first if I have to take my kids out I do so without apology. one sunday that meant me dragging my six year old out as she grasped on to people and pews desperately screaming "help!! i think she is going to hit me. you have to help me" ahhh yes. good times (for the record we don't hit....but homegirl knows how to cause a scene). The Parish council president said something to her as she was standing in time out (after that scene she had to stand in time out until she could agree to act civilized. I was not even asking for an apology....) To this day (and she is almost 10 now) I have no idea what he said to her, but she has hardly caused me any grief in church since. and she adores him so it couldn't have been bad. let their church family help.
when I would take them out, even as babies it was so they did not disrupt other people or to correct their behaviors. it was not play time. it was not so they could have a break. they were not alllowed to talk to people, get down, play. as soon as they were quiet we went back in. SOmetimes we didn't even make it back to our seats before had to turn around again.
but eventually they got it. they knew the rules and knew I would allow no infraction or boundry pushing in church. They also learned to love church. It usually meant leaving one in their seat alone....for some reason this worked. even when my oldest was like 5 (I am a single mom, dragging one already disruptive child out of church is a challenege, dragging one who wants to get out and one who wants to stay...nightmare. but "sit in your seat and do not move till I get back" seemed to work for my older one. she would even take care of the baby while I went out.)
with infants I spent a lot of time pacing in the back or sitting on the floor while they played.
we stand a lot in church. I have never expected my youngest to stand through all of it of course. (two hours, mostly on your feet) but she sits nicely. I try to spread out what we do a little. make sure she goes to the bathroom and stuff when we get there. then she gets to light her own candle. she is finally tall enough to venerate the icons without helps. it takes a while but no one is in a rush. if she wants to make another round later thats cool. she has tapes of the liturgy she listens to at night so she knows all the songs. if I were a better mom I would go over the scripture readings the night before. there are a couple spots in the service where we line up and file towards the front. We make the sign of the cross...every 30 second or so, and we sing through out the service. its is nicely broken up so she is not in one spot dieing for too long. no coloring books, toys or reading material, no snacks or sippy cups have ever been allowed by me in church. If they did something in sunday school that stuff goes under my purse. they are allowed to have a bulliten but if they get caught playing with it I take it away. our sermons are long if they go 15 minutes though. can't help you there. When we were protestant they did go to childrens church during the sermon. it would drag on for an hour. even I tuned most of it out.....doodled....made a trip to the bathroom just because I could....but the most important thing is to help the own the service (whatever part they are in for) and let them know God loves to hear their praises and prayers!!! let them know they are an important part of the gathering and that *this* is meant for *them*. the God wants to bless *them* during this time of worship. not just the grown ups but them too!!! and start small. like I said. maybe just the first song. maybe even just one child. When we started attending an Orthodox church i started bringing just my youngest. I was able to give 100% of my attention to her. help her understand things, answer her questions, let the old people fall in love with her
then I added my second oldest (7 at the time) then my oldest (10). My kids often sit with other adults at church. this helps me give whoever is left 100% of my attention.
reward...ok church is its own reward but I do try to give my kids a little boost if they did well in church. Our church has snacks/lunch every sunday after church. its the only day of the week my kids get to eat that kind of junk. I also really carry on about how well behaved they were, how proud I am, etc when they work hard to behave and participate in church. I make an effort to go to fun youth stuff every chance we get. they go to special service as well which is really helping them love church. they are getting to know their priest, his family and other families in the church. That all helps to make this their church and theirt family.
I am also fortunate to go to churches very tolerant of children learning. a fussing child is helped and loved on by all. when my children do act up i don't have to worry about what people think about their behavior or by how I handle it. we can just deal with it in a natural relaxed way. and often people are willing to help. (for instance if my kids are feeding off each other there may be someone there who will take one to sit somewhere else. problem solved.)
another thing that helps is staying physically attatched to my child. I rub her back, kiss the top of her head, help her cross herself, hold her hand. it is a very sweet time for us
it also helps me quickly address behavior issues (usually by grabbing a hand reaching out to annoy a sibling
) because I am tuned in with what that child is doing. my kids are getting older so we don;t spend a lot of time cuddling. they love church because they get that affection in larger doses. and they know that behaving prolongs it. its win win win.
We are fortunate to know excatly what scripture will be read and have good ghuess on the topic of the sermon on any given week of the year. I can go online and down load complete childrens lessons, the music, coloring pages that relate etc so if I did want to let them color or have a little book it could be one that went exactly with the stuff for the day.