Heloise Column: Tips on teaching children how to behave in church


Tips on teaching children how to behave in church

*Dear Heloise: I’d like to send a message to parents (and, surprisingly, grandparents!) whose children talk and distract in church. I am a mother and teacher and not a religious zealot. However, church is my last bastion of calm and quiet in a frantic, noisy world. As adorable as your child is, she can upset the peaceful atmosphere of spirituality with her vocalizing, fidgeting, crying, etc.

May I suggest the following ideas for teaching a child how to act in a place of worship?

Introduce the child to the nursery as a baby so that he is comfortable there.* Hint: When parents occasionally volunteer to help staff the nursery, both parents and children feel more secure there.

At preschool age, bring the child to a seat in the back of the church for several minutes at a time. Bring one or two soft, quiet toys, such as a cloth book or stuffed animal. Take the child back to the nursery before she becomes tired of sitting still.

• If you have multiple young children, try bringing one at a time to the service — this makes it feel like a privilege.

Gradually, make it a “reward” to be allowed to remain longer if he is quiet and well-behaved.
be allowed to remain longer if he is quiet and well-behaved.
• Teach by example that church should be a quiet, relaxing time for everybody. I
t’s surprising how many adults talk and rustle candy wrappers themselves.
• If you teach your child to be respectful and well-behaved, not only will your minister and congregation be grateful, you will be happier and proud. — A Reader From Pennsylvania

Good hints for parents to think about. Your suggestions are wonderful and can certainly help ease the transition to church. — Heloise



How about, bring them from their infancy and teach them how to behave in Mass? Just a though…



We took our children to church from infancy…and even then there were lots of distractions from them, especially during the terrible twos.


Seems like a lot of work. lol

When my kids were little, there was no nursery, so we sat in a ‘family with young kids room.’ It was a blessing, because my kids learned that mass was a regular thing, but at the same time, if they burst out with a loud voice like children do, I didn’t have to feel like we were disturbing anyone. I didn’t have to run out of mass–it really was perfect for us. I loved that room…we heard the entire mass crystal clear, and there were people to bring the Eucharist back to us. We could see everything from the room…

I think that is better than a separate nursery. Families should be together during mass, just my thoughts.


this topic brings back memories of when DH & I attended one of the Christmas masses at our parish a few yrs back.

Two little kids were running around, one even knocked over the pointsetta plants in front of the alter, & then we had the screamer but the dad took him outside. (whew).

We have a very small church w/no crying room or nursery. A few of us have brought it up to the parish council that the nursery would be a good idea…having some of the students in confirmation classes watch them for community service but they said there wasn’t much of an interest amongst parents. HUH???

The worst is the CCD classes grade 7-10 coming from the basement and into the church. They are extremely noisy w/no consideration for those who are deep in prayer. You’d think that the teachers or parents would tell their kids/students to be quiet.
Also, we have a few older folks who can’t wait until the end of mass to talk to their friends. :mad: It is very rude to say the least. Last week someone’s cell phone kept ringing during the consecration. (grrrrrrrrrrrrr)

Whatever happened to showing some respect to our Lord like we did when we were younger???


Honestly I have yet to attend a Catholic Church with a nursery. Some have “cry rooms”. A room within the church with a large glass window so parents and children are participating in the Mass. A nursery seems to be a protestant notion. I would never use one. Jesus is present at the Mass, I would not relegate my child to a separate room away from the Mass.

My daughter is now 12 but when she was little if we had problems one of us took her out to the vestibule. The answer is not less participation in the Mass but more. When my daughter was a preschooler I began to take her to daily Mass. I was amazed at how quickly her behavior improved.


Do not spare the rod.


My daughter (1 yr 6 mo) behaves very well at church. We used to bring toys and bottles for her to play with until one day I forgot them and was delighted to find that she was far more attentive without them. (Similarly, I showed up late and had to sit in the front row, which she enjoyed tremendously!)

Our family makes a big show about going to Mass on the night before, asking her if we’re going to Mass, what the bells sound like, what the priest says etc… so that she’s excited to go by the time Sunday rolls around. Usualy she wakes up on Sunday by bolting upright, asking ‘church?’ and then pouting by the front door until we go. If she does misbehave I just cart her out onto the sidewalk – a tremendous let down for her.

Oh and as a former Protestant my take on it is that mass is more kid friendly. My former churches had music, but it was all clumped up into the praise segment. The mass with it’s continual smells and bells are more exciting than Elmo, Barney and Curious George rolled into one! :thumbsup:


I think someone should write a column : Tips on teaching ADULTS how to behave in church.


That would be great :D.

The tips from Heloise was actually pretty Protestant in nature. They do not have Jesus present in the Eucharist at their services, they also (not all of them) spend far more time sitting listening to the Pastor talk.

My take on it is if you start bringing your children from infancy and as long as they are “normal”, chance are those toddler years will be the only time you have to deal with a really fidgety child. Add to this the fact that the children’s very presence at the Mass gives them the graces that we all need in our lives.

BTW, you are far more likely to find misbehaving children at Christmas and Easter Mass for a number of reasons. The biggest is it is the only time the children are at Mass because it is the only time their parents come! There is also all the excitement that goes with Christmas especially.

Brenda V.


There was a thread along those lines here a week or so ago, but it got heated and was locked.


Our DD had a stuffed dog that she brought to Mass. We had her teach the dog all about what happened at Mass and how to behave. She was pretty strict with the dog, and everyone complimented her behavior as well.



Isn’t that a smart idea? How neat is that! :slight_smile:


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