Seven Ways to Help Little Ones Behave in Church

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

 Seven Ways to Help Little Ones Behave in Church

Whether your children usually go to children’s church or they usually sit in the service with you, there is bound to be a time when you will need them to know how to behave in church.

It could be when you are traveling, when you visit a relative’s church, or when you take them to a wedding or baptism. No matter when or how often they have to use the skill, however, knowing how to behave in church is one skill that all kids should have.


Now, my kids have their good moments and bad moments–just like any other kids–but there are a few things that I’ve found that make a remarkable difference in their ability to sit still.

I find that when I do all seven of these things, their behavior improves, and when I don’t… well… let’s just say that the final prayer just can’t come fast enough!

Knowing to behave in church isn’t a skills that just magically happens. It’s a skill that has to be taught. Here are seven ways to help your little ones behave in church.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. 



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1. Set Clear Expectations


I think one of the main reasons why kids misbehave in church–and a lot of other places too–is because they don’t know how they are supposed to act or what you expect of them. Before you head to church, take a few minutes to clearly spell out your expectations. I like to do this while we are driving.

For example, you could say “I expect you to stay in your seat, keep your hands to yourself, and be quiet so other people can hear.” I like to ask questions (“Do you run around? Do you talk? Do you crawl on the floor?”) and have my kids repeat the rules back to me as well. Just to make sure they were listening.


*Related: Six Essential Tricks For Raising Well-Behaved Children


2. Follow through on Consequences


In addition to setting the expectations, be sure to also set the consequences ahead of time–and follow through! Then, if your children misbehave, you aren’t “punishing them.” Instead, you have given them the CHOICE to behave or to have consequences.

When your child misbehaves, he is CHOOSING the consequence.

If you constantly threaten your child, but then don’t take action, your child will call your bluff. Instead, set firm boundaries and show them that you are serious. Your children will learn quickly that it’s best to just listen.


*Related: 7 Common Parenting Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now


3. Explain What’s Going on in Terms They Can Understand


Another huge hurdle to your child’s behavior is the fact that small children generally have very little idea what is going on during church. Even if they had the attention span to listen to an hour long service (which they don’t), they almost always wouldn’t know what the pastor or priest was talking about anyways.

Help your child by explaining what is going on in terms that they can actually understand.

You can do this either before church or during church if you can be quiet enough. This will make the service much more interesting for your child.



If your family attends Catholic mass, “The Mass Book for Children” is a great way to explain church in a way that your little ones will understand! 


4. Help Them to Participate


When children have nothing to do, they find things to do, which usually involves acting up. Help your child to participate instead. Teach your child the songs and prayers so he can sing and pray with you. Dance with your child if the music is upbeat. Teach your child how to fold his hands to pray. Ask your child questions that require him to watch and listen for an answer.


*See Also: Want to Raise World Changers? Do These 5 Things


5. Bring Alternative Sources of Entertainment


Alternately, if your children are still very young, you will need alternate sources of entertainment. Popular options include books, coloring books, quiet toys, stickers, snacks and your phone. Sure, these solutions aren’t ideal, but for the littlest ones, distracting them is often the only way to keep them from distracting everyone else.


Do your have young toddlers that have a difficult sitting still? This 8-page activity book will keep them quietly entertained until they are old enough to learn to sit still on their own.


Alternately, if your child is 4 to 8, this big book of Sacrament-Time Activities will help keep them quiet while still helping them learn about the Gospel. 


6. Set a Positive Example


This tip should be so obvious, and yet, I think it’s one that many parents forget. If you want your kids to behave in church, you have to lead by example. This means not talking yourself, not playing on your phone, not falling asleep, not doodling and making to-do lists on your bulletin, and not fidgeting with everything in your pockets.

After all, if you can’t sit still and pay attention, how can you expect your children to? Get excited about church and your children will too.


