Kids behavior in church: Roles of Moms and Dads


First, to be up front, I should state that I’m single with no kids. I’m at church this morning, and there is a family with four kids in front of me. Except for the oldest, the kids are pretty out of control. The mom is doing her best to keep things under control. The dad seems pretty oblivious to it all.

I’m not sure why, but this seems to be a relatively common scene where the dad is not involved at all with the care of kids during mass and the mom seems to be at wits end trying keep the kids in line. While there are a lot of great dads out there, why do so many dads ‘check out’ for that hour every week? Does anybody else notice this pattern?


I have noticed that many dad’s aren’t there (lots of moms with kids). We only have one so far and when she was tiny I did pretty much everything. Now that she’s a rowdy toddler my husband holds her for the entire Mass. We realized she struggles to get down if I’m holding her, she gives up if her father has her. As a Mom who felt a little crazy when I was doing everything it’s a huge relief when he holds her and helps out.


Screaming children in Mass are one of my pet peeves. It’s something I pray for patience to deal with. My children are now old enough to need no supervision (12 and 14) during Mass, but we’ve been through it. There really is a right answer on how to deal with fussy children. When they become disruptive to those around them, they need to be taken out of the room – sometimes the change of environment is all they need. Whether it’s the mom or the dad certainly depends on the nature of their marriage and partnership in raising the children. That’s not something one can judge by witnessing them for an hour a week at Mass.

To respond to the original question, most times the Mom is the more effective parent at dealing with a cranky child. As a new parent, it often bothered me that my children sought out their mother for comfort over me, however I quickly had to accept that as a fact of life. It’s not necessarily that Dads ignore squirming or crying children, it’s just that often times the most expeditious method to quiet a cranky child is for the mother to hold them. Dads have their roles in a family, but let’s face it, in many cases moms are the comforters of first resort when it comes to cranky kids.


I think it all depends on the family. There are plenty of families at our parish where the dads actively keep their kids in line during Mass. Then there are some who are oblivious.

I can tell you that I struggle to keep my 4 year old in line when we go to Mass and my dh decides he’s not coming to Mass with us. She’s quiet, but I don’t like that she acts like she has ants in her pants. And, she also likes to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing (we stand she sits, we kneel she stands, we sit she wiggles all over). When my dh is with us at Mass she sits next to him and is a perfect angel.

I have had times where my dh has just totally checked out at Mass and was oblivious to our older daughter acting up. It’s frustrating to be the only parent who is tuned-in in these situations.


*We usually split it equally, when the kids were little…my husband was typically the one who would hold the kids…but often times, we sat in a crying room, together. I do sometimes notice the mom trying to pacify the kids at mass…and the dads standing way off to the right or left, with some older children in between. :smiley: I don’t know why that is. *


I’ve seen a total mix of personalities - so I don’t think it’s fair to generalize that dads always “check out”…
I think it’s fair to say that raising children is difficult - and there is a wide variety of personalities - ranging from those that refuse to take their children to mass (because they’re worried about making nose) to those that are oblivious that their kids make noise… there’s no singular answer to how people will act. :shrug:


I agree that there is no single answer. However, from my vantage point, if there is a parent who has checked out at mass… it tends to be the father more often than the mother.


As I mentioned above, it is often not a case of a dad who has “checked out,” but a case where moms have better success comforting cranky kids. We could probably get into a discussion of parenting roles and motherhood here if need be, but I think most folks understand that cranky kids are more apt to curl up with mom and be quite than with dad.


Recalling my childhood, Dad was the one who kept us in line. The Vulcan knee squeeze when you fidgeted was enough to keep you quiet. They sat Kid/Mom/Kid/Dad/Kid. That way there was always an adult hand to still a squirming child. Granted they weren’t blessed with 8 kids so maybe they had it easier than other families but it was pretty much the same way even with larger families.

I must admit I don’t remember many infants and toddlers at Mass when I was a kid (50s, early 60s). Usually they started to show up when they were around 3 or 4. It wasn’t rare to see a mom at the 8 a.m. Mass and the Dad at the 10 a.m. Mass with the older kids. That too appeared to change in the mid 60s.

When my own came along in 79, 82 & 84 DH (a non-Catholic) worked shifts and we didn’t have money for a sitter. Taking them to Mass with me when he was working was a necessity and they listened and behaved there just the way I expected them to behave anywhere else. Since they were behaved I took them with me most of the time even if he was off. The 2 oldest could be plunked pretty much anywhere and not move as long as they had their blankie and their thumbs; the youngest was a bit more rambunctious but I had the help of a few friends by the time he came along and we all sat in the same area. If he moved anywhere it was to sit with one of the other families. No running to the sanctuary with one of us giving chase as I see on a regular basis.

