How do you make your children behave in Mass?

I get asked this question constantly! I'm not saying my kids are perfect, but generally speaking, they are pretty well behaved in Mass. I thought I would share my observations and things we've put into practice over the years- the things that DO work and the things that DON'T.

Lets start with DON'T:

*Don't give your kids sweets or drinks in Mass. Ever. No food, no drink. Most Masses go for 45 minutes - 1 hour. They won't starve or die of thirst in this time! They also won't leave sticky finger marks, spills or distract other children. The church is not the place for food and drink.

*Don't let them play with your phone or other gadgets. This is training them that they need to be entertained.

*Don't allow other (often well meaning) church-goers to hold conversations with your children in the church. Politely explain to these people that you are happy to speak to them outside after Mass, but you are trying to teach your children to be silent in the church.

*Don't let your children leave their seat. Children being allowed to run up and down the aisle or near the altar during Mass is something I find totally unacceptable. If they don't comply they need to be taken out of the church into a quiet area where the Mass can still be heard. Don't take them outside and let them play, that is counterproductive.

*Don't allow your children to attend "Sunday School". A child will never learn to sit still and be quiet if they are allowed to go out of the church 10 minutes into the Mass to do colouring in and often "soft" teachings. Keep them with you, where they belong.

Now for the DO's:

*Do give your children a solid grounding of their faith at home so that they have some sort of understanding of what they are doing at Mass and why. Set a good example in the church - genuflect, whisper or be silent, move in a posture of respect. Children need to see faith in action.

*Do remind them of the rules before entering the church if necessary. Children need to know what is expected of them.

* Do reward them for good behaviour in the church. Suitable rewards for us are praise, a trip to the shop, a special outing etc.

*Do remove your child/ren from the church if they are misbehaving and refuse to stop. Don't make this an easy way out, they are to stand or sit quietly somewhere as a punishment. If the child is crying or noisy I would take them out of earshot of the rest of the congregation but would never let them run and play. The idea is that you make the idea of being in the church more desirable than being stuck outside in punishment mode.

*Do allow them to take religious books into the church. If they start to get restless, this can be a welcome relief.

*Do sit right up the front! What? I hear you say- my kids are so naughty, we always sit down the back for a quick exit! Sitting near the front means they can see what is happening, feel more involved and are less likely to misbehave.

*Do sit between children who are misbehaving, however you can separate them. I often do this still as I see little developments and lack of concentration.

*Do, if at all possible (and I know for some it isn't possible) have a helper. Whether it is your husband, a friend or relative it is so helpful to have someone else, especially if you need to take one child out and leave the others.

As you can probably tell, I have fairly strong feelings about how children should behave in Mass and I see parents constantly getting it wrong. For me, this is all a very necessary part of giving due respect, reverence and worship to our God who deserves the best from all His children.

"There is a proverb; a boy will keep the course he has begun; even when he grows old, he will not leave it".
Proverbs 22:6

Questions? Ask away!


Words instead of pictures. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Therese R said...

Sorry. My daughter was signed in on blogger so I deleted the comment and will post again.

We do many of these things too. I hadn't thought of not letting other people talk to our children though.

Anonymous said...

Oh that all parents felt the way you do about teaching their children manners. I commend your efforts in teaching your children in a positive and clear manner. Blessings to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,
I found this page via your weaving instructions (thanks so much).
Your do's and dont's are exactly what I practised with my three children. My husband being a deacon he only seldom had the chance to sit with us, therefore I had to teach them how to behave at church on my own. Especially the talking habit of so many people at church nowadays is always getting me angry.
Best wishes from Germany

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