People often comment after church "Your kids sit so WELL!!!" This is sometimes followed with, "How do you make them do that????"
Such was the case on Sunday.
From the (visiting) pastor's wife.
They have one little boy who is not quite three and he won't sit through a service. While he is quiet and not disruptive, it is because he is allowed to run around in the back during church.
She was seriously looking for some advice, seeing as all of our kids sit quite well through the hour+ service. Sometimes, ok, oftentimes, people are not really asking me, they're just commenting. She was asking, so I tried to answer.
I said, first off, that our kids have been in church from the Sunday after they were born. Seriously. Unless they were born on like a Thursday or Friday. Then I gave myself another week.
Second, I told her that my older kids do help, but like her, I have been on my own at many a service when Dennis has been unable to come with me. (She's "on her own" because her husband is up front preaching.)
That being said, her ratio is 1:1. Mine is now 8:1. There should be no reason why that little guy can't sit through church...
(Ooops! Did my little old church lady did just pop through?)
I told her that I just expect it from them. We will sit through church. That's that.
I don't bring a ton of stuff for them to do. It just ends up all over the floor and the pew anyway. They may write with little notebooks or look at one of the 3 or 4 books from the diaper bag, but that's about it.
I also don't do "children's church" or utilize a nursery. The only time I go out is to feed a nursing baby. I believe families should worship together. Even if all you (the grownup) get out of the service is an out-of-breath feeling of survival after the benediction, your efforts will pay off over time.
I read of a family, the Jeubs, who practice sitting for church at home. I mentioned this to that Pastor's wife. They do a trial run using their couch as the "pew" (or if your church uses chairs then "the chairs".) They practice being quiet and sitting still.
I felt like I didn't answer her question very well "on the spot." But that afternoon as I was washing dishes I had a sort of revelation.
You have to come back.
There are certainly times when you must take your little one out of the sanctuary. But I think the key is to come back.
Otherwise it sure doesn't take long for that little guy to realize that all he has to do is squirm and voila! It's play time!
If you need to take them out to make a correction, then remainder of the correction is to come back in for the rest of the service.
I think now that I'll have a better answer when people ask me how/why the children sit so well.
First: Expect it of them.
Second: Practice at home, if needed.
Third: Come back.
And now you have my unsolicited opinion on that...