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Author Topic: Babies/young children in church  (Read 3678 times) Average Rating: 0
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lizzyd
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« on: October 14, 2009, 10:48:55 AM »

My husband and I have recently begun attending liturgy. We have a 13 month old son. We are trying to learn how to balance what our baby can and can't handle during liturgy.

On one hand, I know that I can't expect too much of him - there's no way he can quietly make it through. He's an active little guy and he might be content in our arms for the first 30 minutes, but after that he has had it.

On the other hand, I know that eventually we have to teach him about the liturgy and how to worship etc. These things are far beyond his comprehension right now but I imagine that his learning will be a very slow progression that has to start somewhere.

Right now liturgy sometimes coincides with his naptime. He will nap in his carseat and my husband and I trade off sitting with him. Other times he might not need a nap and we will go to liturgy and then take him in/out as needed (mostly based on the volume of his complaint!)

Would love any tips from those who have been there done that.
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2009, 11:30:10 AM »

My husband and I have recently begun attending liturgy. We have a 13 month old son. We are trying to learn how to balance what our baby can and can't handle during liturgy.

On one hand, I know that I can't expect too much of him - there's no way he can quietly make it through. He's an active little guy and he might be content in our arms for the first 30 minutes, but after that he has had it.

On the other hand, I know that eventually we have to teach him about the liturgy and how to worship etc. These things are far beyond his comprehension right now but I imagine that his learning will be a very slow progression that has to start somewhere.

Right now liturgy sometimes coincides with his naptime. He will nap in his carseat and my husband and I trade off sitting with him. Other times he might not need a nap and we will go to liturgy and then take him in/out as needed (mostly based on the volume of his complaint!)

Would love any tips from those who have been there done that.

As a priest, I love kids in church.  So what if they are a little noisy?  That's what kids are about.  Now, whining is a different story... from either children or adults.  I suppose your parenting skills are the key: overly-permissive parents tend to be failures at getting kids to behave in church.

The trick is exposure over time.  The more they get used to it, the quieter they will become.  There is also the additional factor of how the liturgics are handled in your parish.  If the nave is over-lit, the choir is screechy, and the people are generally distracted, kids will pick up on the suggestions and act up.  There will not be much you can do about that.  I've done experiments just on lighting and noticed a substantial behavior change just by lowering the lights.  Recent changes in our music have also effected the kids in a positive way.

Bring toys and snacks, but never, ever ignore him.  Your job as parents is not necessarily to come to pray, but to come to teach your child to pray.  Bringing him to church needs to be a pleasant experience as much as is possible, so that he builds that reflex.  My kids like coming to church because everyone is kind to them, and much of that is due to their behavior when they get there.  That's also because I enforce good conduct at home.  Running and screaming is outside behavior, and we have quiet fun inside.  When we sit in chairs, we properly sit.  When someone else is talking, we listen.  That behavior at home then gets brought to church.  At 13 months, these are not perfect skills, but they are a direction to take kids in as they develop.

As your son gets older, it is important that he be near other kids his age.  We always end up with a 'kid area' where the well-behaved sit together, and invariably one or two parents manage the flock while the rest pray.  It is wonderful and completely accidental.

If you have a pack of 'grumpies' that sit in the back and complain about everyone and everything, let the priest know what you are trying to accomplish and for his help in dealing with the grumpies.  Some Orthodox have fond memories of grumpies enforcing discipline in the church, but I know many people who were driven off my mean old women with 'street cop' attitudes.  I know a priest with some grumpies who, all rather old, insisted in sitting in the back of the church where most of the kids sat.  They constantly complained they could not hear the services (a natural result of age), but refused to move forward as the other aged members did.  Eventually, the priest had a sound system installed with speakers right where the grumpies sat.  They stopped coming to church for the most part after that, as the sound system was interfering with their critical comments.

Hang in there... and have more if you can.  Kids need brothers and sisters.


