Babbling babies in church

After my post on Children in Church Part 2 (part 1 is here), Catherine asked,

Thanks for posting on this topic. We go to a family-friendly church (RPCNA), but we are having trouble keeping our daughter quiet during the service. She is 8 months old, and very wiggly. We try to keep her in worship with us until she becomes disruptive, which is usually after about 20 minutes. Our original idea was to extend that time every week, but so far she gets loud at the same point in the service every week.

My question is, how do you SPECIFICALLY handle a talkative baby in church? For example, if you were holding an 8 month old and she started blowing bubbles loudly or shouted “DADA!!!”, what would you do? Saying “sh” doesn’t seem to help, nor does giving her something to chew.

I plan to check out the book that was mentioned on your first post, “Parenting in the Pew” – do you have any other suggestions? Thank you!!!

I purposely skirted the issue because this is a hot button for many people, but since you asked here’s how we handle it in our family:
Other than crying, our babies don’t really start babbling and making a lot of noise until they are old enough to understand “no.” At younger ages, they tend to coo responsively – that is, in response to us talking to them. They don’t start it on their own, so if we behave, they behave. :)
When a baby makes a noise, instead of smiling and responding or trying to distract her, we shush her firmly: whisper “no!” in a soft but firm voice. The second time, she gets another “no” accompanied by a thump on the cheek or leg.
She might get hurt feelings now, or she might try it again just to be sure. If she cries, we leave the room – but not to play in the nursery! We step out long enough to quiet and reassure her, and reinforce the lesson (“You be quiet in church. You hush.“) Then we go right back in.
This might get repeated several times when the baby first learns to babble and coo, and it might go on for several weeks if the baby has already been trained to expect positive reinforcement for such behavior (a cookie or a trip to play in the nursery). But don’t despair: consistency works, consistently.
How hard the baby gets thumped depends much on the baby. Some need just a firm voice to get the idea; others need a firm hand. We are not spanking 6 week old babies, so please don’t freak out. We are not even spanking 6 month old babies.
We are training them from the time that they can purposely and intentionally do something, that they must sometimes not do that thing. We train them by responding in a way that discourages them from repeating the behavior. Don’t underestimate your baby – they can learn, and with gentle consistency they do learn quickly.
As I have said before, if you can teach your baby not to play with your glasses or not to pull the lamp off the coffee table (and you CAN!) then you can teach your baby to be quiet in church.

Comments

  1. Kim – thank you for responding so quickly, wow! We have had our son sit with another family occasionally and it does usually work very well. I guess the problem is that we ask him where he wants to sit as we’re walking with him from Sunday School to church, and he usually says with me and promises me he’ll sit still and be good…and once I’m playing of course it’s too late.

    (Funny how solutions seem easier when typed out and getting an ‘outsider’s perspective!)

    I think we need to decide ahead of time who he will be sitting with and let him know so it’s not suddenly sprung on him two minutes before church is starting. The concern is that he will not want to sit with whoever we pick and will be difficult to them, and I always feel guilty about putting that on someone else during worship time.

  2. Dawn,
    We rarely need to leave our children’s side during church, but I have noticed that the children of our elders, piano player, etc. often sit with another family when both parents are occupied, or a teen from another family will sit with the young children.
    Maybe you can make an arrangement like this with a family in your church?

    Bonnie,
    I’m glad you stopped by. There are so many young mothers looking for help and advice – we can certainly use input from a mother whose children are grown! Please feel free to speak up anytime!

    Dirksgirl,
    Hi – yes, I remember Hubby visiting your group. It’s nice to meet you. Maybe we can get together sometime? In fact, I think our church groups should get together sometime!

  3. Definitely some food for thought… My husband is also a pastor and I am often involved in the worship singing portion of the service. We have a 14 month old and a 4 year-old. I feel like we have been training the older one, but he is still often very difficult during church (we’ve made several trips to Daddy’s office for a spank). I’m not sure how we could be doing better – he often misbehaves during the singing while I am playing piano and Daddy is also busy. He always has consequences after, but it feels like it doesn’t work with him.

    I wish you did house calls – Church Nanny 911 or something, lol!

