Monday, June 15, 2009


Rowdy Vs Reverent

How do you think children (of all ages) should behave in church? (And it doesn't JUST have to be about church - concert, play, recital, etc)
What is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable according to age? What are your expectations?
How do you communicate those expectations?
What are the consequences?

I'm pretty excited about this.........because I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

I typed up my thoughts on Friday.
When I reread them, I thought......."Wow! I am harsh! I'm a demanding witch!"

But then my friend Shirley emailed me her thoughts
and I thought, "Wow! We're BOTH demanding witches!"
She expressed my thoughts exactly - onlly better!
Shirley has a lot of street cred!
She's the mom of several (5-6) SUCCESSFUL adults.
By successful, I mean they are married, employed and raising their families in the gospel.
I'm pretty sure they all went on missions and were married in the temple. They remain a close-knit family despite Shirley having outrageous expectations ;).

She is a former seminary teacher and nursery leader (among other things.)
And her husband serves as Patriarch.
When she isn't visiting various grandchildren, she lives in Florida. I can't say enough about how awesome she is!!!!

With that introduction,
here's a guest post from Shirley:

Oh wow! This is one of my biggest complaints. Mormons, as a whole, seem to be the rudest, irreverent people around. I've been in many other churches. I have never seen anything like what we have in ours.

A few weeks after we joined the Church, Boyd K. Packer came for stake conference. Before the meeting started, he stood up and said, "Sit down and shut up! Where do you think you are?" He then spend 10 - 15 minutes talking (actually ranting) about how we need to use the foyer for visiting, but when we come through the chapel doors, shh, be still. When he spoke later in the meeting, he went back to the idea of reverence. I wish he would speak about it again in general conference.

Our ward sounds like a train station until about 2 minutes after the meeting should have started. There is no time to sit and enjoy the organ music. It can't be heard over all the noise. I read a talk a long time ago about people who wouldn't think to steal anything actually are stealing others' reflection time, sacred time.

I know there are exceptions, but most children can learn to sit quietly long before they are two. They don't need a backpack of toys and a picnic lunch to do so. Sacrament meeting is only 70 minutes long. No one is going to starve or die of thirst in that period of time.

I expected my children to sit fairly quietly. Sometimes they moved from one lap to another, but that was about it. They were not allowed to stand on the seats, or turn around to play with the people behind them. They were allowed to write on the program after sacrament was passed, look at family pictures from my wallet, play with their dad's watch, and that's about it. When we met in the afternoon, they were allowed to curl up in my lap and go to sleep. If they were old enough for nursery, they were old enough to do without cheerios.

From the time they learned to walk (9 - 11 months), if they had to be taken out of sacrament meeting, they were never put down! They learned very quickly that it was much better to sit quietly than to be held in Mom's vice grip facing an empty wall.

When my grandson was little, my son used a different approach. For every minute he had to be out of sacrament meeting, he had to go back into the empty chapel and sit before he could go to nursery. It didn't take too many weeks before he decided he was missing too much in nursery.

My kids weren't perfect, but I was always comfortable taking them to concerts, plays, and out to dinner. They knew what was expected and acted accordingly. We had many comments over the years about how well behaved they were. Because they had been taught, we didn't have to worry about having a battle scene every time we went anywhere.

My other gripe is people who enter meetings late. Again, I know things can happen....but they don't happen all the time. It's rude and unacceptable when it happens every week.

Except for my vice grip hold, I can't remember any other consequences. I do remember being in a restaurant once when a family of six came in. As soon as they were seated, the kids (who were old enough to know better) started carrying on. The father immediately stood and said something along the lines of, "Get up. I warned you. We're going home because you can't behave." People actually clapped for him as they left. Obviously, we don't want people to use that approach at church, but it was a great one to use in other places.

Now that you know how Shirley feels (and how I feel.) Please feel free to add your comments. You are welcome to give hints and tips that have worked for you as well.

You are also welcome to totally disagree. Please do so in a kind and loving way without personal attacks though.

Comments? Ideas????


Guymons said...