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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2009, 09:26:20 PM »

My husband and I have a two year old daughter and a newborn.  Some of the things we've found effective in keeping our daughter quiet and mostly contained are to bring 2-3 books with lots of pictures, crayons and paper, small non-messy snacks and a cup of juice or milk, and just escorting her to the nave or bookstore when she gets cranky or too wild.  Sometimes it helps to point out things happening in liturgy, like when the priest is censing or watching the entrance of the Gospel or whatever else.  I figure at this point she's not really going to fully grasp what's going on, but it's good to expose her to the practice of worship rather than the theory of it.  She'll eventually start making connections between what she's seeing and what we talk about and teach her directly.  For now it's enough just to make sure she's not running wild all over and distracting everyone else. 

Good luck!  By the time you have your liturgy routine figured out, your son will be growing into a new behavioral pattern too.  We used to count on Cait taking a nap and waking up just before the Eucharist and that was a great time to get to focus on the liturgy... now we have to tag team just to keep her contained and I spend most of the liturgy outside the sanctuary but still attempting to listen while she runs off the energy or cries out the frustration and has a snack.  I have to keep reminding myself she'll get past it eventually.
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2009, 10:05:08 PM »

"But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

I'm so glad to hear that you are bringing your son to Liturgy. Smiley Father always loves hearing the babies cry, as he says they are worshipping the Lord in their own way.

While I don't have children, over the years I've noticed that most parents usually sit in the back when they have babies with them, and will take the baby down to the basement when they start to fuss too much. (Our narthex is just a doorway, and our basement has speakers in it to broadcast the Liturgy.)

Although your son is obviously too young for it now, here are some books that you may want to consider for when he gets older:

http://www.conciliarpress.com/books/from-our-bookstore/the-divine-liturgy-for-children-an-interactive-guide.html

http://www.conciliarpress.com/christina-goes-to-church.html

http://www.conciliarpress.com/christina-learns-the-sacraments.html

Hope this helps, and God bless you!

In XC,

Maureen
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2009, 11:27:07 PM »

There was a boy that once stood behind me in DL. He enjoyed laughing hysterically while tossing Cheerios into my big hair.  He is now in an Orthodox theological seminary. laugh

Be loving and cheerful with your child while in DL. God willing, they will grow to love the Church.  They will make noise at times just like all the other children made noise.  It is expected that children will act like children.  Any priest that wants to keep his church alive/growing will lovingly encourage parishioners to accept that children make holy noise.

I hope you consider becoming an Orthodox Christian if you are not already Orthodox!
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« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2009, 02:27:04 PM »

Thanks everyone. I guess we are doing the right thing for now.

FatherGiryus, I saw a "grumpy" last week disciplining her grandson. It was actually rather upsetting to me - I don't think that spanking should be used as a tool to get a very young child to behave in church. It's not the approach that I want to take...

Most of the parishioners are so pro-baby/kid/family, which I have really appreciated. I see the value of keeping him with us during liturgy, but that doesn't mean that it has been easy by any stretch of the imagination! We'll keep on keeping on though.
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« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2009, 07:50:10 PM »

Can catechumans serve as altar servers?
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2009, 08:28:54 PM »

Can catechumans serve as altar servers?


In the ancient Church days, catechumens were not even permitted to be present for the Anaphora (i.e. 'the doors, the doors' was a call to boot all unbaptized and lock them out, hopefully to attend catechism).

The iconostasis arose as a delineation of space and a protection to those who attended services but were not members of the Church rather than booting them out.  Catechumens, inquirers, wandering lost and relatives are permitted to attend services in which the epiklesis is conducted in the altar apart from those who may not be prepared.

So, in summary, the answer pretty much is 'no.'


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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2009, 08:33:48 PM »

Ooops. I've realised my question was out of place. I've read "13 year old" instead of "13 month old".  angel
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2009, 08:38:25 PM »

Thanks everyone. I guess we are doing the right thing for now.

FatherGiryus, I saw a "grumpy" last week disciplining her grandson. It was actually rather upsetting to me - I don't think that spanking should be used as a tool to get a very young child to behave in church. It's not the approach that I want to take...

