Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Children In Sacrament Meeting

As I was leaving church on Sunday, I spied a stack of ancient-looking 
Family Home Evening Resource Manuals on a table marked "free".  My husband had suggested that we use one of these old manuals as our main source for Family Home Evening lessons this year, a suggestion that I had scoffed at originally.  Since they were free, I took them home to have a look.  After reading just one lesson, I'm changing my tune.  There seems to be some very valuable wisdom to glean in these books--lessons that are, more than anything, a primer on good parenthood!  You might want to read on to school yourself...I know I learned and was reminded of some good practices that I plan to emphasize in our parenting moving forward.

Lesson 25 "Children at Sacrament Meeting"

Objective: "Help your children to learn appropriate behavior for sacrament meeting."  I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  Unlike other churches, our children are welcome and expected to attend the main and most sacred meeting in which we partake of the Sacrament.  Instead of being sent to a nursery, families worship together.  This can pose a challenge for parents in instructing their children how to site quietly for a long period of time. (Understatement of the year, I know!)

When I first became a Mom, the message that I got by watching others was more of "sacrament meeting survival".  All I knew from watching other young mothers in my ward was that the cardinal rule of church was "never run out of cheerios".  That worked ok, until my kids grew out of an acceptable age for snacking at church, and I realized that I had created a problem by teaching them that it was ok to eat in the pews!

Then there were the toys and books that we brought, which only caused fights to break out as we added more children to the mix.  My mother-in-law told us that when she took her seven kids to church they each were only allowed one notebook and one pencil (not a pen or crayons), and they only came out after Sacrament was finished.  We eventually gave it a try, and it definitely worked better than what we were trying.

Still, we needed an approach that would help our children learn how to behave in church that would be about their personal growth, and not just a trick/quick fix to keep them quiet.  And I think that the concepts outlined in this lesson does just that.

At first, when I started reading this lesson, I found myself laughing aloud to myself, as I read their "True-False Statements" that were meant to help the adult parent understand basic concepts about child development.  I thought the writer surely must have had a sense of humor, then I realized how dead-on the points were. Here they are:

True or False Quiz:

1.  Praise spoils children.

2. Children need not be involved in decision making and planning before they reach the age of accountability.

3. It is helpful for parents to exemplify the behavior they want their children to exhibit.

4. A young child has a long interest span.

5. Everyday experiences, such as taking walks, meeting people, and looking at magazines, influence a child's behavior in sacrament meeting.

6. A child's feelings about himself can affect his behavior during sacrament meeting.

7. Young children delight in annoying adults by demanding their attention at inconvenient times.

8. Young children can make meaningful contributions to the welfare and happiness of the family.

9. The readiness for a good experience in sacrament meeting comes eventually to each child.

10. Parents have a responsibility to interact warmly and lovingly with their children.

Now for the answers:

1. FALSE:  Sincere praise reinforces appropriate behavior.  Often parents let a child know what he is doing wrong, but forget to praise desired behavior.  Be sure to let him know when he is being helpful.

2. FALSE: Children need experience in planning and decision making on their level of understanding.  Even parents of two-year-olds should respect the agency and thinking powers of their youngsters.  Adults tend to plan for instead of with their children and only pretend to give them choices.  Often choices have already been made for children when alternatives are offered.

3. TRUE:  Parents need to be examples of the behavior they expect of their children.  Parents are the first and most important teachers the child will ever have.  By the time he is five, a child will have many basic habits established.  A child is greatly influence by his surroundings.

4. TRUE:  This answer may surprise you.  The key word here is interest rather than attention span.  Ask: What is the difference between interest and attention span?  In terms of time, the difference could be from one to thirty or more minutes.  Think how involved a young child can be in putting things from one box into another or playing in water or sand.  Young children can be completely absorbed in an activity for long periods of time if they are interested in it.  There is a difference between an interest that comes from inside and something that is imposed upon them.   

5. TRUE:  Children need experiences and skills in many areas in order to solve problems and enjoy the benefits connected with going to sacrament meeting.  For example, a walk with a young child can help him if you take pleasure in shared experiences, focus on interesting features of our Heavenly Father's creations, extend his vocabulary for communicating with others, and help him feel comfortable in his world away from home.  You can relate each fo these points in behavior during sacrament meeting.

6.  TRUE:  A child who sees himself as an individual who is loved, who is helpful, and who is learning and growing is more able to practice self-control.

7. FALSE:  Children basically want to please adults.  Their misbehavior often indicates that their needs for approval, affection, or empathy are not being met.  Parents of unruly children may need to change their own behavior in order to promote a desirable change in their children's behavior.

For example, during sacrament meeting, parents who are impatient and disapproving when young children have a difficult time being quiet can often expect their children to misbehave.  Discuss together how this kind of parent might change.

