We have four more letters this week on the subject of tagalong children. As was the case last week, all four letters represented different viewpoints. Life is interesting that way.

Here are the final four letters on this topic. Next week we’ll start with a shiny new subject:

I think the sister should ask for a new visiting teacher. Why should she boil with resentment?

I have no problem thinking it is ok to take children visit teaching. I have gasped when the child of visiting teachers started using my furniture as a climbing structure. That child did not come back. It would have been fine with me if the child had come back. I do not mind mentioning bad behavior if it is unsafe, ever, but I wouldn’t have banned the child from my home.

The mother of the tagalong in question might be too controlling if she does not let the child go to Primary now. It is not a good plan to make the child so attached to the parent. That sets the child up to be less self-sufficient for the rest of his life.

Primary and nursery allow children to have a safe experience with a safe adult. If children don’t have Primary or nursery or an equivalent, they may have separation anxieties that go on for years.  It is the parents’ job to take their children to class and say, “Bye! I will see you later.”  Parents should not sneak away; otherwise the child wouldn’t feel as though the class was a good thing. Parents should be happy to have their children make a step toward learning how to be a child of our heavenly father.

Parents, get a grip on life. Your job is to help your child go forward.  Maybe the Primary is an inspired program even if members are running the thing.

Mary Ellen Gilbert 

I got a big laugh out of your last sentence, Mary Ellen. But there was a lot of truth in your whole letter, too. Thanks for writing.

For “Tired of Tagalongs,” I think there are times when children are going to be brought along visiting teaching, and that depends on who is being visited.  It can have value to a child as an example of service, but the visiting teacher has to be sensitive to the sisters being visited. 

A work-at-home husband or sister is, as a recent Circle forum exchange pointed out, working, and you don’t know how confining the individual situation may be, but the granny at home would suggest a ready option, at least occasionally. If there is any way in which this sister could speak to her visiting teacher elsewhere, privately, she might venture to do so. But that doesn’t mean the request won’t be summarily rejected.

We don’t know what is going on in this dynamic, where it arises. Are there other children in this family?  It is definitely not normal to tag a five-year-old along in absolutely everything. Going to school (next year?) will solve some of that, or cause it to blow up. I can assure her that the Primary is desirous to include this child in their classes and activities, and knows she is ‘missing.’  They may have approached the mom and gotten nowhere.  Where are the dad and grandma on Sundays?  Does anyone in the household have a different take on this?  The Primary will probably let the mom come sit in the back of class, if she isn’t hovering. 

“Tired of Tagalongs” would probably have her best chance at help by approaching her Relief Society president privately.  As I always told my kids, tone and approach will make the most difference in addressing a difficult situation.  It sounds like this sister needs a chance to unburden herself sometimes, and this situation is making it impossible.  It also sounds like she likes the sisters who visit, but she wants adult confidence and connection. 

If she tells her Relief Society president something along the lines of, “I really appreciate that my visiting teachers come faithfully, but I am hesitant to really confide in them when I need to, because I am not comfortable with the presence of a child old enough to recognize and possibly repeat some of what I might say.  It leaves me feeling still lonely and sometimes frustrated.  I really need the connection with my sisters.” 

The Relief Society president may be able to speak to this mom as a question of stewardship one on one, and the mom may make an effort to make other arrangements. Or “Tired” may get a new visiting teacher.  Either way, some adjustment is possible, and “Tired” won’t be left to simmer until she blows up when she doesn’t mean to. That never makes anything better.

Any way to frame a positive and a personal need rather than a complaint will be better received.  I hope “Tired” gets the listening ears she needs.


That’s a great response, MJS. As your letter indicated, this is definitely an issue with two sides. I’m glad you didn’t come down hard on either side. Both the mother and “Tired” have concerns that need to be addressed.

Sorry I did not have time to write sooner.  Like one of the commenters on the web page, I lived outside the U.S. for a while. Children went everywhere with their parents, and I do mean everywhere.  They were polite and well-behaved.  They grew up close to adults and when the Young Women transitioned to Relief Society there was no problem.  What I see here is kids being pushed away like pariahs until they turn 18, and then they are magically supposed to feel comfortable in adult church world. Instead they frequently have trouble adjusting and stop attending.

My kids were very attached when they were small, and I frequently heard from people how they would never be independent.  I currently live in Utah.  My daughter moved to Pennsylvania for college and my oldest is a Marine currently in Mississippi.  Apparently they separated just fine without being pushed.  

This conversation reminds me of advice I got when I asked my mother how old we were when we were potty trained.  She said, “None of you wore diapers when you left home.” 

We have a societal obsession with independence and pushing children away.  I remember when my kids used to play Duplicate Bridge with me.  A woman I played with was worried because my kids enjoyed spending time with old people and could speak with them easily. She thought it was unnatural and an indication that they could not speak to children their own age.  We should all be so lucky.  They learned lots from those old people and brought joy into their lives.

Now on the issue of kids running wild, that is different.  If children are in my home I do not hesitate to let them know my rules.  I do not let them run around in places I don’t want them.  Children behaving is a different issue from children attending.

If I need to talk about something very private, I ask for time alone to do it.  This sister could do that.  She could also tell her visiting teachers that she does not like having children in her home and just be blunt.  I would happily take her visiting teachers and let the little girl in.  A bad match up does not make people bad, just not a good fit.

Over the years I have heard some amazing stories about parents doing things which appeared illogical at the time and which later were revealed to be inspired special situations.  Raising kids is hard enough without people second guessing parental choices.  Raising the kids is the parents’ stewardship, not ours.

Happy Around Kids

You make a good point, Happy, that having children around and having misbehaving children around are two different things. Thanks for bringing that up, and for reminding us that children who grow up around adults do not necessarily turn into axe murderers.

I have a small, excitable dog. Because he is small, he is automatically treated like a puppy, which he is not. But the children don’t see it that way.

Putting my dog outside results in scratching and barking to get back in his house to me. I do not want him to “nibble” on my visiting teachers’ children, but as you have had pointed out, parents don’t pay

attention to their children.

It is unfortunate that it is primarily the parents who are at fault for not teaching their children respect for others, whether it is the old constantly-walking-out-of-Sacrament-meeting-for-an-unnecessary-trip or

getting into things in the home.

I agree that they don’t belong in “Tired’s” home. I know that it is sometimes necessary and when it happens to me, I try to get the children something in the way of books, toys, or snacks to occupy them. It is most irritating when I am talking to one of the sisters and the child comes up and breaks in. That speaks loudly of lack of training on the part of adults and children alike.

Perhaps there should be a special “visit” one month just to teach the children how to be in someone else’s home under those types of circumstances and help train them – parent and child – to be a visitor in somebody else’s home.


That’s a good idea, Jerri. I know of many parents who have practice sessions to teach their children how to behave during the sacrament. The same thing could be done to teach children how to behave when they accompany their mothers on a visiting teaching (or other) visit to the home of an adult. In fact, there could be a bag of non-destructive toys that were set aside just for visits like these, so tagalongs could have something to do out of the earshot of the adults.

I think these letters point out that there are many different reasons that tagalongs may be accompanying their parents – some of them benign and some not-so-benign – and that there are many ways to deal with the situation. Thanks to all of you who wrote in. We’ll start a new topic next week.

Until next week – Kathy

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”

Abigail Van Buren

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