Most of the parishioners are so pro-baby/kid/family, which I have really appreciated. I see the value of keeping him with us during liturgy, but that doesn't mean that it has been easy by any stretch of the imagination! We'll keep on keeping on though.

I'm all for spanks and swats appropriately done in love and without anger (Pr 13:24 -  He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.).  There's a big difference between an 'emphasis tap' and a 'caning.'

But, just like any good fight, they need to take it outside.  Never whack them in the Temple... that's why God invented parking lots.  It's very distracting and it can leave bad associations.

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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2009, 08:45:14 PM »

Thanks everyone. I guess we are doing the right thing for now.

FatherGiryus, I saw a "grumpy" last week disciplining her grandson. It was actually rather upsetting to me - I don't think that spanking should be used as a tool to get a very young child to behave in church. It's not the approach that I want to take...

Most of the parishioners are so pro-baby/kid/family, which I have really appreciated. I see the value of keeping him with us during liturgy, but that doesn't mean that it has been easy by any stretch of the imagination! We'll keep on keeping on though.

One little hint that might make things easier. It's possible for you to create at home a particular area where your child is only permitted to play quietly; a small square of carpet, for instance. Start off with a short exposure, putting him back on the mat if he wanders until he gets the idea that there are boundaries and he must stay put and learn to entertain himself quietly. Increase "mat time" to longer and longer periods where he is encouraged to play quietly. This will train him to an automatic response when you tell him that it's "mat time". You can then transport this situation with you wherever you go by simply taking his "mat time" with you.   
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2009, 08:58:42 AM »

As a priest, I love kids in church.  So what if they are a little noisy?  That's what kids are about.  Now, whining is a different story... from either children or adults.  I suppose your parenting skills are the key: overly-permissive parents tend to be failures at getting kids to behave in church.
lol, that's a first. Usually in most liturgies I attend, the priest will wait up to a minute!! waiting for babies or children to stop making noises.

But in my church, we have this glass room in the corner where it is almost soundproof, so usually you see parents with their children in there.

Aaaaaaaaah, I remember when I was a kid messing and laughing around with my brother during mass (Catholic mass too, because at that time, there were no Coptic churches where we lived).
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2009, 12:46:07 PM »

I hate to say it, but this is one of the most difficult parts of converting to the Orthodox church. I understand the desire for the family to be together, but that's not really on my mind when my son gets really loud or when I have to go in and out. I feel like my husband and I spend most of the liturgy managing our son. I know that it will get better, but at times like this I can't help but to think about how great a nursery would be.

At our church the temple is just one room - you go out and you are outside. Walk 20 or 30 steps to another building where we have coffee hour, etc. I wish we had a cry room or a playroom right off the temple - would certainly make my life easier!  Smiley

Riddikulus, good idea about practicing at home. I will have to think about how I can do that.
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« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2009, 12:56:30 PM »

I hate to say it, but this is one of the most difficult parts of converting to the Orthodox church. I understand the desire for the family to be together, but that's not really on my mind when my son gets really loud or when I have to go in and out. I feel like my husband and I spend most of the liturgy managing our son. I know that it will get better, but at times like this I can't help but to think about how great a nursery would be.

At our church the temple is just one room - you go out and you are outside. Walk 20 or 30 steps to another building where we have coffee hour, etc. I wish we had a cry room or a playroom right off the temple - would certainly make my life easier!  Smiley

Riddikulus, good idea about practicing at home. I will have to think about how I can do that.

I can see how you feel. I agree with what others have said - I think it's great when children and babies are in church, even if they scream the place down. I wonder if there's anyone who attends your church, who'd share the burden a little with you? This might be more useful a little later on, but at my old church (where there were more people with young families), people like me who don't have children yet, and older people whose families were grown really enjoyed the chance to do some vicarious parenting. Maybe you can scout around for someone who'd love to act the granny and hold the baby for a while, at least when you want to go up for Communion?
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« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2009, 06:07:25 PM »

In the church I attend, there are a few not-so-little ones (ages 3-6) who, more often than not, are rather loud and full of beans. I've noticed that when the mothers are getting nowhere, other (usually older) women (with the mother's permission) need only catch the eye of the child, and do something as simple as raise a finger to their lips and look at him/her a certain way (not angrily), and the kid cuts it out.

