How To Survive Bringing Small Children To Mass

Children’s behavior during Mass is such a common topic in Catholic family circles! At the very least, those of us who struggle to manage our children’s behavior at Mass can know that we are not alone.

This week, I share an email from a listener named Lori who received a nasty comment from a fellow parishioner after a recent Mass (where she actually felt her children were pretty well behaved!). This comment left Lori feeling discouraged and wanting to give up on the whole “Catholic family life” thing because she really ought to be able to expect support from her parish community.

After commiserating and offering some words of encouragement and support, we then share some ideas for ways to improve your chances of having a positive Mass experience, even with very young children.

Survive Bringing Small Children to Mass

  1. Recognize That You Don’t Have to Do It
    • Yes you do still have to go to Mass, but your small children (who have not yet received Holy Communion) are not required to attend. You can tag team with your husband or get a babysitter and leave your kids at home. Give yourself permission to make that choice if that is what is best for you and your family.
  2. Sit Up in the Front
    • This gives your kids something to look at besides the backs of people’s heads. It gives them the chance to watch what is happening and you have the opportunity to explain what is going on during the Mass. This simple change can completely change the attitude of your kids. Give it a try! It is worked for my family!Have you and your spouse sit at each end of the pew with your kids in the middle. Let the kids walk around within that space. It is a little distracting but because your kids are able to move around instead of sitting, it makes Mass more manageable.
  3. Lock the Kids in the Pew
    • Have you and your spouse sit at each end of the pew with your kids in the middle. Let the kids walk around within that space. It is a little distracting but because your kids are able to move around instead of sitting, it makes Mass more manageable.
  4. Make Sitting Next to Mom a Privilege
    • If your kids are well behaved, quiet, or pray during Mass give them the reward of sitting next to Mom. For some kids this works, while with others it may not. I have found it worked with several of my kids.
  5. Ask for Help
    • Ask if a well-behaved older child from another family or even if an elderly lady would sit with your kids as a good example. Enlist help. Parishes are meant to be communities and asking for help can bring you together with other people in your parish.
  6. Bring Less Stuff
    • You know your kids, but I would always air on the side of bringing less stuff to Mass. If you do bring toys for your children, bring something that turns your child’s mind towards Jesus and prayer time. Make a Mass bag that your kids can only look at during Mass. But if there is a quiet activity you can bring for your kids that will help you get through the Mass without feeling exhausted and depleted, then just do it! But be discreet about it and recognize that sometimes this stuff can be a distraction for other people on top of the distraction of your cute baby.
  7. Older Kids Set the Tone for Younger Kids
    • It does get easier, Girlfriends! Once the older kids get it and begin to behave during Mass, the younger ones tend to copy their older siblings and look to them for their cues on how to behave.
  8. Help Children Gain a Sense of Reverence
    • Set expectations for how they will behave in Mass. Talk to them about what is going on in Mass. Have a sense of reverence yourself so that your kids see that you act differently during Mass than in other places.



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  • Adrian Gonzales

    Me and my wife got 7 kids. I agree with all that’s said. Being faithful is key. Don’t be discouraged and lose faith…if we go by what people think of us…being ashamed of our kids, you won’t get nowhere. My advice to add to all this: It starts at home. Take time to make your kids sit in a circle and prayer and make them realize prayer time is respectful time, I always say “It’s time to pray and not play” to them before we start. Our 2 year old barely getting the hang of it. Just like everything else, takes time and effort…and this nuclear church, the family, the nucleus of the Church is super important. I won’t say “hope it helps” because I know it will. God loves you and every single kid. I play in the church choir, this Sunday a toddler sitting behind the choir started crying, amplified by our microphones…i looked back, smiled, tried to comfort the toddler….it starts with you and me. I always tell people in my various ministries “be in the world what you do not see….light”.
    God Loves you, never give up, He never gives up, never has, never will

  • Brian Reeves

    Above all, children must be aware of the shear holiness and prayerfulness of the Mass [“Holy Communion”]. Hopefully this will firstly come from the worshipful attitude of the congregation attending, but above all it must be from their parent’s intimate relationship with Jesus. Don’t “teach” them anything but let them pick it up with observation, “Religion is caught not taught”, a sort of “Discovery Learning”, the best and most long lasting type!

  • Adrian Gonzales

    It starts at home. Pray together quietly at home every day. I tell our 7 kids “it’s time to pray, not play”. When kids see this, and we pray at church, they know it is God’s time!