be some juggling but setting the example from early on will help seed the faith and the importance of Mass in your kids. I would add that if your little one is more rambunctious than your oldest, the vestibule or “cry room,” if one is available, are the best locations so as not to disrupt others.

With all that, I and I am sure others here would do the same, encourage you to take those kids to Mass on Sunday and every other day possible. Plus taking them to Eucharistic Adoration, etc. does not hurt. As for the help of St. Joseph that his prayers may add graces to aid you in fulfilling your role as father and husband.

God bless!


#5

As someone new to attending mass we were worried how are kiddos would do. Our older 2 ages 6 and 7 were used to childrens church . My 3 and 16months had always been in nursery. I’ve found coloring books our something to write on helps my older 3. my youngest can get loud once in a while. The mass we attend is mostly young familys so my kid isn’t the only loud one. They also know if they don’t make noise they will get donuts which are served after mass


#6

my son is 4, hes fairly good but has been doing the “im bored, i dont know what to do!” at mass. he takes his picture bible to look at during the readings and he will try and sing some of the songs along with us. hes getting to know that he needs to be his best when father is “holding the big cookie” which i then had to go into an explanation of transubstantiation, and he said “oh”.

ive ordered him a childrens missal, a book on the beatitudes, and a book of saints for him to look at also during mass. hes only been going regularly for the past few months.


#7

Kids are smart, especially your daughter. She sees Mommy at home with her sibling. What great fun! Why does she have to go with you to mass? She’s not sure what exactly is going on there. She has some toys and stuff. She’s having Daddytime. But it’s not like being at home. Why does Mommy and her sibling get to stay home? Maybe she can find a way to get to stay home too.

Who can argue with that? I can’t. I’d want to stay home with Mommy. No offense. I love you, Daddy. But if there’s a better option, I’m going for it.

The best way to combat this that I can think of is to go with the whole family. It’s tough. With the two-year old, it might be Wrestlemania for you. But it is preparing them to understand who you are as a family. You are a family that goes to mass together. It’s a time when you get together to worship. You worship alongside other families and other children. That is a clear consistent message for them to understand.

I encourage you to read the many threads on here with the best tips for dealing with behavioral issues at mass. Even with these tips, you will still be brought to extreme frustration, perhaps frequently. Don’t let this discourage you. We are bringing our children before the Lord. We are sharing one of the most important parts of our lives with our children. They may not understand what is going on. They may distract us from a truly prayerful experience. But they are receiving a message about who their parents are and who we want them to be.

Kids are smart. They decode your behavior and learn from it. By not going to mass as a family, your daughter could be hearing many different messages: babies don’t have to go to mass, Mommy can’t go to mass because of the baby, acting inappropriately (ie. like your sibling) might mean that you don’t have to go to mass, among others.

Neither one of your children may be able to live up the the expectation of being angels in mass, very few children are able to do this. However, if you don’t take them to mass to allow them to try to meet some expectation of behavior, they may never learn. Also, if you don’t set the expectation that all of the family attends mass, you may be setting yourself up for more problems down the line. It is not going to get easier as they get older.

Pray. Plan. Act. You can do this!


#8

That's scary advice! :)

The thought of the crazy one...in public...in church! I'll talk to my wife about it. Thanks for your thoughtful words.


#9

I remember viewing Mass as a snooze-fest when I was a kid. Let’s face it. There’s a lot of responses and reading. There’s singing, which I never really liked (still don’t).There isn’t much real-time interaction between people during the Mass.

Kids aren’t going to pick up on all the deep spiritual issues going on. They’ll know it’s important, but their minds are often on how to have fun.

Keep going.
Just make sure you fill in the intellectual gaps and rationale as she gets older. Ideally, she’ll understand it and value it.

Yes, it is something you just have to go through.


#10

Yes, they do perform exorcisms at the door. That’s what the Holy Water is for.