Small babies are a different story, and nobody minds too much when they make their presence felt. It's the toddlers and slightly older ones who respond best to an "auntie" gently letting them know that their antics are "not on".
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2009, 01:46:22 AM »

If there is a cry room, use it.  If your parish is like ours, it is small that even little sounds can be amplified a great deal which can be distracting.  Hopefully, the cry room is positioned so that you can still face the altar and that there is also sound to allow you to still participate while watching over your child.   Though you cannot be held responsible for people's reactions towards your crying child, you should do all you can not to detract from the prayer of others (of course you already know that!).  If there is no cry room, talk to the parish council about setting aside funds to set one up.  It has helped at our parish dramatically.
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 11:12:49 PM »

The longer you go to DL, the more people your family will meet. When you get to know the older men and women, they will volunteer to help entertain/hold/feed/rock your child. Your “church family” will soon offer their loving assistance.  Fifty to eighty years earlier, parishioners helped them with their fussy children.

A friend brings her fussy granddaughter, a toddler, to DL.  People almost fight over the chance to hold and entertain her.  When it’s time to receive the Holy Eucharist, my friend has to search the entire nave to find her grandchild.  A few Sundays ago, her grandchild was joyfully passed around to the choir section.  She was being held by a smiling lady who was feeding her crackers. The child was enjoying all the extra attention and was wearing the lady’s movie-star sunglasses. 
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2009, 11:51:12 PM »

Almost every Sunday without fail there are children running around the nave screaming at the top of their lungs, with their thundering stomps echoing throughout the service.  It is incredibly frustrating and distracting.  For the most part I just deal with it, because the whole thing is a struggle anyway, why not pile on a few more bricks?  I honestly can't blame the kids at all.  They have no idea what is going on, and they're not used to being still and quiet for a couple of hours.  Plenty of them roll around of the floor or bring toys into the nave.

I have a hard time imagining children behaving at all during the liturgy.  Do children back in the old world stand quietly the whole time?  Is it just our American children who can't handle the services?  Are they too used to being constantly entertained, or are they just not cut out for Orthodoxy?
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2009, 12:09:51 AM »

I have a hard time imagining children behaving at all during the liturgy.  Do children back in the old world stand quietly the whole time?  Is it just our American children who can't handle the services?  Are they too used to being constantly entertained, or are they just not cut out for Orthodoxy?

Those of us of earlier vintages well remember that parents and their peers had greater authority over their children, and we were taught at a VERY early age that acting up in church was a very serious no-no. (I'm not talking about small babies who cry, that often can't be helped, but about kids who are toddlers and upwards in age.)

If it wasn't your mother who set you straight, it was one of the other yiayies or babushki who did. As I mentioned before, the admonishment was often little more than "the look", and that was usually quite enough to pull us in line. And many a boisterous little boy was shipped off to become an altarboy, which also worked wonders in teaching them a sense of personal discipline and respect for the house of God. Toys in church?? WHAT?? Never happened in my time!
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« Reply #19 on: October 22, 2009, 01:15:14 AM »

But where they distracted with coloring books or other things, or did they just quietly stand there?
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« Reply #20 on: October 22, 2009, 01:24:24 AM »

But where they distracted with coloring books or other things, or did they just quietly stand there?

No coloring books, no toys, nothing. We just sat or stood, because we were expected to be "good" in "God's house". And, most of the time, somehow, we were. (Gawd, I feel old!!  Cheesy)
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« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2009, 02:00:49 AM »

But where they distracted with coloring books or other things, or did they just quietly stand there?

