Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Standards of Conduct

Taking toddlers to Mass can present many challenges. Our family opts to never bring toys, books, food or drinks for toddlers and we have never utilized the nursery. Wingnut is a firm believer (it took me several years to buy into his philosophy so I'm giving him all the credit) in taking the children to Mass and expecting good behavior from them at a very young age.

That is not to say we have not had our struggles. From about 12 months to 30 months our family sits in the back of the church, allowing for a quick departure for rambunctious toddlers and Wingnut. During this period of growth and maturity, out children spend most of their Mass in the vestibule with their father working on better Mass behavior.

Our standards are fairly clear, they are expected to sit quietly next to Daddy or in his lap. They are not allowed to fiddle around with the hymnals or missals. They are expected to sit, stand, or kneel(or be held by Dad) when the rest of the parish sits, stands or kneels. Good behavior is rewarded, usually with donuts or Rita's Ice, or some other treat. Bad behavior is punished. The culprit is relegated to watching the rest of his siblings eating donuts or Rita's Ice, or some other treat.

Obviously this program is not for everyone, but for our family it works and works very well. Baby Wingnut, along with the rest of the family, is now sitting at the front of the church during Mass and very rarely needs to exit to the vestibule. We spend our Sunday mornings talking about how he's going to behave at Mass and what kind of treat he will get if he is a "good boy" at Mass. Since Christmas, I can recall only a single time Baby Wingnut has not earned a reward. As time goes on, rewards will no longer be needed. Good behavior will just be a matter of course.

This past Sunday I had the following exchange with Baby Wingnut just before leaving for Mass:

BW: "I'm going to be awesome at Mass today."

Me: "Yes, you are. That's what good boys do."

BW: "Yep, I won't run and I won't tackle."

Evidently his standards of conduct do not quite match ours, but we are working on that.

As a little side story, Elizabeth Foss has recently written a sweet article about the same subject here.
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Your Bro said...

I think BW gets it. No running during mass is crucial because there is so many variables that come into play. He could run into people taking communion...worse he could run into one of the priests as they are distributing the sacraments (that could end up with a punishment of no ice or doughnuts for life). Not tackling I think is even more crucial. What would happen if BW sees StatNut fulfilling his Alter Boy duties and starts hearing the Monday Night Football theme go off in his head, jumps up and tries to take down his older brother. That would definitely be of the highest disruption. Or if Little O is sitting next to him enjoying the full richness of the morning homily and BW sees the book of readings in her hand as a pigskin and drops her off the pew like he was Lawerence Taylor...that too would be pretty disruptive. I think BW has high standards because those would be highly disruptive activities. So the next time BW fiddles with a hymnal, gets a little squirmy or lightly burps his ABC's just think this... "At least he isn't running around the room yelling 'The British Are Coming!' and 'Hey Mama did you buy tickets to the gun show???' while trying to take the Priest's legs out during the doxology!"

So if you put it into that perspective...guaranteed that is what BW is thinking...he should be praised for his willingness for such restraint!

Love ya Mau,

Your Bro

Natalie said...

It is definitly a trick to find a good sense of balance in Mass with toddlers. We were going to the cry room with Clark when he started acting ugly, but when we realized he knew he could run around in there, we stopped going. There have been a few temper tantrums in the middle of Mass because of this, but our priest told us not to leave and that our expectations of Clark would soon be realized and good behavior would follow once he realized he wouldn't get to go outside. Clark is now very good in Mass, but he can sometimes start to sing in the wrong places, like when everybody is in prayer. =) Another friend of mine who goes to a much smaller church has talked to the priest and when her boys start acting ugly, he will call them out from the alter and remind them to be good himself. This has worked well for them and none of the other parishioners mind at all.

Betty Beguiles said...

"Yep, I won't run and I won't tackle."

SO funny! LOL!

Michelle said...

"Our family opts to never bring toys, books, food or drinks for toddlers and we have never utilized the nursery."

Our children are three years and 13mos. and this philosophy takes discipline, but it seems to be working for us too. God Bless!