One thing I have never talked about here, but have pretty strong feelings about nonetheless is kids and behavior in church. Since I have another point to my post (which I'll get to in a minute) I will only summarize how I feel about these topics, but I think you will get the general idea. I believe kids belong in church with their parents, learning as a part of the community. Along those lines, I do not believe kids should be entertained with toys and food, I believe they should be paying attention and learning the liturgies, hymns, & prayers.
This can be a lofty goal when almost every church has those convenient little bags of fun things to do and almost all of the other small (and not so small) children in church are spending church sitting on the floor playing with said convenient little bags. Or having a snack. Or something else that doesn't look like paying attention. I have nothing against those things if it is what other parents choose to use, but it is not for us. It does not line up with what I want my children to be learning from the relatively short amount of time we spend in church each week. We are not there to be entertained, we are there to worship and to learn.
I think we've done a decent job of this with our boys. They know we aren't going to get one of the special bags and have stopped asking. We don't bring food or our own books (other than a Children's Bible if they would like). They are expected to sit quietly on the pew (not the floor) and either follow along with the service, or draw quietly on the back of a bulletin or complete a children's bulletin. Although we have occasional regressions (especially if we have missed more than 1 week of church or someone isn't feeling well or is overtired), for the most part the boys do fairly well with this.
There is a flaw in my thinking, however. One year olds. Any quiet toy is made into a noisy toy. Every book needs to be read. Too distracted to nurse that long. Church no longer lines up with nap time. Not to mention, sitting still for an hour is really pushing their limits. If I'm being honest, with both of the boys, I tried it for awhile and eventually gave up and put them in the nursery until they were 2 and more trainable (for lack of a better word).
After church today, and seeing the regression in the boys' behavior that comes with mom and dad being distracted by Kylee, I'm leaning towards the nursery again. (By the way, Tim says I'm not leaning...if the nursery is staffed again next week she's going!) Tim and I have not both sat through a sermon in the last month. With Kylee climbing around and chattering away, Caleb just can't resist doing the same thing. At three, I understand that its hard for him to focus when someone else isn't. I really don't fault him for it, but it doesn't change my expectation and that is creating some tension between him and me during church, which isn't good either.
It's one year of a flaw in my plan. I still wish I had another solution. SO since I'm fairly certain that 99.99% of people who read this blog have children and most (if not all) of those same readers attend church or worship of another variety with their families, I expect a lot of comments on this post!
I need ideas, encouragement, suggestions, anything really.
What are/were your expectations for little ones? What do you do to initially train your children to sit in church? Do you use the church nursery? If so, when and how much? Have you ever had a child who didn't agree to go to the nursery (Kylee is not used to separating from us)? How do you continue to meet your own worship needs?
Most of all, what would you do with this innocent little face?