  4. Hi Kim,
    Im a friend of Steph and Gar’s. Have been reading your blog recently…all good things. Thank you for your comments of pew discipline. Makes me remember Im not the only one. My husband is a pastor here in town (I think your husband may have been to one of our Bible Studies years ago) and I have the task of watching our 5 boys and one girl while he preaches. You know how he was finally able to help his frazzled wife? My sweet husband puts the 4 oldest boys in the front row where he can snap his fingers at them (rarely) if need be! Now I only have the two littles in back w/ me….lovely man.
    Thanks for your blog
    Aubrey

  5. mattswife1990 says:

    I have to tell you that the idea of having your younger kids “take notes” by writing the first letter whenever they hear God, Jesus, Lord, etc. is really great!

    Our church has nursery and kids’ church, but this past Sunday we had three coughing little ones and didn’t want them contaminating anyone else’s children. So we kept them with us through the service. Our 5-year-old did great, writing W for worship (that’s what the sermon was about), L for Lord, G for God and J for Jesus! He smiled up at me each time he recognized one of the words he was listening for. :) It was so cute!

    The 3-year old didn’t quite get the hang of it, and our 2-year old ended up needing to go out of the service after a while. But it went really quite well!

    Thanks for this helpful topic!!
    Amy :)

  6. Thank you for posting on this topic. My dh and I have been working with our 2 year old and he will sit quietly through the service. On the other hand, our 14 month old won’t last 5 minutes. He wiggles and talks – and get louder and louder. During the last three services, I have been walking him in his stroller behind the sancuary or in the lobby but have missed a lot of the service. We are one of the only families in our church that *wants* our children to sit with us – most everyone else sends their children either to the nursery or childrens church (even if the child is too old for this – they are then “helpers”). Thanks for all the suggestions – they are a blessing! It is also nice to know that there ARE other like-minded families out there! Have a blessed evening. ~ Dana

  7. We begin training our babies to sit quietly through church at home. I get a cd of one of our pastor’s sermons. We start small – 5 minutes. When the child can make it through the whole sermon at home, they go into “big church” with us. Our babies actually recognize the pastor’s voice from the cd and know it means it’s time to be quiet : )

  8. Thank you so much for all the helpful suggestions! I will share this with my husband. I appreciate you all taking time to share what has worked for you.

  9. My little, almost 6 mo old, is just starting to vocalize, and it can get pretty load. She kind of goes up and down the octives (mostly up) and is just as pleased as she can be with herself. So far she hasn’t started it in chuch, which is a very good thing because she is a little young to understand the word no. Although I do believe she is getting close because she is being trained at home on other things. So comprehension will be shortcoming. Right now it is still her naptime during the service so we have trained her to go to sleep in her carseat with a blanket covering it to make a tent. I wish I had done this with the others as they were much fussier during church because of missing the nap they needed so much.

    Thank you Kim for all the “how to’s”.
    Alicia

  10. I feel so convicted. I haven’t really started this with any of mine (they are 5, 3, and 1). I love my kids but I love the break, I admit it! We are talking about bringing the 5 yr old in but we are waiting for our Sunday School to start up. That way he can go to service and sunday school.

  11. 6littlelambs says:

    Play church at home. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Have her sit on your lap, no noise, twisting, etc… If you allow a special book or toy practice with this too. Keep raising the time on the timer a minute or two at a time. Keep it a goal she can accomplish! :) Ditto what Kim said about a firm no and thump on the leg. If you practice that at home she isn’t going to pitch a fit over a thump at church,

  12. Dear Kim,

    This was exactly what we did with all of ours and I fully agree with you – consistency works!!!

    We used to have people say, “doesn’t it disrupt the church?” My answer is NO. And I can answer that as a church memeber and the wife of the pastor. My husband loves to see children being raised to sit in church with their parents. Yes, we provide a nursery, but he doesn’t mind children in church one bit!!

    They are our future – if we don’t train them, and train them young, who will??

  13. Bonnie from FL again. “consistency works, consistently” is such a key in raising Godly seed. After raising 4 great children and now assisting where appropriate with our 21 precious grandchildren, I believe there is no principle more important. Having consistent parents is the best possible way for children to learn that God means what He says.

    As several have mentioned, we trained the children to sit still for devotions, on the couch, next to Mama, in preparation for Sundays. My husband is the main preaching elder in our small home church, and the grandchildren are included in finding verses to read for him, etc.

