Peace Be With You, Dinosaur: Age Appropriate Goals for Mass Behavior

I've written about kids in Mass. A lot. My thoughts are well known on whether churches should have cry rooms (against it) or breastfeeding (for it). But when Haley asked me to be a part of a blog carnival about kids in Mass, I just KNEW that if I really thought about it, there must be more to share on the subject. And there was.
So, without further ado, here are our family's expectations for the behavior of our children during Mass, things we look out for, and our coping strategies, broken down by age group. (Note: My kids are the only ones I've ever parented. Your kids may vary. I promise to refund your entire purchase price if this doesn't work for your kids.) Zero to Six Months
  • Reasonably quiet, ideally sleeping.
Things That'll Get Ya:
  • General baby grumpiness.
  • Forgetting something you like to use, like the carrier, or a nursing cover, or wipes.
  • Diaper blowouts.
Things I Don't Sweat:
  • Going past people, even multiple times.
  • Low to moderate level baby noises. Babies aren't capable of silence, but they and I have as much right to the Mass as the next guy. Until the noise level gets past coo/gurgle/fussing we stay put.
  • Being late. All we can do is our best.
  • Missing parts of Mass for diaper changes or inconsolable moments. Caring for an infant is a valid excuse for missing Mass entirely, it's certainly a valid excuse for missing parts of Mass, even the important parts. All we can do is our best.
  • Feeding. I always plan to nurse my babies in the pew during Mass. It keeps them quiet and occupied.
  • Walking. If I can't nurse them to sleep, I try a baby carrier and walking back and forth in the back of the church.
  • Sitting in the front of the church so I don't see if people are craning to look at us.
Six Months to Two Years
  • Reasonably quiet, mostly in the pew.
Things That'll Get Ya:
  • The collection envelopes. So brightly colored, right at eye level. My kids aren't allowed to touch them, but they really want to.
  • Keeping toddler voices at a whisper.
  • Keeping toddlers in a confined space.
  • Cry rooms . . . if there's one in your church, some folks are going to expect you to sit in it.
Things I Don't Sweat:
  • Quiet talking, or attempted quiet talking, even if it's not perfectly successful.
  • Moving around within the pew.
  • Going past people, even multiple times.
  • Quiet, not messy snacks.
  • Sitting up front where toddlers can see what's going on.
  • Whispered explanations of what's happening in the Mass or who that is in that stained glass window.
  • Quiet, soft toys.
  • Nursing if possible, but many of my babies are awfully distractible after six months and have trouble nursing in interesting environments.
Two Years to Seven or So
  • Quiet, following the Mass.
  • Sit or stand or kneel as required.
  • Stay in the pew alone (or with a sibling) quietly during communion or if I have to take the baby out.
Things That'll Get Ya:
  • That they're probably sitting next to a sibling.
  • Potty "emergencies."
  • Children's liturgies. We avoid regularly attending a Mass with a children's liturgy, because we'd really rather be together as a family for the Mass. But, at this age, we do let our kids go if we happen upon one.
  • Snacks, toys, books, and Mass bags . . . for us these don't work. They make my kids noisier than they would otherwise be, and they keep them from participating in the Mass. We bring "stuff" for kids under two, but two and ups in our family don't get things in Mass. They just get the Mass.
Things I Don't Sweat:
  • I don't usually have to take kids over two out of Mass for behavior, but if I did, I would.
  • Kids saying they have to go to the bathroom, because mostly they don't.
  • Moving around between seats or between parents.
  • Always taking them to the bathroom before Mass, so I don't have to stress about not letting them go during Mass.
  • Sitting up front.
  • Following along in the missalette.
  • Bribery. Never underestimate the power of the donut.
Eight (or First Communion) and Up
  • Follow along with the Mass. Sing the songs, recite the responses.
  • Sit up, kneel up, stand up straight.
  • Pay attention to, and be able to recall, the readings and the homily.
  • As an altar server . . . Be reverent. Pay attention. Know your job. Do your job.
Things That'll Get Ya:
  • Children's liturgies. Our communicants do not leave the Mass, even though sometimes well-meaning parishioners encourage them to do so.
  • Siblings.
  • Kids forgetting that there's no where on the altar that the people in the pews won't notice nose picking.
Things I Don't Sweat:
  • Some fidgeting. My boys have tics. So, they look fidgety, but they can't help it.
  • Some whispering. Until I can make myself stay quiet for the whole Mass, I can hardly expect the kids to be able to.
  • Same as above, plus my boys really love altar serving and it's very motivational for them.
Please click over and check out the other posts in the blog carnival . . . Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas, 27 Books for Your Mass Bag (And Tips for Dealing with Little Ones in Mass) Christy at Fountains of Home, Survival Skills for Mass with Kids You might also like these other posts about kids and Mass at this blog: