Today I’m sharing our family’s method for getting kids to sit still in church. We’ve been using this unconventional approach for 11 years and it has worked very well for our family. I am not judging any parent who chooses to teach their child in a different way. As a parent, I have always liked hearing lots of different ideas and then coming up with what works best for my family. I hope this idea will give you something to think about and will be one resource to help you come up with your own ways to teach your children.
In my church families sit together in a chapel for the first hour and 10 minutes of worship services. When our kids were very little we would bring a huge bag full of stuff to keep them entertained. I started bringing the “church bag” to worship services because that is what I had always seen other moms with young kids do.
By the time I had three kids, ages 4, 2 and newborn, the “church bag” had gotten a little out of control. Our weekly experience in sacrament meeting had turned into a three-ring circus with crayons strewn everywhere, cheerios crushed in the carpet and the 4 and 2 year old fighting over whose turn it was to play with the Etch-a-Sketch.
I still remember the day my husband and I decided to make a change. After a long sacrament meeting of trying to deal with the “three-ring circus” and a bag full of food, crayons, books and toys, we found ourselves scrambling to pick up the mess. It was so bad that we had to go and get the vacuum out of the custodial closet to attempt to get the ground in Cheerios out of the carpet. What made matters worse was that the building where we met was brand new and we felt really bad for the mess we made.
Tim and I looked at each and knew that we were not on the path to successfully teaching our children how to worship during church. We went home and had a long discussion about what we could do. We decided that maybe if we only brought a few things or even just one thing that would help.
The next few weeks we allowed the four and two year old to bring a pad of paper and a pencil. It worked okay at first but then the pencil broke or the pad of paper was forgotten at home or they were fighting over the color of pencil they wanted to use. Tim and I looked at each other again and decided we needed to find another way.
Tim was tired of wrangling kids, breaking up fights and cleaning up messes in the chapel. He told me we needed to ditch the church bag and not let them bring anything, except their scriptures, to church. We needed to teach our kids to sit still and listen, not be entertained. At first, I thought his idea was way too drastic. Who in their right mind could expect a two year old to sit without anything to do? I thought we would never make it through church, but he is good at convincing me to try new things so the next week we went for it.
It was rough at first and it wasn’t easy at all, but slowly church started to be a lot more fulfilling for us. The three-ring circus was gone. The panic that it was time to leave for church and the church bag wasn’t packed went away. Our kids learned that they needed to eat breakfast because we weren’t bringing food to church. They learned to open the hymn book and sing. They weren’t perfect, but Tim’s idea was slowly starting to work.
It’s been over 11 years since we made the decision to not bring anything to entertain our children during church and we have never looked back. We have stayed consistent, which I think has been the key factor in our success. The only time we have strayed from our decision is twice a year when we have a two-hour meeting with a large group of congregations. We like to go early to get a good seat and we allow our kids to bring a church magazine to read while we wait for the meeting to start. When the meeting starts, the kids know that the magazines go under the pew and it’s time to listen.
We are now reaping the benefits of over a decade of implementing this practice.
We Sit By Each Other
Because our kids know how to sit still in church, we get to sit by each other. For the past 6 or 7 years, Tim and I have been able to enjoy sitting next to each other during church instead of spacing ourselves out between kids. I love being by him having his arm around me as we worship.
Our Kids Are Learning
There are lots of times that we have returned from church and one of my kids has remarked on something they learned during sacrament meeting. Had they been busy drawing, reading a magazine, or doing something else, they would not have had these experiences.
We Are Teaching Life Skills
I think sitting still is an important life skill that children need to learn. My kids are normal, outgoing kids, but they have learned that there is a time and a place for everything and church and other similar functions are places to be quiet, listen, and learn.
Our time together as a family worshiping at church is not perfect. I still have kids who bug each other, who blow their nose constantly and who fall asleep, but I am grateful we didn’t sell our kids short. They have the capacity and the ability to learn and not just sit around waiting to be entertained.
How do you teach your kids to sit still? Share in the comments what works for you.
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