No coloring books, no toys, nothing. We just sat or stood, because we were expected to be "good" in "God's house". And, most of the time, somehow, we were. (Gawd, I feel old!!  Cheesy)

I remember being expected to be as quiet and respectful as an adult, through a full service (although that's probably only 1 and a half hours, not as long as yours). And that was only 20 odd years ago.

Hmm, maybe we should all feel old!
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« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2009, 02:01:36 AM »

The longer you go to DL, the more people your family will meet. When you get to know the older men and women, they will volunteer to help entertain/hold/feed/rock your child. Your “church family” will soon offer their loving assistance.  Fifty to eighty years earlier, parishioners helped them with their fussy children.

This is how it goes at our parish, only age doesn't figure into it!  Usually the babies are passed from one person to another and loved and/or entertained by those nearby (if not the presbytera!). A few members of choir have small children, and so it goes that when a little one needs entertained or corralled, someone always volunteers to do so. In fact, when Cait was an infant I think there were entire liturgies that EofK didn't get to hold her own child once! Wink I sincerely hope that she didn't mind this. . . and even if she did she is far too gracious to have said anything. Smiley

My point is this. . . should my husband and I ever have children, we are counting on all the help we can get! Cheesy
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« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2009, 02:05:35 AM »

We were raised to be quiet in church without toys, or coloring books, or anything. And no, my parents did not beat us or anything severe like that. At worst, Mom and Dad would stand between my sister and I. We were told to be quiet and we were quiet. Same with the other children in my parish. I don't see parents bringing in toys or being harsh with their children, and the kids are just fine.
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« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2009, 09:45:47 AM »

But where they distracted with coloring books or other things, or did they just quietly stand there?

No coloring books, no toys, nothing. We just sat or stood, because we were expected to be "good" in "God's house". And, most of the time, somehow, we were. (Gawd, I feel old!!  Cheesy)

We were lucky to be allowed to draw on the bulletin with a pen. Quietly! We were expected to sit there quietly for the entire service. If we acted up even a little, or fidgeted or began whispering to each other, my mom would take us out to the narthex and "explain" her expectations of our behavior to us. Maybe it's incipient senility, but I don't remember services being disrupted by noisy and unruly kids when I was one!
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« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2009, 10:08:43 AM »

The problem at church alot of times isn't acting up during the service because there is enough going on and enough volume coming out of the altar or choir to more or less blend the sounds coming from the little ones. The problem I've noticed in churches is when parents bring books and their children read out loud during the sermon or they talk during the sermon or the parents are reading to them during the sermon. I realize its hard for a little one to sit still for 20 minutes while a person talks, but its extremely distracting to sit and try to listen to father while a parent is reading One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish to their child. I know, its something that shouldn't bother me, but I also know that when I was a little one in church I didn't have books or toys or anything, I was expected to either sit or stand or pay attention to the liturgy. When I was old enough I became an altar boy and then when I got tired of that, I joined the choir and plain chant group and that held my attention pretty well.

Just my thoughts on the issue, hope I haven't offended anyone out there.

-Nick
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« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2009, 02:45:35 PM »

The longer you go to DL, the more people your family will meet. When you get to know the older men and women, they will volunteer to help entertain/hold/feed/rock your child. Your “church family” will soon offer their loving assistance.  Fifty to eighty years earlier, parishioners helped them with their fussy children.

This is how it goes at our parish, only age doesn't figure into it!  Usually the babies are passed from one person to another and loved and/or entertained by those nearby (if not the presbytera!). A few members of choir have small children, and so it goes that when a little one needs entertained or corralled, someone always volunteers to do so. In fact, when Cait was an infant I think there were entire liturgies that EofK didn't get to hold her own child once! Wink I sincerely hope that she didn't mind this. . . and even if she did she is far too gracious to have said anything. Smiley

My point is this. . . should my husband and I ever have children, we are counting on all the help we can get! Cheesy
Haha....children are therapeutic for older parishioners.  Please share yours!!!!
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