When I was a reader or EMHC, DH would accompany me to Mass if he wasn’t working. Otherwise my friends would watch over the kids while I did what I had to do.


For the first three months of his life, my son was a screamer. Thankfully he was our first so we didn’t know the difference. If he was awake he was crying and he didn’t seem to need much sleep.

Thankfully our Parish at the time had a well appointed cry room. It had a full view of the alter through a large picture window and a decent sound system so we could still hear the Mass. For a few months, my wife and I didn’t even bother to start out in the pews. We’d just take up residence in the cry room from the start.

Every kid has different needs, every couple has different coping strategies for cranky kids. When they were babies, mom was the only one who could comfort the kids. I suspect that had something to do with breastfeeding, but that’s just a theory. As toddlers, we never hesitated to grab them under the arms and drag them out so as not to disturb those around us. As they got older, a tap on the back of the head or a flick of the ear during Mass was all they needed to get rid of the fidgets.

The issue for me isn’t whether mom or dad takes charge, but whether they are considerate or concerned with maintaining the atmosphere for fellow parishioners… There’s no way to know the dynamic that’s going on there.


This is good advice however let me say that when my son acts roudy it’s because he wants me to take him out of church so he can go running around outside or whatever. When you leave church there’s only a bench in a hallway right next to where mass is so putting him there is also just as much as a distraction. If I don’t make him sit through mass (even if he’s being roudy) he will never learn to be good in mass and he will never like to go. So I think it’s just something people have to get over and accept. there will always be kids in mass and they don’t all behave perfect all the time. It is catholic mass ya know, lol. so, there are going to be a good number of children there! And I think the priests strongly prefer for the children to be at mass.


You have a valid point. I would say that it really is a judgment call. People need to expect children in church and accept there will be some outbursts or less than perfect behavior. That said, there comes a point where screeching kids become a distraction for the everyone in the Church, including the Priest, and they need to be removed.

Sometimes my wife and I get a chuckle at Mass when watching young parents struggle to get their youngsters behave. Sometimes, however, I admit to being less than charitable when I see oblivious parents letting their kids run wild.


I can relate to this… I have to keep in mind that my husband just came into the Church this year so I have to remember my “level of respect and reverence for the Mass” is different from his regarding how we expect our children to behave in Mass. He allows our kids to get away with murder while at Mass when I’m normally the one that’s all over them getting them to behave. For the most part, they’re great… but sometimes I have to look at him with that look of “What the HECK are you allowing them to do??? Make them stop, will ya?”

I don’t mind kids in Mass… I expect them. But I also expect parents to recall that their little Johnnie’s and Suzie’s are NOT the center of the world and not everyone enjoys children (yep, we do have Catholics that don’t care much for a bunch of noisy, rambunctious kids- my grandparents are a couple).


Due to our work schedules, my wife and I are only together at mass about once a month. The rest of the time, each of us is on our own with the kids. I very seldom have any discipline issues, although I’ve had one or two instances where I needed to take them out back to settle them down.

We’ve seen some horribly out-of-line children at Church, and in each instance neither parent seems to have any control…not that they actually try to exert any. The worst example we saw had the kids literally climbing over the pews, yelling, fighting and laying down to sleep. The four kids ranged in age from about 4 to 14 or so, and each of the kids exhibited each of the above behaviors. The parents weren’t much better, spending most of the mass with their arms around one another, smiling and oblivious to the world, and even spending a few minutes after the sign of peace literally making out with the father doing a bit of groping on the mother. I asked one of the ushers if they could do something about it, but they seemed confounded by the situation. Several people around them made comments and/or loud noises, but the couple remained oblivious. They had their parents and another couple (I’m guessing the kids’ aunt & uncle) with them. These other two couples struggled to exert control over the kids, despite the mother’s occasional weak protests that these were her children and she’d take care of them. One parishioner finally went over and made a quiet but clearly quite angry comment to the mother (the father was clearly beyond concern), after which the aunt & uncle grabbed the two youngest kids and took them several pews away, while the grandparents separated the older children. As soon as mass ended, the four sane adults rushed the children out, likely fearing some sort of reprisal for the whole display. Thankfully, we’ve not seen these devout specimens since.


