Reverence... doesn't have to be hard to teach.
You ask yourself, "why am I even bothering to go to church?"
What's the point when you miss most everything and you're wrestling a
stinker child the entire time? Let me be the first to remind you that despite your struggles it really is worth it. That's all well and good, but we don't want to have church time equate a battle of the wills.
I have many people that ask me how I get my kids to be so reverent in church.
Please don't misunderstand, I'm not bragging. Nor am I saying my kids are heavenly angels 100% or even 90% of the time. They're regular children, just like everyone else's. Meaning, they get into trouble every day.
I am also not saying I am the master of parenting. Ha!
I AM saying it's possible to teach your children reverence (or quiet, to start with) without bribing, rewards, or death threats.
Here are the reverence rules:
- No toys
- No paper and coloring things*
- No food*
- No more than one warning
- Don't reward bad choices
Okay, here's how it goes down.
Don't bring toys to church. NONE.
That is all. Do not bring toys. They do not need them. Honest.
How will they learn to listen to the service (or their teachers) if they are always playing with toys? I do NOT want to get into a debate about ADD/ADHD and all that goodness. Both my brothers and myself have these and trust me when I say, we went without toys and we were still happy and able to listen.
Same for coloring supplies
Ditch the coloring goodies. Leave them at home.
*There is a point you can re-introduce these. We'll talk about those in a minute.
Food is unnecessary!
Don't have your bag filled with fruit snacks, crackers, cheese, bananas, etc, etc.
If your child is over the age of 3 they don't need snacks at church. So don't bring any. The only exception to this is if your child has a real medical reason to have food accessible. A real one.
*If they're under the age of 3, bring only the minimal amount and not a bajillion choices. One or two things max, and a drink.
For instance, Teddy Bear is 19 months old now. We bring a sippy cup and a small snack bag of cereal or goldfish. ONE snack bag. It's not even all the way full. I only bring it out when it's necessary.
They can sit in your lap or sit next to you. Those are the ONLY two options!
If they've over a certain age/size, then sitting in your lap would not be a good idea. My 6, 8, or 9 year old in my lap? I don't think so.
- You don't let them get down to walk around by your feet.
- You don't let them sit down on the floor.
- You don't let them walk around the aisles or crawl around the aisles.
I do allow my children to stand on the benches until they reach an age/height that makes that inappropriate. Usually around 2.
One warning ONLY!
This shouldn't be a wrestling match. If they are misbehaving in ANY way (crying, whining, talking loudly, wrestling trying to get down, etc) you give them stern, but quiet direction. No threats, no warnings, no counting, no chances.
Here are some examples of things to say/do:
- Tap them on the shoulder.
- Tap them on the shoulder + "the look"
- Tap them on the shoulder + a silent Shhhhh
- "No more crying."
- "Stop whining"
- "You can sit next to me or sit in my lap. Those are your choices. You have 10 seconds to pick or I'll pick for you." **Count the 10 seconds in your head only.**
- "It's time to be quiet"
- "Stop. Now."
You only say it once!!
One time. Uno. Not two, not three, not one and a half. ONE. TIME.
Well, what happens when they do it again?
Pick them up as gently as the situation allows, and without fuss you remove them from the chapel. If they are too big to be carried, you hold their hand and lead them out. If they're too old for that, walk them out in any way you see appropriate but the least disruptive to those around you.
Even if you warned them 5 minutes ago, you remove them now. If it was significantly longer than 5 minutes, I'll leave it up to your discretion, just keep an eye on it. Don't let it become a pattern or habit. If it happens at regular intervals, drop the hammer after the first reminder no matter the time between the first offense and the second.
My recommendation: until their good behavior has been consistent I would remove them even if they didn't misbehave for 30 minutes. Then, when they have been consistent, I'd become more relaxed.
NOW... this is the important bit.
You've just removed your child from the chapel because of poor choices.
Do NOT set them down to walk/crawl around!
Do NOT talk with others in the hallway!