    If babies get noisy, our daughters take them to the dining room table, at the back of the living room, and sit with them. I so agree with not rewarding them by taking them to a place to play. It is just a little less distracting to take them behind everyone else.

    Great ideas, y’all! The analogy of manners at the table is a wonderful one. Keep up the good work — consistency is rewarded!

  14. the SmockLady says:

    We don’t spank our children. I know that what you said is not spanking a child, so don’t take my first comment wrong. I actually agree with you on what you said. While we don’t spank as a punishment, because punitive response is different than disciplinary response, and as parents I think we should be very careful to respond not react to our children.

    But I think there needs to be a mention here in the discussion that a family-friendly worship style needs to be a church-wide love and involvement. I disagree with a church not offereing a nursery even in a family-oriented church. I keep my children in church with me, but there have been times I have needed that nursery, as I am the pastor’s wife and have all the children by myself on Sunday’s. And with a special needs child and a few ‘littles’ it’s helped me through a few weeks that I wouldn’t have made it through any other way. Typically if I have to step out with one that is having a bad day, so to speak, I step out into the Narthex or other room connected to the Sanctuary so that our worship continues, but on an educated basis.

    My husband, being the pastor, makes every effort to include the children, all ages, in the worship service, inculding the children. He often speaks directly to them, making sure they understand a point he has made, or explains why we are doing something slightly differently one week – what is the lenton season, what is the advent season, explaining each week and why it’s important to acknowledge it. The elders are quite good about stepping in when I need them to help with one of mine if I have to step out with another.

    I loved your ideas about teaching the younger children about taking notes and using the L and G letters when they hear Lord or God. We’ve done some things similar to that for ours and it does help keep them focused and involved and understanding what is going on. We don’t tell our children that they can’t come to the dinner table until their manners are perfect do we? No, we bring them to the table young and teach them how to behave and eat properly while with us.

  15. I kinda like having my kids in there with me. But like has been mentioned before, each person has their own family and needs.

    I’ve only got one 4 yo and 1 4 month old, but 4 yo is pretty lively– we’ve taught her to be quiet and sit still by threatening to take her out.

    Which she doesn’t like, because it’s either dad or me holding her in our arms, standing up– so she’s pretty bored and pretty restrained.

    She’s usually pretty good now, and using the “we’ll have to take you out” quiets her pretty quickly ;)

    plus, having activites that are age appropriate and compatible with the service helps, of course.

  16. I don’t disagree with your techinque at all. We will give our 10 month-old a little thump on the hand when he tries to pull out the plug to the TV and VCR (which unfortunately are not behind the entertainment center). However, my wife and I have opted to keep our children in the nursery until they’re about 3 years-old. This varies based on how well we feel the child can understand being made to sit still in church. I guess there’s no real difference between teaching them at 6 months or 3 years, but we see it a lot like potty training. We could teach them to sit still and be quiet earlier, but it takes very little time when they’re older. Even bringing our children in at 3 years-old is unfathomable to some of our friends. They keep they’re kids in “children’s church” until the last possible day, which gives us the impression they’re trying to get away from their kids. That may not be true, but that’s the perception they give us. Three years-old works well because that seems to be the age they can really get into the singing and we can talk with them before hand about what the sermon will be about.
    To each his own I suppose, but I highly respect your commitment to family worship.

  17. Hi Kim,
    I like this post..I actually appreciate all of them but this one was special because I have such sweet memories of the times we kept our kids with us in service. I think the training process for me was one of the most enjoyable times. Now that my older ones are ..older, they ask, “Aren’t we going to train the little ones to sit quietly on the mat?
    We don’t have the need anymore because our church presently has a room set aside for the little ones and the older ones stay in service with us if they are not serving in some ministry.
    But I remember having the kids for an hour a day stay quietly on a blanket with some quiet toys or reading and coloring books. They weren’t aloud to get off their blanket. It marked their parameters. When they got older and we had no need to continue in the “training”, I remember my son saying that he “Missed his quiet time”. WOW!
    I kinda miss it too. :)
    I home school my kids also but only two of them are at the school age. I am so impressed that you homeschool with so many. You have absolutely beautiful children!!

    The Lord bless you and your family!

    Laurie (a diamond in the rough)

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