Kids are like sponges and very smart. Get down on your knees and explain to them who God is in the best way you know how. Let them ask all the questions they want and answer them. If you need help with answers, pull out the bible! I have three kids and once I took my too youngest back in the crying room. All the kids were running around back in there! I thought to myself, “Hmmm…if they start running around and playing, they’ll never be ready to go out there and sit in the pews!” So, instead we sat in the middle near the end to take our youngest out if necessary. I’ve noticed people without kids huffing and puffing and rolling their eyes! But, God loves all and encourages you to bring your kids to him! I think even if you don’t get every detail on the homily or scripture at least you receive the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MASS—THE EUCHARIST! At some point I taught my kids the word “respect” and began to sit up closer. Third row to be exact. They seem to pay attention better especially when they can see what is going on! I talk to the kids about respecting our Lord and of course mom and dad. They are rewarded for good behavior! Well, after all that hard work teaching them it has paid off! We even attended a Latin Mass for 90 minutes, the kids were FANTASTIC! There were no other kids there and the adults came up to compliment us about our kids good behavior! Teach the kids it is expect from God and you and they will learn to respect. We also would bible study and once in Mass my son recognized the readings because it had been about a story we had just studied the week prior! How cool is that? I was impressed he was actually listening!!! Parent’s don’t give up! Hold strong together and pray for his strength and in due time, it will be a piece of cake!

Hope that helps!
God bless!


I am still feeling guilty because a young family with four very rowdy kids drive me nuts.

They generally sit in the Narthax (which is our cry room) with all their kids. I usually go out to nurse the baby out there.

Our Narthax was a stupid idea for a cry room that some nitwit had. There’s a huge Baptismal font at kid level, stairs, people coming through constantly for the the bathroom, arriving late for Mass, leaving early, kids being brought out. There’s stairs and two sets of doors, plants, statues, etc. There’s nothing there conducive to calming or controlling antsy or upset kids. :mad:

This family has pretty wild boys–I really think it’s more of the boys’ temperament than the parenting. But, the mom is one of those really gentle women who doesn’t really handle wild boys well.

Anyway I ran into the dad coming back from changing the baby’s diaper and I dropped broad hints about how nice it is sometimes to leave kids at home and come separately to Mass. It was totally selfish. The kids drive me nuts. :o

My husband does all the disciplining at Mass, though. I just use the Mom glare, the “shhh” and the head shake. It works on the older kids, but dh takes the disruptive ones out.


I have to admit that sometimes DH is a willing accomplice in kidnanigans. The four month old has discovered babbling. DH finds this to be cute. DS’s find it to be hilarious because they know they’re supposed to be quiet in Church. They know that tiny DD’s age exception means she can make noise. This, in their minds, is quite entertaining.

Fortunately, we have developed in them a quick response to long distance non-verbal communication. This is necessary since I am in the choir. They sit in the front row, giving me quick access if tiny DD needs to nurse. It also, years ago allowed me to extend the “long-arm of the law”…literally. That translates now into giving them the “You better stopit 'cause I’m watching you” mom “EYE”. They respond immediately to the “EYE”, angling back to the altar and positioning prayerful hands in front of chests. The two DS’s are eleven and nine. The older of the two often serves. The younger wants to, but still has micro-fidgets (ones I but no one else notice).

Honestly, Dad does a fine job considering I’m in the choir and he has charge of the infant, toddler dd, and 9 yr ds. Yes, I am but a few feet away, but give credit where it is due.


I agree with this post. My husband and I have two small boys and the minute we get to the pew, our little boy starts to fuss. My older son is getting better, thank goodness. We have a “gathering space” but no cry room and everyone lets their kids run around, so it’s fun for the boys to go out there. I refuse to let them get down and run, though. But it is a Catholic mass, so it’s only right for there to be kids there. Most of the dirty looks we get are from older folks with older kids and I wonder if they’ve forgotten what it was like?? Also, I’m sure most of these people that complain would say they are “pro-life”, but pro life does not end with birth. It’s being pro-kid, pro-teen, pro-adult, pro-elderly, even if they do act up at times! :slight_smile: We take our boys out if they’re being disruptive, but we definitely don’t want to stay home because that sets a bad example for them.


We used to have a crying room at church, but when our current priest arrived in our parish nearly 4 years ago, he immediately closed it (it is now the piety stall). His words were to the effect of “who says that children are not welcome in God’s house!” and “instead of giving dirty looks to the parents who are struggling with their children, why don’t you help them?”

The next thing I knew, someone was holding my then-baby girl so that I could focus on the Mass. My children are now nearly 5 and nearly 1. We sit near the front so that they can see what is going on, and I explain the Mass and readings to my daughter.

She also receives a reward (a treat from the milk bar) if she behaves well.

I must say that each family has its own tolerance level for behaviour, and I think we sit somewhere in the middle.

Since our priest arrived, we have had a HUGE increase in the number of families attending Mass, which has got to be great!


I think children need to learn how to behave in church. I don’t mind seeing children, but I don’t want to hear them. I especially don’t need a three year old taking his pants off and running around during communion. Or screaming during the homily. Or throwing toys during the procession. Even the priest has called the child out, during mass. And what do the parents do? NOTHING. :mad: I don’t think that child is what Jesus meant by “to enter the kingdom of Heaven you have to be like a child.” That kid makes me glad I’m childfree.

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