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CHILDREN IN CHURCH?

How can you keep them quiet?

I recently posted this question on my email newsletter. I know you will be blessed by some of the responses on this subject. You will read differing and opposing ideas which makes it interesting. You can take what you feel will help you in your situation. Nancy Campbell

Drawing Boards

I find that small drawing boards, the ones with a magnetic pen attached with a string are great for keeping little ones quiet in church. They can quietly and easily erase their drawings, ready to draw new ones. There are no crayons to drop and roll under the chairs/pews, and no arguing over whose paper/pens/stickers/crayons belongs to whom! You don’t have to worry about bringing paper and the mess that goes along that! And no crinkly, tearing noises!

We also have our children bring their story Bibles to read while we are looking up verses in our big Bibles.

ERIKA MITCHELL
Troy, Montana, USA
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Prepare Beforehand

While getting ready for church, we talk about how to prepare our minds, hearts and bodies to be in God’s house. My three year old fills in the blank … “quiet, reverent, which means respectful, we pray … etc.” Sometimes she throws in anecdotes about how she’s not to play with her sister during the liturgy. We don’t roughhouse before church and there’s no TV.

In recent weeks, I’ve begun looking up the Scripture readings for the Sunday, telling the story, and/or printing out something for my three-year-old to color regarding the reading. For instance, last Sunday was about the Prodigal Son. I read them that parable and printed out a picture of the Prodigal Son for Kayla to color. She is then familiar with what’s being read at church and is excited to be a part of it!

Additionally, once we get to the parking lot of the church, we talk again about how we are “quiet, prayerful, respectful of God’s home, etc.”

Something else that has been really helpful to me is to leave all the toys and snacks/drinks at home. We used to bring them to church, until Kayla was about two years. Do we take snacks, fictional books and drinks with us while we prepare to receive Holy Communion? No! We pray, sing, give thanks and prepare our hearts. Why would we want our children to behave any differently? I decided to put away the “stuff”, bought the girls a book that is basically liturgy for children, with pictures, and expected them to behave properly. You know what? Kayla does. She’s awesome in church! She knows what’s expected of her.

Don’t get me wrong! There are times when I have to take Kayla outside because she’s behaving improperly, or Emily, because she’s being too loud. My minister even suggested taking a break half way through the service to let the girls walk around outside, if need be. But, for the most part, it’s been much easier than I thought it would be.

JILL MARY MACHADO
Santa Rosa, California, USA
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Daily Worship

The biggest blessing we have found is regular, daily family worship! We teach our children to sit and behave appropriately at home! We require our children to sit still and fold their hands during family worship (usually 1/2 hour) and during church (at least one hour). Ask your husband to lead in this and pray for the Lord to guide him.

We also teach our children to be quiet during other parts of the day in short periods. These training times help them in church because they are accustomed to sitting still already. We know it is not easy for children to be still and quiet when young. We pray with and for our children, talk to them about the importance of showing our Lord reverence and reward them with lots of PRAISE when they obey! Then we like to give them time to run and be loud (outside) after they have obeyed!

HEATHER TULLY
Delaware, Ohio, USA
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Sit in the Front

Would you like to know my greatest secret for keeping children well-behaved in church? Sitting in the front seats! I found that when my children were right under the eye of the preacher, and where the anointing is strongest, they were always better behaved.

Many parents sit with their children toward the back of the church thinking it will be easier to keep them in check. However, the back of the church is the worst place. There are many distractions which divert the children more easily. They can also see what everyone else is doing in front of them which add more distractions again.

It might sound a little scary, but give it a try. I am sure you will be amazed at the difference.

NANCY CAMPBELL
Primm Springs, Tennessee, USA
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Cuddle Time

My five and three year olds love to cuddle. I let them cuddle with me in church and gently rub their back. If they start to talk, I whisper, “shh.” It works great. Our two-year-old is a bit rowdy. We are still figuring that one out. The eight-year-old takes her toddler Bible to church and loves looking at the pictures. She amazes us by telling us what she learned in church. She really was listening the whole time!

