18 October 2009


A properly executed headlock will appear, to the average pewsitter, like a loving maternal embrace.

From this headlock position, advanced practitioners may apply gentle pressure to an earlobe of the offending child, if an additional reminder is indicated.

Threats and ultimatums, when murmured with a pleasant expression, will likewise trouble no one but the youngster whose conscience is asking, nay, begging, to be troubled.


Melrose said...

oh geez, were you sitting behind me in church today?! *guilty look* :)

I performed the said headlock but unfortunately it was met with , "OUCHIE!!! YOU'RE GOING TO BREAK MY NECK!!!" lol...thankfully the pewsitters around me merely chuckled.

Reb Mary, do you require your children to sit, hands folded, following along and not playing with shoelaces, hymnal strings, etc? I am the only one at our church that does not allow our boys to hold any type of toy and wrestles them into sitting/standing/folding hands, etc and I can feel the stares of other moms...sigh.

Reb. Mary said...

That's a complicated question. My answer to church behavior varies by age/developmental stage/number/personality of my kids. The important thing is to set a realistic standard (which doesn't mean lax), grit your teeth, and be consistent. But that doesn't always mean causing yourself unnecessary grief. Here's my answer at the moment:

The 5yo sits and stands at the appropriate times, says the Creed and Lord's Prayer and (sometimes) sings along with the hymns he knows. He gets crayons--truly, sometimes he listens better if his hands are busy--and a Bible picture book to page through during the sermon. He's usually on his own for all this. Sometimes I'm able to help him look up hymn numbers, etc., but usually I'm fresh out of hands. (NOTE--two years ago I would NOT have dreamt his normally exemplary church behavior to be possible. All the wrestling does eventually pay off!!!)

The 3yo has some, shall we say, impulse and attention issues, which are exacerbated when he's having allergy/eczema flareups. He's the one who was in a headlock this morning :) He still gets Cheerios and raisins during the sermon (GASP--it's true). He also is allowed crayons and a book, and sometimes shares his younger brother's books or small Etch-a-sketch. On good days, he participates appropriately. Having something in his hands also seems to help him (sometimes, a small stuffed animal accompanies him, and he lectures it beforehand on proper behavior, which helps both of them behave :) ). Days like today, when I had no help, the service went long, and his younger brother was in rare form, if he's sitting quietly while we're all standing for a moment, I leave well enough alone.

The 18-mo-old--Sigh. He usually folds his hands for about a minute during the prayers. Other than that, to the extent possible, I try to keep him quiet, nondestructive, and nondistracting to others(books, snack, a small quiet toy or two).

This is what's possible for us right now, we've worked awfully hard to get here, and we'll keep pressing on!

Reb. Mary said...

p.s. After reading the above, you might not believe it, but I too am by far the strictest parent in the pew at our congregation. Perhaps Rebekah and Gauntlets will find time to share their tips, as I believe that their children perform to a higher standard than mine do ;)

Rebekah said...

In case you're interested in another operating procedure: my general rule is that only church books and coloring on blank paper are allowed in church, and only until the age of 3. Between 3 and 4 I have occasionally allowed one small stuffed companion, who must remain well behaved as RM describes.

My member of the 5-yr-old boy club is not nearly as engaged in the service as RM's. He is quiet the whole time, but he just doesn't keep up except for looking up hymns because he's a number nut, and he's not above playing with hymnal strings. Sigh and whatever. I'm too busy with the baby to enforce participation.

6-yr-old girl participates well but still does not make the sign of the cross at the right times. Probably because very few other people here do, and I only can when my hands are free.

3-yr-old girl has always been a good church baby. She sits with my church helper and keeps up with the service well. If only it were me keeping her up. :(

1-yr-old boy is awful. I can't remember the last time we made it all the way through a service (including our Wednesday night half hour Low Mass--no church helper for that one). I've never been a snacks-in-church mom, but he drove me to it, and I've actually considered not giving him breakfast before we go over there so food would keep him quiet longer.

Some kids are just better church kids than others. Keeping the baby quiet always has to be the bottom line. Depending on the baby, standards for others may slip. Church with my current specimen, plus baby in utero, has made me feel miserable and exhausted for months.

Kira said...

Oh good, I'm not the only one threatening my children into obedience in church! When the older ladies compliment me on how "well-behaved" my boys are in church, I always smile and say thank you while thanking God that they can't hear what I'm saying to the boys under my breath!

Melrose said...

wow, this helps alot...as far as it gave me several ideas I had never thought of before. I still dont know what I'm going to do but I'll pray on it.

Since my 3 yr old was a baby I have never allowed toys or food. He sat in my lap when we sat and I held him when I stood. His only toy was the hymnal and he always did so well. We had our rough patches, but always got through them and during his 2nd year he was so good in church people would literally grab my arm after church and demand to know my secret.He even said the words of institution in the service! ha. Then he turned 3.

Ive tried all sorts of things...books during the sermon, a pencil and paper, a small magna doodle...but everything seems to cause more problems than it solves because then he doesnt want to participate at all, things crash to the floor or get thrown by my 18 mo old, etc. sigh. My 18 mo old is obsessed with throwing so that makes any toy at all hard. oh well, thanks for all the ideas...I may have to try the animal idea, that could work. (and if it gets thrown, at least it's soft :)

Dakotapam said...

Mine are older, for now...at 13, 10, 7 and 5...all participate almost fully in church. Ethan (5) will draw in his Growing in Worship folder, and The 7 and 10 year olds do use it to follow the Gospel Reading and the Collect. This is a great church resource...I'm glad I bugged our Pastor into getting it...he listens to me most days!

When the kids were younger I expected less of them, but I usually cut snacks out by age two...which is hard when there is a little brother eating snacks next to you.

We've also been known to have Church Practice after church on difficult days.

The liturgy helps...it allows even non-readers to participate. Our congregation also has several developmentally disabled adults, so our liturgy and hymn selection have a shorter rotation, and more repetition, which makes things easier for the kids as well.

All bets are off after January...I'm just glad I got the oldest four sitting well before adding the jumpy duo to the mix!

Mossback Meadow said...

Is it ok to do this to other people's kids?

Reb. Mary said...

MM, :D

Jodi Nierman said...

I did that headlock this week to my three year old. I love what you guys have to say as I feel like I"m the only one "church training" my child in church. Thanks for the tips!