I have a few Sacrament Meeting pet peeves. I hate it when people sleep during Sacrament Meeting. How RUDE. I also don't like the little family in front of us whose 18 year old son and 16 year old daughter snuggle each other, give back rubs, act all lovey dovey. That same family's 9 year old son sits in his mom or sister's lap every week. That same family's 9 and 11 year old sons take the Sacrament with their left hand and SLOWLY sip, like about 5 or 6 little sips of the Sacrament water. I know other peoples actions should not bug me, but I have to close my eyes, read my scriptures, or look away to avoid seeing this family's actions that annoy me so much. haha.

Bradley and Andrew usually have a pen and they will color on the program. We never bring any food, except for an occasional TicTac. (Here's a funny tic tac story- the Bishop asked William not to have them in his pocket when he passed the Sacrament, because they are too noisy when he walks.)

Our ward does have a party in the hall each Sunday. There are more people out there than there are couches. Kids playing, parents eating. No one listening to the talks being piped out through the sound system. They don't even quiet down for the prayers.

I have hearing loss, so my kids have always talked in a louder voice than a whisper.....Of all the kids Andrew (7 years old) talks too loud, especially. He doesn't really know he is talking that loud. His teacher even mentioned it at parent conference. So in restaurants, we have to tell him over and over to talk softly, but he doesn't seem to have a volume switch. It's not completely his fault, but I bet other people...who don't know about my hearing loss, are bugged by him.

One tip for families whose kids like to get up and run up and down the aisles or back and forth to the water fountain or bathroom would be to sit in the pews on the side of the chapel with the dad or mom in the end acting like a gate keeper.

We have one family in our ward who have 2 little kids who run up onto the stand every week. They go to the organ and try to play on it. they stare at the speakers or climb around on the pews up there. they go in and out the handicapped door up there.....and their parents never go up to get them....they just wait for them to come back down. That family just thinks their kids are so funny and cute. They should try the gate keeper strategy...but they always arrive late and sit back in the overflow area.

I want to hear all the rest of others complaints and ideas.

siobhan said...

just about the whole "taking sacrament with the left hand" thing... that's an old school rule that NO ONE is ever told about nowadays. i had no clue about it till i read it online about two years ago and i'd been a member of the church for a decade.

but to the topic, i am right there with shirley, whose parenting i really admire. she has a great track record! :)

i think it's a huge parenting FAIL to think that your kids will be less disruptive if you sit in the back, especially if it's overflow. the kids always act far worse back there (though perhaps that's not a random sampling!). we always sit in the third row back on whatever side the bishopric is on. it's easier for the kids to pay attention to what's going on when it's right in front of them and it's less tempting to let them act out, even a bit. i'll admit that yesterday, i told my two year old that the bishop was watching her and she quieted right down. the kids can also closely watch the bread and water being coordinated and passed there, which i like.

we don't allow food or toys, either. new babies who are at "that age" can have a small, quiet toy. babies who eat table food can have a small and non-messy snack till they are nursery age and, admittedly, that's more for distraction and less because they'll starve. once they're in nursery, we make a big deal about how they're a "big nursery girl" and can have snacks in there. i was raised catholic, where food during mass was strictly forbidden, so i have hangups with food in the chapel.

when they're nursery age, they're allowed to bring one book, but they can't look at it till after the sacrament is passed. my oldest likes to look at the hymn books, which isn't something i'm thrilled with, but allow because i'm so outnumbered. yesterday, during a trying moment, i did pull two index cards and two pencils out of my purse and let my two oldest girls write on those. the five year old isn't a problem, but the four year old is somewhat needy and it kept her quiet, especially because it was a special treat.

siobhan said...

we talk frequently about how the chapel is a reverent place. they aren't allowed to run through or talk loudly, even if the chapel is empty and it's a weekday. they keep their arms folded when we walk to and from our seats. we sign up to clean the building and always choose the chapel, to try and teach them more about it in a more open setting. i think they've learned a little more respect by bringing their own rags and dusting each row of seats and by cleaning the sacrament table and room. they're always disappointed to find food (and especially piles of FINGERNAILS!) when we vacuum.