Our children love to sing so worship time has been easy. We all sing at home daily and they carry this practice to church.

MICHELLE STAHNKE
Rock Springs, Wyoming, USA
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Watching the Adults

All our children sit with us in church. They sing and dance during worship and sit quietly during prayer and sermon time. This was achieved by practicing at home where we turn on a sermon CD and sit on the couch and listen.

For church they each have a quiet bag. The older ones have: notebook, crayons, pencils, pencil sharpener, trace the letters papers, Bible coloring book and Bible. In Hannah's bag (age 1.5) she has a blanket to sit on the floor, crayons, paper, snack, quiet books (zip the zipper, open the flap etc.), and a few small toys.

Grace and Theo (age 4 and 6) sit in their chairs and color or read and Hannah sits on her blanket on the floor (or nurses in the sling). The sling is also a lifesaver for church. When Hannah is tired I can stand in the back and bounce and nurse her to sleep without missing anything. She can then nap in the sling while I take notes on the sermon.

The biggest benefit of having them in church is they are learning how to follow God by watching the adults. At a recent prayer meeting, all the adults were given a slip of paper and asked to write down several names of unsaved friends in order to pray for their salvation. My children stopped their coloring, asked for paper and wrote down names of people they knew who needed to be saved. Grace still gets her paper out every night and prays for those people by name.

HILLARY CRANDALL
Denver, Colorado, USA
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Reward for Points

Every Sunday each child starts with three points. If they are quiet, sit still and don't cause any disturbances with their siblings they can keep the points. After they have accumulated nine points they get a reward when we get home.

MELANIE MARTIN
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, USA
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Teach Self Discipline

I cannot count the number of times that I have been grateful for having children, from “pre-toddlers” on up, who have learned how to sit quietly in church, at swimming lessons of older siblings, in restaurants, in waiting lines (offices, store checkouts) etc. We have seven children, now ranging in age from 7 to 21 years. I regularly have strangers comment in how well behaved my children are, often marveling that “My Johnny would never sit that still for so long!” I think some of them believe that my children are that way naturally. They have not seen the hours of training that have led to this success. Anyone who is committed and consistent can also yield the fruit of self-disciplined children.

The most important thing I do is to practice at home on an almost-daily basis. This allows me to discipline the children according to our standards--something much easier to do in the privacy of our home than in the middle of a “quiet” setting.

I start teaching the child to sit still and quietly on my lap when he is between 5-7 months old. I begin with shorter periods of time (5-10 minutes) and build up from there.  Generally, our practice sessions do not last longer than 30 minutes, but on occasion they have gone longer.  You don’t need to practice for 1 ½ hours even though you may need the child to last this long in certain situations! If they learn the basics of self-discipline, they can extend it for as long as needed, within reason.

We have found family devotion time to be good times for this training. You can also do it while listening to a favorite radio program or while reading aloud a book. I believe it is important to do it at a time when there is very limited visual distraction for the child.

Throughout this practice time we do not allow the child to have any books or toys. This is because we do not allow them during church (or similar settings) as we have found them to cause problems, distract others, and drop on the floor and so on.  Sometimes we allow them a “cuddly” to hold, but only during “real” situations, not during practice sessions.

It is important to consistently discipline the children during practice when they will not sit still and/or quietly. Even “happy” noises can be disruptive when in a setting where all else is silent. Do this using whatever effective methods you and your husband have agreed upon. In our home, this ranges from a light squeeze of their body, forcefully holding their wiggling parts or smacking a hand, arm, or leg so that it stings. It depends on the child, and also where they are in the training process as to what corrective measure you will need to take. It is also important to praise the child at the end of the practice session.

Another important thing is that I require the child to sit on my lap (or if older, in a chair beside me) at all times.  When I am in a real-life situation he knows that he will not have freedom to get down and walk around, but rather will still have to sit in my lap or on a chair beside me (or be held by me if I need to stand). Again, praise is vital, because I am requiring my child to do something that does not come naturally.

