NOTE: Here is a simple approach for teaching young children (toddlers) to be reverent in church. I developed and used it successfully for many years while raising our children. It was especially helpful to me when I was a widowed, single, military parent (and, raising seven children ages 4 months to 13 years old). The “procedure” probably fits nicely into the category of “Tools for Mr. Mom.” To be sure, it is a man’s approach; but, it’s not limited to men. That said, I expect there will be some “real Moms” out there who may frown a little at its application. But for me, I’m a “concrete sequential” kind of guy; and, I desperately needed to figure this out, …and write it down. So, here’s the plan:
- We need to make being reverent in the chapel a happy and positive experience for children. They need to think/know that being quiet on the pew with Mom and Dad is better than being elsewhere.
- Children naturally act like “kids:” full of goodness, fun, curiosity, and love. But, they need to be cultivated and learn an attitude of reverence.
- Patterning and learning reverence begins in the home. So, in the home, we need to begin by developing an atmosphere of reverence. We should teach it and practice it if only for brief periods each day. Reverence at church is a manifestation of how well we’re doing.
- Children want to please you, and they respond well to positive reinforcement.
- Soft/quiet educational toys/books for reverent activities.
- An available classroom for a “Quiet Room” (try to pick an empty room).
- Two hard chairs in the quiet room, facing away from each other.
Reverent Chapel Behavior:
Come to church at least 5 or 10 minutes early and sit reverently with your children (and as a family). Don’t permit them to be noisy or run and play in the chapel. Do allow the children to play quietly with their soft toys and books.
Smile and softly compliment your children when they are reverent in church (and at home).
If they become restless, speak softly to them, and encourage them to focus on quiet activities.
Advanced Reverence Training:
- After the meeting/service begins, if a toddler becomes irreverent and distracting from the spirit of the meeting, escort him out of the chapel (leaving the soft quiet toys behind).
- It’s usually best to carry the child out. And, if the father is available, this could well be considered “his responsibility.”
- As you carry your child out of the chapel, don’t stop in the foyer or hallways. Go directly to your pre-designated “Quiet Room.”
- Gently seat the child on one of the hard chairs, facing an empty wall. You sit on the other chair, with your back to the child and facing away, apparently ignoring him.
- If your child tries to get off the chair, look back at him and say: “No, sit on the chair!” (It may be necessary to actually put the child back on the chair. Be gentle, but firm!) You may need to repeat this step several times before your child knows you mean it.
- Eventually, the child will remain seated but will begin to cry. Wait at least 60 seconds after he starts crying. It may get loud, but that’s okay. You’re in a quiet room; and, crying won’t hurt him.
- Then, after a minute or so (and while he’s crying), turn to your child, put out your hands, and say: “Do you want me to hold you?” This usually stops the crying, and the child will melt into your arms.
Please note: This is a very treasured moment with your arms wrapped around your perfect angel. Wait a few minutes and enjoy that moment.
Now, …in addition to enjoying the moment, be very careful. Your child may think the ordeal is over and want to just get down and play. If that’s the case, he needs to go back to the hard chair and you need to repeat steps 4 thru 7 again until he remains quiet (or asleep) in your arms. Once he has accepted the inevitable, stand up and walk lovingly and humbly back into Sacrament Meeting (with your sweet child comfortably in your arms) and take your seat again with your reverent family.
Possible Reinforcement or Follow-up Training:
Of course, if later he repeats the unacceptable and distracting behavior in Sacrament Meeting, escort him out again and repeat the Advanced Reverence Training steps above. Soon he will understand “it’s better to be in Sacrament Meeting and reverent.”
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