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Old 08-10-2011, 03:53 AM   #1
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Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

My daughter just turned 2 in June. She's always been a very well behaved child and has always been so good at church or on any other outings...then we entered the "terrible two's!" She loves being outside and really doesn't understand why we can't be outside running around when we have places to be (like church). I live in a small rural town and our only Mass time is at 4pm on Sunday, which is still daylight. She wants to be running around and begs to go outside, tries to run away from me to get outside and then throws a tantrum when she can't go. My dh works during Mass time so I take her to church by myself but she is such a handful that I leave there on the verge of tears each week lately. Our church is small and doesn't have a usable cry room. I am so discouraged and don't quite know what to do to remedy our situation. I don't get to participate or listen to Mass because I spend the entire hour trying to keep peace with my 2 yr old and I know we must be very disruptive to the other parishioners trying to listen to Mass. She's the only child in our church so they all say they don't mind and they love having a child there, but I know there's got to be some people that sit there seething that we're so disruptive.

I take her to the back of the church when she acts up so she won't be bothering others but she's equally disruptive back there too. I know I could take her out of church entirely, but that's exactly what she wants...so I feel like if I were to do that, am I setting a poor example that you can simply misbehave to get your way? I just don't know what to do. All I know is it's gotten so I dread taking her to church, I don't get to listen to anything while I'm there so it's almost a waste of time for me to go and I spend the entire time struggling with a little girl who just wants to be outside playing. Seriously, this child wants to be outside from the time she wakes up till the time she goes to bed so it's not as if she's not getting enough time outdoors.

I realize I must be doing something wrong in how I handle our situation so please, any advice for me would truly be appreciated. Oh, I do bring her plenty of toys/books/snacks/drink/etc to try to use as diversions or to keep her interest and nothing works.

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Old 08-10-2011, 07:11 AM   #2
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

I've been there done that Mama so I can relate to how terrible that is.

When my son was younger my father played the organ for our church. We used to sit next to the organ and if ds would get fussy then cool Grandpa would take him and hold him on the organ for the rest of the sermon. That worked great until Grandpa retired from organ playing and ds no longer had a cool place to go. That turned into full out temper tantrums, running around etc....

What we did was we started sitting in the back of the church. Where ds could play without disrupting. If he did get disruptive we would first try making him sit on our laps and not letting him get down. Sometimes that worked, although we would have to sit through some crying and mumbling. If that didn't work then we would go downstairs into the church's kitchen area and put him in time out. Once he was calm we would go upstairs again.

The church had little bags of special toys just for kids (although we were the only ones with small kids). Since the toys were special 'church' toys they held ds's attention for longer.

We also had an extremely supportive church. I never could have done it without them. Sometimes when I was getting frustrated a sympathetic church member would happily play with ds for me in church to give me a break. I NEVER could have raised my kids in church without a supportive church.

But even though those things worked better for us I will admit that there was about a year of time that I didn't get much out of church at all. It was all about watching ds. For a while there, even though the things I mentioned worked somewhat for us there never seemed to be any improvement. Then all of a sudden it just stopped and he was a perfect gentleman in church. I don't know what happened, we didn't do anything different. I really think it was a phase.

Then when we had dd#2 she went through a rough patch but is overall MUCH better behaved in church and I think most of it is just because she sees her big brother sitting and behaving. So if #1 is tough and you don't have a #2 yet (assuming you want a #2) don't automatically think it will be as terrible as #1.
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Old 08-10-2011, 07:41 AM   #3
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

I honestly believe that children who are not developmentally ready to sit through a church service should be allowed to go elsewhere until they are ready.

With all of our children, we sat in the service for as long as we could. We brought quiet activities for their entertainment, encouraged them to play quietly in the pew, and then went out when it got to be too much for them. As they got older, they were able to sit longer and longer without being disruptive. We praised them for being able to sit through services. Sometimes we rewarded them. Some days were better than others. The magic age seems to be 3.

I know some people are of the opinion that it is teaching them to misbehave in order to get out of church. I don't want them to see church as a punishment in any way. I want them to enjoy being there. As they get older and the service makes more sense to them, they will be able to get more out of it and participate instead of sitting and coloring or reading.
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Old 08-10-2011, 07:48 AM   #4
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

I think you are asking too much of her age. If they do not provide a nursery, I would find another church that does or find a regular babysitter so you can go to church. I would not continue taking her if she is so disruptive to the service.
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Old 08-10-2011, 08:15 AM   #5
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

I don't have any experience with this specifically because I do not go to church, but it seems to me that the best solution would be to stop going to church for now.

