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.