Sorry, Dad, but you need a reality check. I have 5 children: almost 13, 7, 6, 3, and 6 mos. All of my children were at Mass the week after coming home from the hospital and have never missed a Sunday or Holy Day because of behavior. Children have no business with toys or food when it comes to Church, and Mom and Dad should both be there without fail except for illness or work schedule. 3 months ago I shovelled snow 30 inches deep so week could get to Mass. No one cares if your back hurts. I’m tired is not an excuse. Unless a kid was still breastfeeding, they were all at Mass with me when my wife was ill, the few times that did happen.

Whatever reason you have for not introducing them before their second birthday is, quite simply, all in your head. Children understand from the very beginning the seriousness of Mass if you are living what you are trying to teach, without exception. My kids have acted up on occasion, only to be quietly and sternly reminded by me that I was not afraid to take them outside in the parking lot and use the belt. Also, don’t expect a kid to ignore what they see other kids doing during Mass if you are not ignoring what other adults do during, before, or after Mass, i.e. talking to each other instead of praying. Cell phones should be left in the car. I’m sick of hearing someone’s Nokia during the Consecration. The priest is the last one in the door at the start of Mass, and he should be the first one out. Singing is not optional, no matter how much your voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard, and people around you should be able to hear your voice when you respond. Lead from the front, and your children will follow.


#11

Where do you sit at church? I have heard and remember from when I was young, church was a lot more boring and I wasn't very well behaved when we sat in the back or behind a lot of people. So my family (6 children) always sat in the front of church the second or third row usually. Sit up front if you are not doing so already. :thumbsup:


#12

We are upfronters as well. They need to be able to watch what is happening. I try to hold them up, facing forward, as much as possible.

As I said, there are a lot of good threads on here about what to do in mass. Sitting upfront is one strategy. Some strategies involve involve quiet toys, books and snacks. I personally dislike the snacks idea. My father used to be a janitor. What you do is up to you. You do not need to be as hardcore as the poster above. God bless that guy.

The main priority should be to get there. Not only for your children, but for you and your wife. I think it would help with this situation.


#13

Thanks to all for the advice.


#14

[quote="ahollars, post:10, topic:197204"]
Yes, they do perform exorcisms at the door. That's what the Holy Water is for.

Sorry, Dad, but you need a reality check. I have 5 children: almost 13, 7, 6, 3, and 6 mos. All of my children were at Mass the week after coming home from the hospital and have never missed a Sunday or Holy Day because of behavior. Children have no business with toys or food when it comes to Church, and Mom and Dad should both be there without fail except for illness or work schedule. 3 months ago I shovelled snow 30 inches deep so week could get to Mass. No one cares if your back hurts. I'm tired is not an excuse. Unless a kid was still breastfeeding, they were all at Mass with me when my wife was ill, the few times that did happen.

Whatever reason you have for not introducing them before their second birthday is, quite simply, all in your head. Children understand from the very beginning the seriousness of Mass if you are living what you are trying to teach, without exception. My kids have acted up on occasion, only to be quietly and sternly reminded by me that I was not afraid to take them outside in the parking lot and use the belt. Also, don't expect a kid to ignore what they see other kids doing during Mass if you are not ignoring what other adults do during, before, or after Mass, i.e. talking to each other instead of praying. Cell phones should be left in the car. I'm sick of hearing someone's Nokia during the Consecration. The priest is the last one in the door at the start of Mass, and he should be the first one out. Singing is not optional, no matter how much your voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard, and people around you should be able to hear your voice when you respond. Lead from the front, and your children will follow.

[/quote]

While I'm sure that your opinion in this thread is appreciated, I'm not sure if this is a serious post or not. It seems like may be a joke for dramatic effect? If it is, I will feel silly. But if you are serious, I really would like to ask: do you really think it's better for kids to behave out of fear of you rather than out of a sense that it is the right thing to do? Do you just threaten them or do you really hit your children with a belt so that they will behave in Church?

