Thursday, May 19, 2011

Church Behavior

As I've mentioned before, Peter is a very good-natured baby. He rarely misbehaves when we're in public, saving his crying jags for when he is over-tired and Mommy is trying to get him to sleep. He usually is content throughout Mass, squeaking now and then and being a bit squirmy, but certainly appropriate behavior for his age.

Here's my concern: When is that behavior no longer appropriate for his age?

At this time, I don't try to make him pay attention to anything other than the elevation of the host and cup during the Eucharist. If he wants to stand up in the pew and play with the people behind us (who dote on him), he can do that. I try to keep him quiet and contained, but not much else.

Is there an age when people will expect him to focus more? Is there an age when I should expect him to focus more? Or is this one of those things that varies from one child to another?

Photos of Irish churches, for your viewing pleasure. I took these in 2005, while studying at NUI Galway for a semester.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Galway Cathedral
(formally named The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St. Nicholas)

Christ's Church, Dublin

St. Paul's Cathedral, Limerick

Old St. Peter's Church, Inis Mór
(very old)


  1. I was always relaxed and did not expect my children to pay attention until they reached school age: 5-7. Once they start formal religious instruction I expect them to pay attention but I find it helps to give them an assignment before mass. I am always available to answer my children's questions during mass too.

  2. We have different expectations for different ages (and different personalities). Our oldest is four and a very calm, quiet sort of person. She is expected to sit quietly and read a children's missal and/or ask questions when she needs to.

    Our second is 2 1/2 and a loud and on-the-go can't-sit-still type. He is expected to whisper and play (very quietly) in the pew or sit on a lap.

    Our youngest is 11 months and simply cannot stop moving. She started walking a few weeks ago and she is into everything. She and I spend a lot of time walking back and forth in the vestibule.

    Each Sunday is different and we do the best we can. We are blessed to have a very understanding and baby-friendly parish. The other major parish in our town has bulletins posted encouraging parents to leave their babies and small children at home :(

  3. @Granola Catholic: Thanks for the practical suggestions, and the reminder that answering questions about Mass is different from just chatting during church!

    @Kate: Thanks for sharing your experience. I guess I will just take this one week at a time! Peter is a baby celebrity at church since his Daddy is in the worship team, so I do get a lot of support from other parishioners. So sad that the other church in your area discourages children from attending. :-(

  4. I was just having these same thoughts after Mass this week-so glad I am not alone! Luckily the parishioners at the Church in the village just love Lucy and tell us repeatedly every week how wonderful it is that we bring her to Mass. I am hoping they continue to feel that way as she gets older. I really enjoyed reading the responses from the more experienced moms!

  5. It really depends on what he is developmentally able to do. Before Marko was walking, things were easy. Now, it's really tough and we spend half the time in the vestibule. I felt bad until I looked around and saw the place was packed with squirmy one-year-olds! They just can't sit still at that age. But at three, say, they can often be quiet enough to be in the pew without distracting others, though they don't have to pay very close attention. At four or five they usually start taking more of an interest, if they aren't distracted. That's a good age to start sitting up front so they can see what's going on (as long as they can handle it). Often in my family, the big (4+) kids would be in the front with Daddy, and the littles would be in the back with Mommy. Being with Daddy in front was a privilege, so the bigs would be good to avoid losing that privilege and having to go sit in the back with the babies.

  6. @Brianna: Solidarity is a wonderful thing! :-) We need to get our little ones together some time soon to play!

    @Sheila: Those sound like reasonable guidelines. Thanks for sharing! Our Sunday tradition growing up was donuts after Mass. If we behaved like a big kid, we got a big kid donut (filled and/or with frosting). If we behaved like a little kid, we got a little kid donut (just plain, no glaze). :-)