8. TRUE: It is a basic need to extend love and helpfulness as well as to receive it.  Because of this, young children find pleasure in giving of themselves and in behaving appropriately.

9. FALSE: Readiness for an experience such as sacrament meeting does not just happen.  A young child need encouragement, example, and practice in order to profit from sacrament meeting attendance.

10. TRUE: Children need parents who are warm and loving with them in order to learn appropriate behavior.  Children need to feel that they are loved and respected if they are to develop their potential.  Only when these needs are met will they feel the desire to give positively of themselves during sacrament meeting.


Note:  The ten statements above can be summarized in three main principles that will help young children demonstrate appropriate behavior during sacrament meeting....and I'd add during school, at the store, at the library, or any other public outing where a strict code of behavior is expected!

1.  A model of the desirable behavior is important
(point 3)

2.  A positive self-image is important.
(points 1, 6, 7, 10)

3.  Experiences that give practice in learning appropriate behavior are important.
(points 2, 4, 5, 8, 9)

The rest of the "lesson" had a cute family dialog that demonstrated how one family encouraged their children to act with reverence in church and how they helped the youngest family member to improve, by acknowledging her good behavior, practicing, and talking about ways they can feel the spirit and find interesting aspects of sacrament meeting.  It was worth the read, but I think I've typed enough for one afternoon, so I'm signing off.

My kids were excited to receive "skinny strips of paper" in Primary this week with special assignments for each of them.  Next Sunday, Scarlett will say the closing prayer in Primary, and Guy will stand in as the "reverence child".  So we'll have a "big" Sunday coming up! :)

I hope that you find this lesson as helpful as I did!
There's lots of good concepts here that I feel requires pondering 
and careful application to each individual family.

For another resource to help children listen in Sacrament Meeting see my Sacrament Meeting Worksheet that children can fill out as they listen.


  1. Hmm, I think I may have found our Family Home Evening lesson for next week! Thanks for the reminder to head back to the resources the church has given us with the FHE manual. We just got the video DVD series that coordinates with the manual, so this would be a good reason to break that out!

  2. I know what you mean about the manual appearing "ancient." I first discovered it and used it in the mission field. I loved it! I used it often when teaching members and investigators alike. It's a very valuable teaching tool, especially for people like me who are not very creative. It's full of great ideas to help illustrate gospel principles. I also like how it has suggestions to adjust FHE to your individual family's circumstances. It just goes to show that the principles of the gospel are timeless, even if the manual itself is older than me. =)

  3. We've struggled off and on in sacrament meeting with our daughter who is now 4 1/2 - we've gone months at a time when we did not hear even a complete talk, ever, let alone sit through an entire meeting. She still has her moments. Number 2 on this list stands out to me as the way to work with her now, and I'm forwarding this post to my husband as soon as I finish this comment. Thank you!

  4. I have been thinking about this subject lately. Even my older girls (12 and 9) sometimes glaze over and don't listen, even if they are being quiet. So, this past Sunday I made cookies and my husband and I quizzed them on the talks from Sacrament meeting. One cookie for each correct answer. They each only got one! But, getting the younger ones to sit reverently . . . I am always open to different ideas and methods. I'm pretty sure I'm not doing something right :)

  5. I think I remember my parents teaching us that lesson when I was a kid. That manual looks very familiar. :)

    Thank you for putting this lesson out there. Such a great topic that parents need to hear far more than children, I think. :):):)

  6. reminds how important the role of a parent is in training the little ones. one day you can look back and watch your children try to train their little ones and just relax!

  7. I have one of those manuals and I have only cracked it open once or twice because it looks so old. The principles in it won't change though I and I think I need to make more use of it. I really like the parts of this lesson that you shared...I'm going to look it up to use in preparation for Sunday this week.

    My 8 year old had a bad week 2 Sundays ago because she got her scriptures out to read before the Sacrament was over. I told her to put them away because our rule is that nothing comes out of the bag until the Sacrament is over. If she got to open her scripture bag even for her scriptures, then her brother would want to get out his paper and crayons. She was mighty upset and threw a fit, which saw both of us in the hall for the remainder of the meeting. (She has some learning disorders which make things difficult for both of us!) I know it sounds weird to say "you cannot read your scriptures until the Sacrament is over" but we have to consistently follow our family rule in that regard. I want to be able to pay attention to the announcements and concentrate on the Savior not be constantly telling her what the words are or dealing with children getting their papers out before they are allowed to.

    Anyway, the point of that ramble is that I think I will make sure the kids have some choice in what they are bringing. I love how you worded it...as parents we are guilty of planning FOR and not WITH. That applies to me in so many areas in my life.

    Thanks for giving me yet another jumping off point to do some thinking and changing, Jocelyn.

    Signing off on this novel length comment now...have a great day!

