I have a 14 month old and a 3 and a half year old, and I have just about given up on sitting through Mass with my husband on Sundays. I was just wondering if you had any tricks up your sleeve apart from the usual Cheerios scheme to keep young toddlers occupied and–somewhat–quiet during that hour. Any tricks you may have accumulated over the years would certainly be appreciated! How do you enjoy Mass as a family with a squirmy toddler?
While we’ve certainly talked about this before, it’s a subject that comes up so often that I think we should do it again. If you follow the link, you can find my more detailed thoughts on bringing kids to Mass, but here I’ll just share three main bits of advice for parents of young children:
1. Sit up front.
It might sound crazy, but small children tend to behave better when they can see what’s going on at the altar and not just the backs of people’s heads.
2. Don’t reward bad behavior.
I’ve been guilty of this more times than I care to remember. If your child’s throwing of the hymnal and screeching at the top of his lungs is immediately rewarded by a joyful trip to the back of the church where he can run to his heart’s desire, take a bath in the holy water, and investigate the potted plants, he will remember that next time he feels trapped in the pew.
3. Remember you don’t have to.
As much as I advocate attending Mass as a family, there have been times in our family where it just didn’t make sense. Sometimes a mom just needs an hour of peaceful prayer in her week. There’s nothing wrong with that. You and your husband could attend separate Masses or you could hire a sitter on Sunday mornings or Saturday evenings. Someday your toddler will outgrow that really difficult phase and you can go back to Mass as a family.
I’m sure others have additional thoughts and experiences to share.