Bored with the Lord?

My 4 year old daughter has temper tantrums in the middle of church, usually during the quietest part of the service. I’m a single mom and really have no one to leave her with and would like her to be in church with me. Any ideas? I’m mortified.

I am not at all clear why your church doesn’t have a nursery or a program for young children during the service. It is not just difficult, it is impossible for a four-year-old to sit still and quiet for an hour during a church service! It is completely unrealistic to expect her to do this, and it’s not surprising if she’s bored. So please don’t be “mortified;” your child is behaving perfectly naturally. If other children of this age are sitting through the whole service, either there is something wrong with them, or their parents are using severe punishment to keep them in line. You could be doing other parents and children, as well as the church, a real service by speaking with someone in authority about the problem and urging them to provide an interesting program for little children. I have known many adults who hate church because they remember having to sit as children through long services which they didn’t understand, and being reprimanded whenever they moved or made a sound.

If your church has other families with young children, perhaps you could put an announcement in the bulletin and meet with them to arrange taking turns at child-minding during the services. Perhaps if all the parents contribute a little, you could pay a teenager to look after the children so you can all attend the service. Also, most churches have a “children’s story” near the start of the service, for which all the little children go up to the front and enjoy special attention and teaching aimed at them. They go out to the Sunday-school or child-minding place after the story. Could you arrange for this to happen?

If none of this is possible, take along several children’s books your daughter knows well, so she can look at the pictures and remind herself of the story. Also take some crayons and a colouring book. But don’t expect these will last her an entire hour. Maybe you should sit near the door, and choose a portion of the service during which you can walk around or play outside with your daughter, then go back in after she has let off a little steam. You can then try rewarding her for being relatively still for 20 minutes at a time.

If none of these things work, ask yourself whether you are really wedded to this particular church. There are many churches in town which have programs for young children outside the sanctuary during the service. I know of one church which has a special seating section for parents with young children, with a plastic wall around it, and the sound piped in, so that the parents can listen to the sermon while their children’s noise does not disturb other parishioners. Perhaps you should call a few other churches with similar approaches to your own, to see whether they are more accommodating for children.

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