One of the challenges new members face is helping their children survive a d to stay with their parents, sitting quietly for quite a long time. Parents look around and see other children sitting silently by their parents and feel nervous about their own child’s wiggles.
Keep in mind that these children have been practicing since birth to learn how to behave in Sacrament Meeting. Even life-long members often have difficulty making it through the meeting, so your children probably don’t stand out to anyone else.
The goal is for them to eventually sit quietly and listen, but you can’t expect that to happen overnight if they’ve never done it before.
You can practice appropriate behavior at home by having the children sit quietly during scripture reading or some other type of reading. This lets you make comments privately about how they’re doing. Children can also learn to behave at concerts or other community events.
In church, take the children for a walk just before Sacrament Meeting begins. Take them to the restroom and to get a drink, and go the long way, so they have a chance to move. Then bring them in and settle them, reviewing the rules you taught at home. Bring one or two quiet, non-messy toys for them to use during the meeting, but don’t hand them out until after the Sacrament has been passed. When they’re making it that long without fussing, hold back the toys until after the first speaker. Then you’ll be able to remove them completely.
As soon as possible, allow only a book or doll. These are very quiet, sitting still items, and will help your child transition to sitting through the meeting. Some parents make a book by cutting out church related pictures and putting them into zippered sandwich bags. They punch a hole in the top corner of each bag and put them on a ring or yarn. This makes church-related book to look through during meetings.
If you need to take your child out because he’s misbehaving, avoid taking him to the foyer. There are usually children playing there and your child will misbehave in order to be able to go out and have fun. Instead, take him to a quiet room or corner, put him in a chair, and make him sit silently until he is bored. Then remind him of what he is missing. He will soon realize Sacrament Meeting is more interesting than sitting silently in a quiet, boring room.
It takes patience and consistency, but your child will soon be sitting quietly with the others. He may not reach perfection for many years, but you’ll be impressed with his progress.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.