  8. Cassi - I love that idea for the older kids. It would open up so many opportunities for discussion too as you munched on cookies around the table. I think I am going to try that with my older kids this week too! Thanks for sharing.

  9. oh well! what can I say about this? I'm frustrated, thank God I have a very helpful husband, my youngest loves to crawl under the benches at church, so I have to be almost crawling behind my baby, now imagine is not a pretty picture especially when you have a skirt/dress on, high heels, and all that jazz. We have tried everything, I made "book of silence" worked for two Sundays, we went to the zoo and I took animal pictures, laminated them and punch holes to make lacing cards, it worked for a little while, but then it didn't anymore, coloring books, notebooks, food (which was/is a big mistake, because I needed to clean after), by the end of each sunday I always have a massive headache, and so so tired....pheeewwwww!!!!!

  10. I can attest to the worth of this lesson. With a lot of prayer, a lot of example, a lot of taking the time to use teaching moments, and practicing at home... we can successfully sit through church with children ages 8,6,5,3 without bringing anything for them to read or play with. They bring their scriptures, they look at the hymnal during sacrament... but they do their best to try and listen, and they are reverent. We also have an 18 mo old who we have sit in our lap for as long as possible and try to lengthen that time each Sunday. When that is not possible one of us will take him out, but we know it is a temporary stage for us, he will soon be sitting reverently following the examples of his older siblings. I know this was not done on our own, but with a lot of prayer and faith and desire to help our children reach a high expectation... and they succeed and feel very proud! Good luck, parents... your work is important!

  11. Those old FHE books are cool. We have some from the 70s, and I love referring to them.


  12. Cassi I love your reward system with the cookies, definitly going to try it. It will help me pay more attention and take notes, maybe I'll have them think of questions for me also.
    I also like the idea of only a notebook and pencil. My church bag sometimes get so heavy with stuff that it is hard to carry. I did stop food a while back beings the youngest is five. And Mrs. Sassy Crafter I can definetly relate to where you are coming from. When my youngest turned one my husband became an over the road truck driver, leaving me with a 1,2,4, and 11 year old to tend to in church. Quite often I would bring the little umbrella stroller to Sacrament meeting and strap the youngest in, it also went to doctor appointments, school activities and anything that I could't be chasing a 1 year old around. There was some resistence but I reasoned if he could be buckled in the car seat for an hour at a time, he could learn to be buckled when I needed my sanity. Try to get to church a little early so your little one can get over the fit he/she will have being buckled in, after the child figures out your not giving in it gets better. Good luck and remember this to shall pass.

  13. Love the ideas in this lesson. As the girls have gotten older, Sacrament meeting is less of a problem for us. We take a notebook and pencil for everyone (including mom). I take notes from the talks. As I have done this, I have discovered gems in every single talk that apply to me. I love it so much, and I am much more able to feel the spirit. The girls sometimes take notes, sometimes draw, but are always reverent. This is so much easier than when we brought everything into church to keep them "occupied". Also, I used to bring all the friend magazines. We save them for several years so there are lots to pick from. When they have a hard time settling down, the friend has always seemed to do the trick. And if they fight over them, they get gathered up and put away. I only had to do that one once.

  14. OK - I'm an adult and I will be the first to admit that I have a hard time paying attention in sacrament meetings too. Not that there's anything else I find more important or that I let myself become distracted by outside sources. Usually what sets me off is the speaker will say something profound and wonderful that triggers my memory or I really ponder on a key point, which in turn leads to another valid thought, then another, and another... and before I know it, I've missed half the speaker's remarks! I know my comments don't actually help anyone here - just thought I'd say: even adults with the best of intentions can sometimes be off in their own world. My daughters, and my husband have both stated to me "at least you LOOK like you're listening, and you always seem to have great input or comments to make afterwards!" Giving it our best is all we can do - I still feel spiritually uplifted and can carry on a reasonable conversation about the subject spoken of.

  15. This was a great post, and so true!

    One thing that REALLY helped with this was to stop bringing snacks to sacrament meeting. Seems like whenever we do bring them, the kids end up fighting over them, making messes, offering some to other people, etc. Once they learned not to expect any, they seemed to settle down a lot more!

    Also, now that my oldest can read, she LOVES the Friend magazine so I always bring two or three for her.

    The younger kids are tricky, but they love to color the program!

    In my family growing up, my parent's bribed us with ice cream. Since we only got treats on Sundays and Mondays, treats were a big deal! We were allowed three scoops of ice cream on Sunday. If we started acting up in church, all my parents had to do was hold up three fingers. Once one of those fingers were gone, they stuck to it! All it took was one or two Sundays of losing a scoop, or all of our ice cream and we behaved beautifully! :D

  16. My parents gave me some of their old manuals when we got married and they have been a treasure trove of great material! (The old-style hair-dos and glasses sure provide some good entertainment as well) :)