It can also be helpful and important (for during meetings, visiting others’ homes, etc.) to train the child (as outlined above) to stay within a confined area, such as a child's blanket. Once trained, wherever you take the blanket, they child will stay on this area.

As an aside, it is tempting for parents to sandwich a child between them and become “bookends”.  My husband and I are always careful to sit side by side, with children who need more attention on our laps or sitting on the “outside” of us. This is an additional, subtle way to let the children know that we are united.

It is a process that requires dedication and consistency, but the rewards are innumerable!

SUE DERR
Mant Amy, Maryland, USA
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Sticker Books

We have a busy two-year-old daughter who is tough to 'settle down'. Sticker books work well for her. I bring along a small bag with all kinds of stickers in it (old address labels, miscellaneous stickers that have come in the mail, or various stickers that I have purchased). About halfway through the service she is ready for momma to pull them out. I peel them off the backing one at a time, hand them to her and she gets to choose where they go. Luckily she hasn't decided they go all over the pew … yet!

HARMONY KOBILKA
Hudson, Wisconsin, USA

Eliminate the Distractions

It has been our habit from the arrival of our first child (a very lively boy to say the least!) to train our children from birth to attend public worship with us as a family. They have all settled easily into a one-day-in-seven routine. Despite having certain patterns for nap, sleep and even feeding times, all our children have adapted to the Lord's Day being different. Of course, in the first few months they usually sleep or nurse their way through the service.

When they become more alert, they sit on my knee--no toys or sweets! Apart from wanting to teach them a reverence for the Lord's house these things only become a distraction both to us and to others as they make noises with them or throw them down in a "throw and pick me up game.”

If, during these months, the baby is noisy I take him out to the cry room. This is a sound-proof room where I can both see and hear the service. Baby is not allowed down to play on the floor and it is here where he learns to sit as still as possible on my knee and I encourage quietness. Usually by one year old, all the children (even our lively boy) have been able to stay in for most of the service which lasts for almost two hours.

Around the one-year-old mark, Daddy takes over the supervising. Baby sits on his knee, and if he has to be taken out, is disciplined and brought straight back in. With all five of our children this has only had to happen two or three times. From 18 months old the children have sat on their own seat beside Daddy and are taught to close their eyes in prayer and hold their Psalter to sing which they love to do!

An aid to this whole process is the baby is part of family worship in the home every evening where he can be taught to sit quietly. I have found that having the baby seated on my knee in the same position facing forward each time, helps as well.

I can testify that all the work pays off! My husband and I can sit through two services every Lord's Day, morning and evening, with our five children without almost any distraction. Of course, the process is ongoing; they need to be continually encouraged to apply themselves in worship. But, what a joy and privilege to worship the Lord together as a family.

JANE DUNLOP

Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland
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Take Notes

Recently I read about a great method for training children to take notes in church. For the youngest/non-readers, they are to listen to the pastor and draw a picture of something he is talking about.

For young readers/writers, they take a word the pastor says, write it down and then doodle around it.

For older readers/writers, they write a sentence or quote the pastor says and doodle around it. As they get older they write more and more of what the pastor says.

This not only occupies their hands, but also their minds and hearts. They will pay even closer attention to the sermon if Daddy asks them to show their work to the family on Sunday afternoon.

LISA METZGER
Matthews, North Carolina, USA
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Persevere

It wasn’t until we had four children that we learned the blessing of keeping them in church. Our six and four year old daughters learnt to sit quietly and listen to the (sometimes very long) messages and the six-year-old would take notes.

As our family grew, we taught them to either sit quietly on someone’s knee, or to sleep on a rug on the floor, depending on their age. We would sometimes let the little ones color in or look at a book, but as they got older, they learned to sit and listen. Giving constant training in the early years brings them to the place where they accept that sitting quietly in church is “what we do.”