our kids have never gone out into the aisle and it still shocks me when i see that. it's just not allowed in our family. the kids know not to mess around with mama during sacrament because if i have to load up the entire family and truck out of the chapel, i'm going to be terribly grumpy!

if we leave the chapel, they get to stand in the foyer and face the wall. i try to only use it as a last resort because it means we're out of the chapel for the duration of the meeting, as it's too distracting for us to go in and out. i hate being stuck in the foyer because people do seem to use it as a social club during sacrament meeting.

oh! did i mention that i have four kids ages five and under and that my husband works sundays? yeah, sundays are FUN! :)

we are usually late. i am adequately embarrassed. it seems that no matter what i do, something happens to prevent us from being on time. the night before, i pack my bag, iron and lay out the clothes, bathe everyone, and as we're heading out the door early, the baby spits up all over me and i have to change. or someone has an emergency bathroom trip. or the two year old can't find the card the nursery leader gave her and that she's been carrying around for the entire weekend and hysterics ensue. (that was yesterday!)

this is a REALLY long comment.

i seem to get good responses from the people who sit around us, even when my girls are being rotten, so i guess i'm doing at least some of it right. i do know that they're among the best-behaved of the kids we see, which is encouraging. i think i set my standards high because if they fall short, they'll still land higher than if they met lower expectations.

siobhan said...

i thought of something else. we don't let our kids have the bread or water. part of this is because of our reverence for what that symbolizes. again with the former catholicism, i am used to needing to be a certain age and possessing a certain understanding before being allowed to participate in such an ordinance. also, when i was first learning about the church, it was impressed upon me by several people that the sacrament was an ordinance for the baptized.

but a more compelling reason for most? it doesn't take ten minutes for the priesthood to hit our pew. there's no fighting over the bread and there's no spilling the water.

interestingly, this seems to be a hot topic amongst at least the younger parents and we've caught a lot of flack for this over the years.

valerie said...

I hear you on the picnic feast during sacrament! We meet at 10. Plenty of time to eat breakfast or another snack before you come to church! There are many times that there is more cheerios or other snacks smashed into the floor and on chairs than probably made it into the childs mouth. GROSS! It always seems to be our turn to clean the church then too. And when a child is disruptive please take him out! I'm not talking a little bit and then can behave himself but when it's been going on for ten minutes and you can't even hear the speaker anymore. When my kids were little they had a few quiet books they could look at but no toys. I would sometimes pack them a small snack but tried to hold off as long as I could and feed them between classes and if any was to drop to the floor I for sure got it cleaned up right away! They can bring the Friend to look at and read and they can draw quietly. ALL after the sacrament is passed. Are my kids perfect? No. Neither am I and I have been in the place where my kids have gone totally crazy during sacrament meeting. Just be respectful of others. Ok. I just thought of another pet peeve that just happened yesterday. Clipping your fingernails in church! DOUBLE GROSS! WHY? If you must, go to the bathroom and do it. It will annoy my hubby so much listening to the clipping that he'll leave and go sit in the foyer and listen.

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

I can't really talk to the topic. We are that heathen family that's not going to church at the moment. (Please don't hate me for it!)

We did try to take my son when he was 3 to church. Yeah, that was so fun! He wanted nothing to do with it. We had to take him out when he got even the slightest bit loud.

I agree though, food only as a last resort (and with Chick I have to say it would be first cause she will be quiet then) a book (about the bible or related nice subject) and that's it. If they get fussy they should be removed. I'm going church to hear about God not your kids crying/screaming/complaining. If they can't behave then they should be at the nursery.

Now when I actually try to accomplish taking my kids to church this year I am sure I will be spouting a lot of different advice!

Shirley said...

Disclaimer: I have five children. (wanted six but settled for five and a dog) Three served missions. Four married returned missionaries. Four BYU grads, one BYU-H grad. : ) We are far from a perfect family. I was just talking to my daughter-in-law about how bad we were at having Family Home Evening. Thankfully, most of my children are better at that than I was.

Siobhan - I can relate a little. My husband was in the National Guard for years so I had at least one weekend a month when I was on my own. It's hard. I hope you have someone to sit close by to help if needed. I used to be the baby holder for a sister in the ward. I figured she was the best to deal with her older children, but at least I could help with the baby.

