Part of this week’s lesson on the Liturgy of the Eucharist involves talking about our behavior during this very important part of the Mass. By this point, we’ve been sitting (and standing) for about a half hour or so, kids may be getting restless, and it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking a bathroom break or going out for a drink. If your child is old enough to be in Family Formation though, it’s also most likely (under normal circumstances) that he or she is old enough to last through an hour’s activity without a break of this kind. These tips may help you turn the corner to more mature behavior:
Give lots of warning – Make your expectations clear well in advance. If your kids know the day before and are reminded again on Sunday that, short of an emergency, there will be no leaving during Mass, you’re more likely to be successful. That’s not to say they won’t try to test this new rule, but stay strong parents! You know they can do it!
Take some preemptive action – Get to church a few minutes early and insist everyone get a drink and stop in the bathroom. These things really can be hard habits to break, but they’re seldom about the drink/bathroom as much as they are about the habit of going out.
Model the desired behavior – Replace boredom with the behavior you want. Bring your Bibles and follow the readings. Carefully watch what Father is doing at the altar. Make sure you’re all singing and saying the responses at the proper times.
Reward good behavior – You don’t need a physical reward (although I have seen parents at St. Paul’s reward good behavior with a donut in the Family Activity Center after Mass, and say “no donut” to kids who have misbehaved), but you’ll definitely want to tell your kids when they do a great job. Make sure they know you’re watching and appreciate their efforts. Make sure they understand how much better you can pray when they’re behaving.
Be persistent – Every stage of parenting brings new challenges and it always surprises me to see rules I thought were well established being retested, but hold your ground.