From what everyone else has said, I'm sure that this is a phase and that before too long she will be able to handle church without a full-on tantrum. You could continue to try attending once every month or 2 to see if she has improved, but if she tantrums then just leave. Maybe not even to play outside but just go home and let her have a tantrum there if you have to.

I know that this would mean that you do not get the benefit of going to the service, which is a major downside, but you said you can't concentrate on it now anyway. One option is find a babysitter to come to your house so that you can attend church. OR, if your church has some kind of group, like a bible study, that meets at a different time when you could leave DD with someone?

Just remember that she WILL grow out of it eventually!
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Old 08-10-2011, 02:25 PM   #6
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

You are not doing anything wrong. It's just a phase. Keep taking her. Everyone says they don't mind. We need children in church. I will say one thing that I've found works best for our family is to leave most of the toys/books/snacks at home. For us I found they became a bigger distraction instead of a help. Maybe just bring one book. Most of our priests have been very understanding of small children in church and noise every so often. And I know it is hard to take little ones without the support of another adult with you. There have been many times I have left Mass thinking that maybe I got so darn frustrated with my kids during Mass that I should maybe ask the priest if I could go to confession before I head home. I just remind myself that when the kids are little, Mass will be a different experience for me than it will be when they are older and my job right now is to help get them to understand and experience the Mass rather than to get too much out of it myself. You do get the graces from attending and receiving the Eucharist even if it feels like you are a tad frazzled by the end. Just keep going. It will get better, I promise.
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Old 08-10-2011, 03:39 PM   #7
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

I'm going to say keep going. It's a phase and she'll learn to play for an hour inside reasonably fast.

I go alone to service with a 5, 3, and 17 month old. I don't expect my youngest to sit. Not once. He walks up and down the pews, he walks and waves and checks out every thing every time. He has figured out all he has to do is be quiet... Then I don't care what he's exploring (within reason and eye shot). Snacks that are ONLY church snacks work here too... We never allow cereal bars any other time so they are 'special'. We also have special church books and church toys packed in a bag only opened once a week

I hope you find what you need. If you feel drawn to be there, don't stop.
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Old 08-10-2011, 03:51 PM   #8
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

Don't worry too much, Mama. It is a very, very rare child who has the ability to sit (relatively) quietly through a church service until at least age 3 or 4.

I grew up in a small church, too. What ended up happening there, a couple of the "grandmas" in the church got together and decided the Mommies needed a break. They assigned themselves weeks to be on duty, and explained the plan to the Moms for their approval. Then, when a little one got disruptive during the service, the Grandma-on-duty would quietly get up, pick up the child, and exit the sanctuary to a back room/outside. Little one got quality time with an experienced, familiar person, and Mom and the rest of the congregation got to enjoy the service in peace.

Is it possible something like that would work where you are?
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:06 PM   #9
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

Each of my girls, well my youngest is going through it right now, went through this period. It started around 18 months and lasted about a year.

Luckily our church has a cry room so if they are fussing/crying whether it's mine or someone else's that's exactly what the room is intended.

I don't necessarily think that you will be teaching a bad habit as so far one grew out of it, but I'll let you know on the other one.

Here's what I do if any of the tips will help you.

First, Jesus said bring the little children to me. He knows exactly how LO's are and regardless He is probably smiling at their "blessed" noise. It frustrating for us parents to no end, but seriously Jesus is looking down upon your child with love and tenderness.

Second, if people say they aren't bothered - trust them. Yes some will be, but the Catholic Church (I'm only assuming because you mentioned Mass) advocates for having the little ones in church with you regardless of whether a parish has a cry room or not. Children are blessings from God even when they aren't "behaving".

Third, I get to Mass just before it starts, and we try to stay until the last song ends, but if the LO is acting up to much we will leave after Communion.

Fourth, once the LO gets antsy, I will let her walk around. Keeping her out of main aisles and such.

Fifth, if it get to disruptive, we will head outside and take a walk around. Then I will usually have us get water or use the bathroom to get us back inside. Rinse and repeat as needed.

Sixth, keep trying, but go with the flow.

My now 4yo gets a little whiney by the end of Mass, but isn't too bad and will generally sit/stand with us with minimal issues. We try to get her to follow Mass or will bring "church" books for her to look at during Mass. The 20mth is still quite a struggle and most of Mass is up and walking, but slowly it has been longer and longer before the get up and move happens.
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Old 08-11-2011, 06:40 AM   #10
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Re: Tantrums at church...and elsewhere.

Tantrums can often be a sign of being overtired. May I ask what your daughter's sleep schedule is? Does she still take a good nap? What time does she go to bed and wake up? Is this consistent?
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