Rachael said...

Gina, I think that you and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to this. At the risk of making myself look crazy to those who actually attend my ward, I will say that I run the tightest ship that I can. A husband on the stand makes things harder, but I do have a VERY high standard for my kids' behavior at church, and everywhere, really. I drive myself nuts (and exhaust myself)trying to keep my kids quiet and reverent, and sometimes I wish I could be a more laid-back type parent, but I just cannot. I do not want my family to keep anyone else from feeling the Spirit.

I rarely take my kids out of the meeting, unless they are really disruptive, and when we are out in the hall, it is NOT FUN. I make them sit quietly, usually in a corner, until they are ready to go back in. No running around, no playing with the other kids in the hall, etc. I want them to feel that it is more entertaining to be in the chapel then in the hall. We've never let any of our toddlers wander off of our row during meetings either. I firmly believe that they can be taught to sit still. My big problem right now is a 2-year-old with no volume control (Loud is her only volume). But, I do trust my 6-year-old's behavior enough to leave her alone on the row for a few minutes if I need to.

I would say that one of my biggest pet peeves about reverence in church has to do with the time when people arrive. For my whole life, my family always left for church 1/2 hour before Sacrament mtg. started, even though we only ever lived 10 minutes or so from our buildings. This is something that I continue to do with our family. People are always shocked that I can get 3 kids to church early every Sunday, but it's because I start getting ready in time to allow us to leave 1/2 hour early. That way if disaster strikes (a baby spits up on me on the way out the door), we still have enough time to solve the problem and arrive on time. We always get the bench we are used to, and the kids have an opportunity to sit quietly and get ready for the meeting to start. It drives me nuts when people show up five minutes before the meeting is to start (or even after it's started), and wander up to find a bench in the chapel. It's very distracting, and the chances of them finding a bench are not good anyway. Especially in our ward.

One more thing, with regards to the kids' entertainment in the meetings. We do bring a bag of coloring items, flash cards, scripture books etc. but the kids are not allowed to break into any of it until after the Sacrament is over. This was, again, something my family did growing up, and I've continued it with my own kids. They are expected to sit quietly and listen and participate reverently in the Sacrament, then they can do a quiet activity for the rest of the meeting. I want them to think about what we are there for when taking the Sacrament, not coloring a picture of Elmo. This makes my job with a 2-year-old much harder, but it's important to us to set this standard. About 6 months ago I quit bringing snacks to church too.

So, having said all this, we are no where near perfect. This is the standard we have for our family, and that we are constantly striving for. Handling 3 young kids by myself means that we fail more than I would like, but we just keep trying. Not to toot my own horn, but we are often told how well behaved our kids are, and even the weeks where I feel like a complete failure as a mom, people still complement their behavior. I am honestly doing the best I can.

H.K. said...

I think there's different expectations for different ages, but I do think when a baby or child is wailing very loudly and you know that they aren't going to stop, I think they should be taken out to the foyer.

I think it is unrealistic to take them out every time as soon as you hear a peep, but when it escalates that's a different story.

To Guymons comment I have heard about the left hand thing, but I don't think it's gosepl doctrine. It doesn't say anything about which hand should be used when Jesus introduces the Sacrament to the Nephites or in any General Conference talk.

Shirley said...

The reason we take the sacrament with our right hand is because we are making a solemn covenant or oath, and the right hand is the one we usually use to make any sacred oath.

We also use our right hand because of the symbolism - that when Jesus comes again, he will separate the nations and will put the goats on the left and his sheep on the right.

For a more complete explanation, look up Russell M. Nelson's answer to this question in the March 1983 Ensign.

H.K. said...

Thanks for the clarification Shirley, I never knew that, I looked up the article and thought it was enlightening and interesting. In the article Russel M. Nelson also states:

"Much more important than concern over which hand is used in partaking of the sacrament is that the sacrament be partaken with a deep realization of the atoning sacrifice that the sacrament represents."

It seems to me that in reading that statement that though it is appropriate to use the right hand, it is more important that we have a reverent attitude than which hand we use.

Brenda said...

