Taking little kids anywhere can be very accurately compared to herding cats, I know! My husband and I try our best in training our kids at a very early age for Mass because we avoid the cry room. I don’t know about your kids, but my children think being in the cry room is an open invitation to not paying attention and acting like it’s an indoor playground. We have been able to avoid the cry room for a few years now and my children generally behave pretty well during Mass. Today I am going to share with you my tips on taking small children to Mass. What we expect, how we train, and the consequences of misbehavior.
I do believe that my kids are capable of sitting quietly through Mass. This is one of my expectations, even for my 3-year-old, Avila. Ignatius, on the other hand, does get a bit antsy and usually reaches his limit around the time of the consecration. Why is the most important part of Mass the time when babies start getting fussy! Anywho, when Ignatius starts to get active, I will take him to either the narthex or in the corner of the main church. Bradley, who is 8 years old, I expect to follow along and participate more closely during Mass.
There are a couple of ways my husband and I go about training the kids for Mass.
- We talk with the kids about what we expect and what the consequences are beforehand. We try to do this in a pleasant/ relaxed way because we don’t want them to have negative feelings about Mass. Ask them what they think is appropriate or inappropriate behavior. They generally already know. Even have them tell you what they think should happen if they are misbehaving. Once you do decide on the action for inappropriate behavior, it is important for them to verbally tell you exactly what the consequences will be.
- Do a mock-up of how to act during Mass. Even act out what the bad behavior would be. Role reverse to where you (the parent) act like a misbehaving kid and the kid(s) pretend to be the parent who has to discipline. It’s a fun way to get the point across without it being a mean old lecture from the parents.
- Make Mass and going to church sound really awesome (because it really is!). We are constantly talking to the children about how amazing and wonderful Mass is. The goal is for them to love and be excited to go to Mass. And out of love for God, want to be on good behavior.
- We do allow our kids to bring certain things to help occupy them during Mass. For the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception, we made Mary Mass bags. These are their own special bags they bring to Mass and it’s only for Mass. They can bring only one to two small, quiet toys and a mini notebook to draw in. Bradley can bring a small notebook to keep himself busy but I try to have him follow along to the fullest amount he can. I NEVER allow food or drinks to church. I think it is inappropriate and very distracting.
If we have to take any of the kids out during Mass for misbehavior (except for Ignatius) they are put in time out. One of the consequences of being taken out is it will be way more unpleasant than sitting in the pew of the main church. If it’s a toddler throwing a full-blown temper tantrum we have had to go and sit in the car. Yes, it is a HUGE pain in the butt to follow through with but they quickly learn how to act appropriately. If all the kids were blatantly bad all throughout Mass (examples would be them consistently fighting, being taken out multiple times, and continue to act up) then they will miss out on our after Mass treat. Sundays after Mass, we like to go to the store to pick up donuts or some other type of special snack.
Other tips for taking children to Mass:
- Read the Mass readings beforehand. I know that the kids can be very distracting for us parents, so it helps to have read the passages in advance. We need to hear the Word too!
- Sit closer to the altar. I know this sounds crazy and intimidating but it works for a lot of parents. The closer you are, the better the little ones can see what’s going on and they get curious about what is happening.
- Tell the kids what is going on. Point out where the tabernacle is, what color the priest is wearing, the statues, etc..
- If it is too stressful to take the children to Mass, try to go at separate times than your spouse. I know a few families that this arrangement works great for.
- Ultimately, patience. Patience with the kids and yourself.
By no means am I saying my kids are perfect little cherubs or that we’re expert parents. We definitely have our days where I’m looking like a hot mess, the kids are wild banshees, late, and we’re just all over the place. Those days are bound to happen. It’s part of parenthood. When those days do happen, ask for God’s grace and offer it up. What else can you do? Generally speaking, I don’t feel that taking little children to Mass has to be this daunting experience. It can be an enjoyable one, with a set of reasonable expectations, a lot of preparation/ training, and consistent discipline.
Jesus…said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.
Do you have any tips for taking kids to Mass, if so please share in the comments below!!