Well, I'm glad I have people to commiserate here with, and to provide some wisdom. Again too, I appreciate the behaviour management ideas (keep 'em coming), but the big one, which some of you have been addressing, is actually instilling an appreciation so he actually will like and appreciate church. And yes, I do at times resort to bribery, although it goes against my feeling as a teacher that I must instill intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation. :-)
I think we are pretty positive about it [and] don't think I'm nasty about it.
Just a quick note to say that I think the above is crucial. Specifically, what kind of person does your child perceive you to be when you're talking about God, trying to include spiritual things in your life, when you attend services, etc.? If you are normally playful but turn into super-serious Church Enforcer when you're in Divine Liturgy (not saying that you specifically do, but I've seen it from several parents and try to avoid it like the plague myself), then your kid is going to think that "Church/God makes my mommy/daddy mean and angry." No kid's going to want to participate in that.
I think it was our own Thomas (iirc) who said that one of his...kids?...grandkids?...mentioned to him that his (Thomas') eyes "were shinier in church," and that, of course, was a good thing in the child's mind, for it gave a good, gentle, happy association to what life in Christ does for him.
So I guess I'd say try to be mindful of that (without making it fake, of course), both when you're in church and when you're doing your morning/evening prayers with them at home, so that they can see that 1) Prayer to God is something we do every day in this family, and 2) This is a good thing for us to do.
Something to thing about. Well, I do tend to be stricter, less playful whenever we are out in public, as I tend to be mindful of how our behaviour affects others. But while I can get away with that when we, for instance, go to the aquarium because he adores it. At home I am usually more playful. I even wrestle. And let the kids make a mess too. And jump on the couch (that horrifies people, but we don't have a yard, have a small space, and I want my kids to get as much exercise as possible - if it means they have to jump on my old second hand couches, so be it - don't worry - they don't jump on other people's couches).
In church too some of the older ladies especially give the nastiest looks when kids misbehave, and I've overheard them, when they happen to be speaking in English, complain about some of the moms (which kills me - they never complain about the dads, which is especially galling since most of the moms have to work outside the home just as much as the dads due to the high cost of living here) and the way the children act.
Have you asked him why he doesn't like church? It may be that he does get restless after a while and needs a change of scenery or something quiet to do. Or maybe the priest looks scary with all the vestments and smoke and such.
He probably is going through a phase... he is right at the age to be exerting more independence and trying to make decisions for himself.
I hope this helps! Sorry for the book!
I've tried asking him, but he won't or can't articulate it. He has always been quite fond of our priest, and he is rarely frightened by anything (okay, he did go through a love/hate relationship with the vacuum between years 1 and 2), but again, he may be and just not willing to tell us.
Re: decisions - good point!
And don't worry - I'm about the last person who should complain about the writing of books on this forum.
Unfortunately, on a negative note (I have positive things to suggest/say, but not the time now):
When my kids thought Church was play time (in the sense of being disruptive, they could draw (they usually drew things in Church as it was) point, etc. to their hearts content) they got a time out in the corner in the narthex. Rarely it took a repititon in the service. And I was also IMMEDIATE with the time out.
Were it not for the reason that you say your son hates staying home, under no circumstances would I even think of doing that. I made it quite clear that it was a nonnegotionable, like school. In fact, I made that more clear by justing acting as if the question never entered my mind at all.
Time outs aren't very effective with him (especially if it's me trying to do it) because he's big and strong and I wear out before he does, not to mention I'm afraid of a disruptive scene occurring in the church (if my husband is available, it is a little easier for him, but again there is the scene). I am thinking now though that a couple of small toys in the church help because he does respond to my taking a toy from him if he misbehaves. And yeah, if he ever decides he would prefer to stay home to coming to church, I'll have to change tactics (but I think that's a part of parenting as kids change and mature). That said, in a few months we won't have someone we can leave him at home with anyway, so it'll be a moot issue.
Now, I'm not accusing any of you parents (I have no right to as I am not one and for a whole host of other reasons), but could it possibly be that if your child or children are not doing so well in Church it is because they have no analogy for it at home and thus there is a disconnect? Again, I am passing no judgment or anything, I'm simply offering this as perhaps a reason. Forgiveness, please, if I have offended anyone.
Well single man, you haven't offended me anyway - you've expressed yourself in a very gentle manner. Plus, I think you are probably right, at least in my case. We don't do nearly enough home prayer. My excuses are that I only get 5 hours sleep a night and don't want to sacrifice anymore, and that I also keep waiting for a time when all of us (husband included) are able to stand in one place at one time (my husband and I are constantly in juggling mode - you parents know how that is), even in the house, as we madly try and get stuff done (we do always pray and almost always eat dinner together though, unless hubby is out of town for work as he is currently). Neither excuse is acceptable, I know, and the latter needs to be solved by my just leaving my husband out of the equation if need be and get on with things. It's just that I keep hoping. Of course my hanging out here on this forum doesn't help, but I usually just go through a major writing phase once in awhile, so I don't think that's a big issue. And the reading is really important to me as I learn a lot here about Orthodoxy.
Sit towards the front if possible so that the kids have the best view of what is going on. We have icon cards, bibles and small soft toys we take with us for the kids to play with. I try to have "special things" that they can play with only during services so that just going to services and "playing" is a treat.
The more services children attend the better. Try taking them to the less populated services like vespers. I have found that my kids are much better behaved when there are less people. Regular attendance is the only way to teach children to behave properly in service. You will see a difference in your kids if you take them regularly, in their conduct in and out of services.
"special treat" toys - good idea.
Aahhh, vespers. Took the big boy for the Christmas Vespers Tuesday night. I always regret doing that with him though (and I know kids are all different), because at that time of day he falls asleep in the car on the way to vespers (and he won't nap nowadays earlier, and if he does nap he'll be up to 11pm). That would be fine, except he's inherited this thing from my husband where waking up from a late afternoon nap results in an extremely foul mood. My son will scream and cry (although that's improving) and insist I hold him/carry him, and will be problematic in general. So in our case the liturgy is much better because he's perky in the morning. But yes, we do need to at least be attending liturgy every weekend (I can't attend weekday ones because I am working outside the home).
Another great idea is to have a child size prayer book that outlines the service. There is this blue one that has angels on the front that is really great. Kids like to know what part of the service is coming next ect.
kmm; It sounds like you could loosen up a little on your son. If he is good with the toys and books it should be OK to take them into the nave. Just being there is important right now, paying attention thru the whole service can come later. And standing when he needs to-gospel, procession, censing and the like is plenty. He will eventually want to stand more on his own if left to his own devices. He will see you and everyone else doing it and will want to do it himself. But right now let him make the choice to stand or sit when it isn't mandatory. The more choice and freedom he has on these little things the happier he will be with being at church.
Thanks for the prayer book link. And maybe I do need to loosen up a bit. We've always allowed him some movement, and when the weather is somewhat reasonable he has always runs around a bit outside (inside doesn't work because our hall is usually off-limits because it now houses a preschool, which I understand, being a teacher who has had to share classroom space with evening/weekend classes, I know how frustrating it is when parents allow there children to wreak havoc in my teaching space and not clean up/replace destroyed/stolen item).
Anyway, lately I've thought that the running around part needed to be tightened up a bit, because we ended up spending very little time in church. Plus if he can sit still in preschool, and he can do it a bit at church. But perhaps he's just not ready for it yet.
Anyway, pardon my rather lengthy responses. I always feel the need to dot all my i's and cross all my t's, explain myself fully (although I never do to my satisfaction), and that is generally my reason for it. (That and I am a yakalot, and don't get much yakalot time nowadays in person).