It seems like Reverence is a thing of the past. So many kids don’t know how to show respect at appropriate times. Could you imagine if your kids felt deep respect every time they went to church? How would that change their worship services? We have tried lots of things. Here are a few we have tried that have been effective in helping our kids show more reverence in church.
Teach them to be quiet. I was watching my kids this week and noticed how quiet they were. This was not always the case. I remember picking up my tantroming, screaming 3 year old son, throwing him over my shoulder and trying not to fall in my high heels as I made my way out out of the chapel. It wasn’t a pretty sight! It is best to start when your child is a baby. It took a lot of repetition as they were learning to be quiet during Sacrament meeting. And even know still sometimes need reminders.
- Take your kids out if they are crying or upset. Kids will be kids and kids will cry. Loud crying can be very distracting for everyone around you. Take your child into the foyer until they are calmed down and ready to be quiet. Don’t let them run around and have fun while you are out there. Sometimes I would actually take them into a room and make them sit quietly.
- When they do talk, tell them to talk softly (like at the library). Kids naturally have questions and observations. Make sure that you are using a quiet voice too.
- Practice being quiet at home. We practiced what an outdoor voice sounds like (super loud). Then an indoor voice (Medium Loud). Then a church voice (Quieter than a whisper). I often hear parents say “SHHHHHHHH!” I wonder if the little kids really know what that means. Now I only have to hold my finger up to my mouth for my kids to know to be quiet.
Teach them to be still. Each child has different abilities and amount of time they are able to sit still. There are a few things we did to help encourage this.
- Always have your kids sit on the bench whenever possible. As soon as my kids could sit up, I would try to sit them on the bench. When they would kneel down to do an activity, I would tell them to sit on the bench instead. It really does make a difference! We always trapped them in (Adults on the ends of the row) and didn’t let them run in the aisles.
- Practice sitting still at home. What do your arms do at church? Legs? Eyes? Ears? Mouth? Mind? It is great to let them practice expectations in a not so serious environment.
- Have the kids sit quietly until after the Sacrament is over. I tried not to get out any toys or activities until after the Sacrament was done. They would ask a lot, but I would always say, “After the Sacrament”. It really isn’t a long amount of time to sit quietly. They always made it through.
- Choose activity books that are uplifting. When my girls were younger we brought princess coloring books and small toys to distract them. But then I realized they were focused on princesses all week long and then go to church and do the same. I wanted them to focus on the Savior during church, so I got some coloring books and activity books focused on the Savior and the scriptures. It seemed to calm them some. I also made a quiet book and an ABC Scripture book. Here’s a cute diy note book. I tried to alternate what we brought each week and only let them play with them at church. (Some contain affiliate links.) As they get older, you can slowly wean them off of all activity books.
Newborns-I did my best to feed and change and wear my little ones out so they would sleep as long as possible during the Sacrament. That being said, little babies are super hard to predict how they will behave. Do your best to keep them quiet and happy during church.
- Keep them in their car seats. I loved to leave them in their car seat during church. My kids slept so well in their car seats and people aren’t able to touch them as easily! Bonus!
- Feed them right before the meeting. My kids usually went to sleep after feedings so it worked great.
- Bring extra outfits, burp rags, diapers, wipes, and blankets with you. Just be prepared for unexpected explosions.
- Don’t feel bad if your baby cries. It happens. Do what you can beforehand and then hope for the best. If they cry, simply take them out, take care of their needs and then bring them back in. Now I actually love the sound of the newborn cries. So sweet!
Attire. I’ve always believed that going to worship your Lord and Savior you should look your best. You would want to look your best if the Lord came. We plan extra time on Sunday mornings to shower, fix our hair and put on our clean, unwrinkled, nicest dress clothes. Make sure clothes are washed, ironed, and ready to go before Sunday. Flip flops and more casual clothes are saved for more casual activities. If we are going to a meeting in the chapel we always wear our Sunday best.
Where should you sit? Where you sit can have a major impact on what you get out of the meeting. I’m really a back of the chapel person, but because I am a people watcher (I get so distracted looking at all the cute hairdos and outfits and fingernails…) I need to sit closer to the front. If you have little ones, it might be wise to sit towards an EXIT so you can take your child out if needed. Also, don’t sit too close to friends who will be a distraction to you or your kids.
Focus on the Savior during the Sacrament. I’ve always believed that this is the most sacred part of our worship services. I liked to have my kids wait until after the sacrament to do other activities. I had pictures of the Savior for the kids to look at during the sacrament to help them focus. They can read the words to the hymns, look at pictures of the Savior, read scriptures, read their patriarchal blessing, read the words to the sacrament prayers, or think of something they can do to improve on or to remember Him throughout the next week.
“The Song of the righteous is a prayer unto the Lord.”Doctrine and Covenants 25:12
Hymns-Music is a sacred way to bring in the spirit. I pushed my kids to sing the hymns even when they were first learning to read. I’d take their finger and follow along the words with it. Sometimes we would look at the chorister and mimic the beat. My son didn’t like singing for a long time, but I still made him get the book out and follow along. Even just reading the words can have a powerful impact. I have wonderful memories of sitting next to my dad in church and listening to him sing in his beautiful deep voice. Your kids will be drawn to certain songs or words that will help them draw closer to their Lord and Savior.
Snacks– Food shouldn’t be the norm. When the kids are younger it can be a great help in keeping them quiet. We tried to only bring things that didn’t make a mess-Cheerios, Fishy Crackers, small pretzels. No crackers or cookies or things that make a mess or get crumbs all over. I’ve seen people bring full lunches or a crunchy apple for their kids to eat during Sacrament. We tried to only get snacks out if they were getting fussy or to help them get through another few minutes. I would wean your kids off of eating snacks and treats during Sacrament as soon as possible. They will survive one hour without eating…especially if they are a teenager.
Put away distractions…especially your phones. The second I turn on my phone, I see my number of messages and emails and texts. It can instantly distract me even if I was going to read my scriptures on it. Just put them away-especially during the Sacrament.
Come Early. Now that my son passes the Sacrament, we come 15′ early. It really has made a difference in our worship service. We listen to the prelude music. It is very calming and prepares us to feel the spirit. Plus you get first pick of any row in the chapel!
Help your older kids focus during the meeting. My kids can sit quiet now but are they really listening? Are they paying attention? Try these:
- Take notes. I saw a guy take notes on the program once. Sometimes I use the program for my notes and sometimes I pull out a pad of paper from my bag. Taking notes is one of the best ways for me to focus on what the speakers say and allows me to focus on any inspiration that comes.
- Get a church journal for each kid to write or draw on during the talks.
- Look at the speaker. If I’m looking at the speaker I’m less distracted by all of those cute kids.
- Sometimes I just need to have my kids change places then they can focus better.
Clean Up. Teach your kids reverence for the building by having them pick up garbage, straighten hymn books, and clean the church building. We try to clean up anything we can before and after the meeting. We also have taught them not to run in the building unless it is in the gym and not to cut through the chapel.
Don’t give up! It may seem like a lost cause now, but they will get it! One day you’ll look over and realize your kids are sitting quietly. What are some things you have tried that have been successful at teaching your kids reverence?