How to keep a toddler quiet in church

Going to church as a family should be a wonderful and enriching experience. Unfortunately, if you have young children who are prone to misbehavior, it can instead be an extremely unpleasant experience. You will not get much out of the church service if you are spending the entire time trying to quiet your rowdy toddler. So, short of keeping the kids at home with a sitter, what can you do?

Believe it or not, there are ways to make church a pleasant experience for your whole family. Here are some tips for getting your toddler to behave while you are in church:

— Make church a habit. If you only take your kids to church on Easter and Christmas, don’t expect them to know how to behave. Young children learn through repetition. Try to go to church as a family on a regular basis. Over time, they will understand that a church is a special place that requires special behavior.

— Pray together at home. Teach your child short prayers, responses, and the hymns that are sung at your church each week. Children love to sing and they will enjoy joining in with the adults to sing and pray at church.

— “Practice” by attending church during the week when it’s not as crowded. Many churches offer daily services. Try starting your kids out at one of the daily services, where there won’t be as many people (and young kids) to distract them.

— Introduce your child to the minister. Your child will look forward to going to church if he or she knows who they are going to see there. If you minister is kid-friendly, let your child say goodbye to him or her after church each week.

— Try not to sit near other young children. It may be cute at first when your toddler starts to play peek-a-boo with the child in the pew in front of him. But once two toddlers realize they are in close proximity of each other, the horseplay can get silly– they may even get each other to giggling! Better to avoid this if possible.

— Bring reinforcements. Children who are very young are not going to sit and listen to the sermon. Bring portable snacks, like a bag of toasted oat cereal or graham crackers (just don’t bring anything that’s too noisy or messy). Make sure to have a bottle or sippy cup for your child, as well as an emergency bag filled with board books, stuffed animals, crayons, and a small coloring book. Your child will likely be able to occupy him or herself with the goody bag while you enjoy the sermon.

— Let your child see what’s going on. Many parents of young children routinely sit in the back of the church (usually for easy access to the exit if they need to sneak their kids out). A young child who can’t see the “action” is going to get bored quickly. Instead, try sitting in the front row or as close to the front as you can.

Your child may become engrossed in what is going on up at the altar. Once you find a place within the church where your kids like to sit, try to sit there every week (this can be hard if your church is crowded, but it’s a great way to make your kids feel comfortable).

— Attend church functions so your kids will feel like they are part of the church family. If your church has annual fundraisers, picnics, or Christmas bazaars, go to these events together as a family. Your kids will think of church as a fun place if they are part of all of the fun extra curricular activities that are offered there.

Finally, if your child is being very disruptive at church, take the child outside until he or she calms down. It is not fair to subject the other churchgoers to your child’s unruly behavior. Most children will be quiet after a stern lecture from Mom or Dad.

If your child continues to misbehave once you return to the church, you will have to discipline him or her once you get home. Taking away a favorite toy or privilege may be all it takes to get your child to remember to behave at church the following week.

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