7. Lower Your Expectations


I am all about setting high expectations for your children, but there ultimately comes a point when you have to realize that they are just kids, and they aren’t going to sit silent as statues for an hour every week. They just aren’t. Follow the above six steps to the best of your ability and try to keep your children as quiet as you can. But then cut yourself some slack. The other parents aren’t judging you (and if they are, that’s their problem, not yours).


Don’t ever feel like you aren’t welcome or that it would be easier to just stay at home. Church is incredibly important, and every time you bring your children, you are teaching them valuable lessons that hopefully will stay with them for life.


Do your kids attend the church service with you? What tips do you have for helping them to behave in church?


Join the Discussion

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  1. I love these ideas! I see so many people either force their little ones to sit quietly with nothing to do or just send them off to the nursery. This is a good, happy medium and I’m all for that!!

    1. Hey, I have nothing against sending the kids off to the nursery too! (They learn more and like church more when the teaching is age-appropriate and fun), but I’ve always felt that sitting still is an ability all kids need to have, even if they don’t use it all the time. And thanks 🙂

  2. Great suggestions! Our church has recently changed its program so that ALL children, even the tiny ones, start out in the sanctuary and move to the nursery or Sunday school about halfway through the service. When it comes to sitting quietly through the opening prayers and hymns, my grandkids are a work in progress! It’s good to know we’re not alone.

    1. Love that! I used to do that with my son and it worked really, really well. He was welcome to stay as long as he could behave, but when he got restless, he went to Sunday School. He was always very well-behaved because he knew he had to be if he wanted to stay. Usually he only stayed for the music, but sometimes he stayed the whole time.

  3. Our kids do sit through service with us before going to Sunday School for the second hour. It has been a different process of learning and getting to that point for each one – all of these points are good.

    We did discover early on that while drawing is great for the little ones, notebooks with lots of pages to turn and many crayons to drop was a disaster! A small magna-doodle pad (with the wand attached) worked great. No dropping games or page turning marathons – just endless fun of creating, erasing and so on. They also enjoy looking at the small Bible story book we reserve for church.

  4. Brittany, This is a great list. 3 and 4 are two things I try to do every Sunday with my 5 year old. I have her participate completely. When she was younger, coloring pages were best. Since she goes to Children’s church halfway through church, I try to just have her participate and pay attention while she is in the sanctuary.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Pingback: 7 Common Parenting Mistakes You Need to Put the Brakes On Right Now - For Every Mom
  6. Can you give examples of consequences you use? I find myself just repeating and repeating to sit still and be quiet but I feel at a loss with ideas on how to give immediate consequences discreatly so that they dont become the interuption. Waiting to give a reward or a punishment after Mass seems like it isnt working because perhaps it is too long of time after the behavior…Would love some practical ways to do this that work for you! (I have a newborn, 1 1/2, and 3 1/2.)

    1. Honestly, I think a lot of that is just the age. With newborn and 1.5 — they are little and mass is LONG when you’re that age (And even when you’re 3.5, it’s better but still a lot). Do you bring plenty of little toys, coloring books, stickers, etc for them to play with? We try to keep our little ones involved as much as we can with saying prayers and kneeling, and then give them little distractions for the in between. Practicing sitting still at home can help too. And if they are especially wiggly that day, my husband and I will just take turns taking them for a short walk.

      1. Yes, we always take baggies with stuff to help keep them occupied as well as raisins to snack. This does not hell our kids sit still they still prefer to just move around and crawl under the pews playing with eachother rather than the activities. I want to know immediate consequences i could use that sre discreet because the only thing we use are rewards and consequences AFTER Mass and things havent improved so Im thinking those dont work. I dont know how to make them sit and do the stuff at the moment.

      2. Does your church have a cry room or chapel that you could sit in? We pretty much stuck to those when our kids were that age. I did NOT like being in the cry room myself (felt like I was missing everything), but it’s just for a season. Now that our littlest two are 4 and 2, we’re finally able to sit in normal church with them and keep them occupied with little toys. The good news is, it doesn’t last forever 🙂 They aren’t being naughty, per se, it’s just the age. Mass is a lot — even for grown ups!

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