OP, I beg of you not to take this advice. Children are precious gifts from God and there are so many other ways to help children learn to behave without hitting them with objects.


#15

Spare the rod and spoil the child.


#16

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father; or the voice of his mother, and, though they chastise him, will not give heed to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.


#17

I realize it really isn’t helpful to agree since the children involved are both older already, but I have to agree with the above. Our kids too were at Mass with us from the first Sunday that we returned from the hospital and have never missed a Sunday or Holy Day since unless they were ill. Then hubby and I had to take turns in going to Mass and staying home with the ill child. I don’t understand not taking a child to Mass from the jump. Going to Mass is just a natural part of Catholic family life and babies are certainly part of that equation, so I really don’t get not taking a baby to Church from the first Sunday after birth or return from the hospital.

With that being said, I realize that it will be difficult to make abrupt changes now, but it is my opinion that it can and should be done. I think the best thing to do is to begin attending Mass as a family this Sunday and continue every Sunday and Holy Day hereafter. Personally, early on when you begin going as a family, I would sit in the back of Church to try to avoid bothering other folks at Mass as much as possible by making escape from the Church as quick and quiet as possible. Later on, I would consider going to the front, but not initially. If/when one or both of the girls become noisy or disruptive, remove the child to the vestibule or cry room long enough to quiet her (or them) and consistently enforce the idea that the child needs to be still and quiet in Church. Then return to Mass. Repeat as needed. And repeat. And repeat. Repeat as long as it takes to get your kids to understand that they must be quiet in Church, but also participate in the Mass when old enough to do so. Age-appropriate and consistent discipline should be used. It will be difficult and Mom and Dad may not be able to participate in the Mass very well in the early Sundays after beginning going to Mass as a family because you are busy dealing with small children, but the kids will learn eventually if parents are consistent.

It appears to me that the 4-year old seems to be thinking along the lines that not going to Mass and staying home with Mom and the 2-year old might be an option. I say, don’t make it an option. Make needed changes by attending Mass as a family effective immediately. It will be difficult, especially initially since the children are already 4 and 2 and this is a new situation to have all of you attend Church together, but I think it can be done.

I’ll pray for you and your family.


#18

This is a lovely post and right on the mark. I agree with all of it. Very, very well said and very kind too. :thumbsup:


#19

Maybe bring her to the cry room and there might be other kids there.


#20

Love of God and love of parents follow the same line of thinking, and the same flawed reasoning occurs from people who want to take shortcuts. So, yes, I have no problem using fear as one of many tools for obedience with children, if that is what it takes for them to understand.

For the record, the only one who actually got that treatment was the 6-year-old, who was 4 at the time and screamed (and I mean SCREAMED) when her mother had to get up during the Communion song with her younger sister, then tried to run away from me to her Mom like I wasn’t her father. Sitting up front meant everyone in the Church saw it, so I took her outside and reminded her who I was. I’d say that was warranted and not an irrational choice. The rest of my children now know that I will not hold back for the sake of appearance, and I don’t make idle threats. I can simply remind them when they act up or daydream, and 99% of the time, that is enough to keep them calm.

It is foolish to pretend that corporal punishment does not work. Reason will only work with children intelligent enough to comprehend, mature enough to accept, and don’t have a limitation to prevent them from possessing both. In that context, a parent should do whatever they need to do when children will not listen. If punishment is all they understand, then they will face the consequence for their actions. Most children understand the relationship between the two, which is why simply mentioning it is enough to correct behavior.

It is equally folly to believe that perfect love is enough to keep a child obedient. Perfect love does not keep us obedient with God. Are we living God’s will because we love God, or because we fear Hell? Almost all of us would answer “both” if we are honest with ourselves, and for children, it is the same thing.

So, no, I wasn’t joking. In the words of Father Corapi, “I do not condone smacking them upside the head, although I don’t necessarily condemn it either.”


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