- Find a quiet corner or empty classroom. Preferably with a chair or table. Don't leave the church. Stay inside.
- Set them down on the chair (a table will do in a pinch).
- Say, "we will go back in when you are ready to stop ____."
- Do not say more.
Do not make eye contact. Do not engage with them at all. At all. If they get down, pick them up and set them back down. Do not say a word no matter how many times they get off the chair or how upsetting it can be.
Do not show them any type of emotion in your face, eyes, body, or voice. Just be calm and neutral. Take deep breaths and maybe find your own nearby spot to be quiet in.
Why are we doing this?
The reward for their good behavior is to go back into the chapel and sit down with their family.
If you let them run around or are talking to other people the reward for their behavior is to get out of the chapel and have fun. Not the message you want to send.
When they've stopped crying or whining for a sufficient amount of time then come back in. Look happy and calm. Sit back down and enjoy your church service.
My general rule of thumb: 1 minute per year they are old -- I'll do longer if I feel they're not quite done. It does need to be that whole amount of time.
For instance, Sweet Cheeks is 4. If she were to be set on the chair, I'd have her be quiet for at least 4 minutes. If she gets down at 3.5 minutes, or starts crying again at 3.5 minutes (or any other time), her time starts over when she stops crying or sits back down. No exceptions. It must be 4 minutes straight.
Repeat as many times as is necessary.
Here are some more things you may find helpful.
- Sit up towards the front.
- Don't sit next to their friends.
- Don't sit next or near (in front of or behind) families with children that are rowdy and disruptive.
When my eldest was 4 we once made the mistake of sitting near a family with a boy his age. His parents literally had a backpack FULL of toys and a backpack FULL of food. No joke. TWO BACKPACKS full of stuff for their one child. My son saw that and went berserk. Of course he wanted those toys and food! I did too, and I'm an adult!
You can sit near other rowdy kids or friends when your kids have been able to sit through the whole service for a few months without having to be removed.
Now, this isn't because we're better than those children or parents. We're not. This is for your children to be able to develop their own discipline without having to work even harder than usual for it. Sitting still and quiet can be a real challenge for some. Let's make it as easy as possible on them.
- When your kids are older and have been reverent for some time (more than a few months), then you may bring a FEW sheets of paper and a small set of writing utensils. One pencil, one pen, or a FEW crayons/colored pencils (not the whole box).
My children receive these items after the sacrament portion of the service is over. This could be your communion, or other really important part of the service. Or about 1/3 through.
I don't even allow these items to be used every Sunday.
If they slip into bad habits they are removed.
- When the older children need a drink of water or to go to the bathroom they are to leave quietly go about their business and return promptly. If it's been some time I either send an older child, or my husband or I go to check on them. If they're caught playing, talking, or dawdling, they will now have to be taken to the bathroom/water fountain for the next month.
[Tweet "Teaching children to be reverent is easier than I thought!"]
I realize that some of you may find this approach strict and even mean. You're allowed to believe what you believe. I, however, disagree with your disagreement. ;)
I have used this approach with each of my children with great success and without a ton of work. My rowdiest child was calm after two Sundays of "work." I haven't had to take him out ever again.
I also see the fruits of my labor in other areas. When we go to a doctor or dentist appointment, if we have any meeting where they are required to sit still and be quiet, they can do it and it's not a power struggle. When they're at their sports practice, dance class, they are usually the only kid paying attention to their coach or teacher. They pay attention in their homeschool co-op and aren't chattering away with their friends when they should be working or listening.
Most important to me, my children listen to the church service, they listen in their Sunday School classes and actively participate. That is how children go from learning to sit still and be quiet, to learning to show true reverence.
This is how they are given the opportunity to learn the gospel, grow closer to their Father in Heaven and the Savior. To learn truths that will bless their lives forever. That is the biggest win of all.
This is perfect for pinning!!
Let me know how it goes!
Have any questions? Success stories? Please share them below!