I LOVED this post. After sacrament meeting yesterday I turned to my husband and said "I don't even feel like I'm at church, I feel like I'm at the circus!" It was SO loud and irreverent. As for our family, unless it's a bottle for a baby, we don't bring food at all. My 5 year old is allowed to pick 2 Friend magazines to take to look at after the sacrament and that's it. I think toys and games and coloring and snacks are such a distraction. It's work teaching a young child to sit still and quiet for an hour straight and it doesn't always happen, we've splent plenty of time sitting in the car until they've mellowed. But in the end I think it'll be worth it and I hope my girls learn how important it is to be there and help maintain an atmosphere that invites the spirit. Awesome post, I love your blog.

siobhan said...

brenda, sitting in the car is an awesome idea! my kids don't like having to take a time out in the foyer in front of other people, but i think they'd hate the car even more!

and i love rachel's idea to just plan on being there really early (a half hour is REALLY early for me!). i know it sounds so simple, but i'd honestly not ever thought about being there early on purpose. right now, i aim to be out of the house 15 minutes before the meeting starts (we only live about a mile and a half away), but it's obviously not working well for me. i know the kids do better if we get there early and have a chance to "settle in," so i'm definitely going to aim for getting there really early this sunday and i'll return and report!

as an aside, we attend weekly catholic mass with our daughter's school. it's fascinating to me that many of the parents there refuse to attend church till their kids are older and are even encouraged to do just that by many other parishioners. the priest has mentioned to us several times that we attend mass more frequently than any of his young families. i do love that there's always a hum of children in our meetings, even if it gets a bit too loud at times.

KelliSue Kolz said...

I have few sacrament pet peeves. I attend with 50 other people if I'm lucky, and we're just so dang delighted when people show up, I'll take 'em how they arrive.

My children are almost the only ones in the little chapel room. That's the size of your average Relief Society room, for perspective. We sit on the back row, I quickly trot out at Emma's first squawk. She's 3. There's nowhere to go... to a little hall or the restroom. Nope. So we discuss reverence and return, sometimes repeating 3x through sacrament. It's the best I can do.

Emma nibbles on cheerios on occasion when she didn't eat enough breakfast to get through sacrament. It happens with some little children. This does not include littering, nor a 3 course meal. A ziplock of cheerios.

Sometimes we do have a family with a 4 year old and 2 year old who seem to have a 3 course meal to the right of us. This disrupts my toddler who thinks she must have some and is dismayed that she isn't freed for socializing. I mentally will the mother not to bring this extravaganza of junk food to sacrament - but I'm glad she brings two littles with a non-attending husband. She's on her own and that's how she handles it.

I teach the toddlers in nursery and then Relief Society the next hour. I try and focus on both fronts, teaching the children and teaching their mothers - reverence, reverence, reverence.

It's a process. We're not through yet. It should be fascinating when Dad gets up to count as the ward clerk, the 3 year old is acting up, and Mom is nursing the new baby in the hallway in a sling (because where else does one do this in a teeny building?)

Somehow it all works out because we're trying our best and we're consistent. Soon to be six kids, newborn to 12. Always interesting.

KelliSue Kolz said...

As a postscript - in our little mini chapel (first phase building for those who know what that phrase means) my two 11 year old sons pick up all the chairs and stack them after church each Sunday.

This is one way I know that A. There are no cheerios on the floor, and B. there is no mess made by my congregation. Besides, it's us, elderly people, or the full time missionaries. So it's us. And it's good service for my children.

Our situation isn't the same in a little pioneering branch in the Northeast as it is in a larger Western state ward.

We all pitch in and clean up the building, weekly, and tidy up after ourselves, because there is no custodian. You spill something - you go clean the carpet. Easy peasy. (Been there, done that).

We also all politely ignore the stench of the guy who milks cows for a living and smells of cow manure in sacrament each week. I cannot sit by him in my first trimester as the smell just knocks me over, but we have to love him and encourage him, or how Christlike are we?

So maybe back scratching and snacks galore and silly kids .. all added up are really bad. But with just 50 of us, we're all working on being tolerant and considerate. Maybe big wards forget that portion of charity.