It is more difficult for children to accept this concept once they are older. Training right from the start is the best option. However, it can be done with perseverance and prayer. I do believe that the rod of correction is something that still needs to be adhered to.

We have raised ten beautiful children. They have all been a blessing, and whilst they made the most of the outdoors and other pursuits, they were generally really great at being quiet in church.

MARGARET HARTNETT
Te Puke, New Zealand
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Composition Book

We have a composition book for each child and several pencils with added eraser heads that go in our "church bag". These books are used during sermon time. They are allowed to draw in them, and as they get older, they write in them too.

LORETTA WIILSON
Chandler, Indiana, USA
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Training Sessions

We prepared by having "training sessions" at home. We had everyone sit on the couch for say, five minutes, (or a length of time we felt sure they could do) without talking or excessive wiggling. They were to focus on a particular person or object in the room. At the end of the time, we praised them for sitting still and quiet. Sometimes we make it a game to see who can be the most still and quiet. We gradually lengthened the time to simulate the time they would be listening to a sermon.

We don't allow coloring during the sermons because we have found that it absorbs all of their attention, and can become a distraction to those around them as they rustle around for certain colors or borrow from their sibling, etc. But, for those who are able, we give a small reward for taking notes of the sermon.

The older children are required to stay awake and keep their eyes up toward the pastor, not fidgeting or slouching. Our littlest ones usually sit on our laps, and become still after a few minutes. We have found that toys lose their charm too quickly, and we end up exhausting and distracting ourselves trying to entertain them. After the music, Grandpa likes to pass mints to everyone, which is something they look forward to.

Teaching our children this kind of self-discipline means we can also take them to weddings, funerals, concerts, plays, and a myriad of formal military functions, knowing they can act appropriately. For specific events, we prepare them in advance by describing what they should expect to see, and often by simulating the situation. For example, at their father's recent Change of Command ceremony, (a very formal event where our family would be escorted in and seated front and center) we simulated how to walk, sit and stand by rehearsing it in the yard.

After church, they are instructed to make their way back to a particular bench in the foyer. They can visit with people on their way, but by the time the parents are finished visiting, they should be gathered together. This prevents rowdiness, looking for lost children, interrupting adult conversation, etc. We have found that people like to see them sitting there and will visit with them while they wait. For this we give a small reward.

As we train our children at home, they will become good ambassadors for Christ to the world!

ANN HINES
Willow Springs, Missouri, USA
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Odds and Ends

We pack a bag of odd things for church. Our son who is 17 months rarely plays with "toys".  He likes real things.

Currently the bag consists of twist ties, a washed old Vaseline jar (he's into opening and shutting things right now), a couple of jewelry boxes he can put the lids off and on several times, a zip purse, a very small stuffed bear that he can put in things in and play peek-a-boo with a hanky, a couple of board books, a toy car, a garland you put on a Christmas tree, a zip lock bag, a small cloth bag he can put things in and out, a pedometer that doesn't work anymore, some fish that link together, "Tangles" that come apart and can be twisted to make things, a tongue depressor, a small piece of sandpaper, a piece of fake fur like a fabric swatch, a roll of masking tape, a couple of clothes pins, a small cardboard box, and last of all, a toothbrush (he loves to brush his teeth!)

We don’t take all this at one time. But odds and ends you might throw away will occupy a toddler for a long time.

Last church service he occupied himself with a long narrow jewelry box and a tongue depressor the whole hour and a half!  He is a very active child but he is kept fascinated with REAL things.

ANGIE ROUNDS
Creston, Iowa, USA
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Sign Language

When a child is able to point at things and nod the head in agreement, he/she is ready to use simplified sign language. He can do this before he can communicate with spoken language. Rather than all the frantic "whispering" that goes on among family members during a church service, why not have everyone learn a few basic signs? Signs such as "no," "yes," and "toilet" are done with one hand and can be done discreetly without distracting anyone. Children generally love to learn sign language. An excellent starting place for information on baby sign language is www.babysigns.com

LINDA MARTIN
Rainbow, California, USA
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