I didn’t expect there would be a lot of answers to last week’s question about babbling babies in church, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it’s that Meridian readers delight in proving me wrong. We got lots of responses, and they’re still coming in. Considering the number of babies that populate most Latter-day Saint wards, I shouldn’t have been surprised!
Here’s what our readers to say about babies who entertain themselves by babbling in church:
I would usually rather hear the babies than the lesson. I could see how in wards with lots of the little tykes it could be difficult. Many have two adult Sunday school classes. Why not have one for the parents with little ones and one for people who don’t want the little ones?
I love the little kids and enjoy the floor show, but I can see how others might find their laughter and joy distracting. I, too, am one to make faces and enjoy them. As to sitting in back, that can make sense, but I like to leave it up to the parents for what works best. My daughter is moping because there are no babies in the singles ward and she misses them terribly. I remember a friend who served in Iraq saying that church meetings are spooky with no child noise of any kind.
As for crying children, that is clearer. As my husband says, “Good intentions and crying children should be carried out immediately.” If the parents can calm them in a few seconds, there is no reason not to stay.
Enjoys the Babble
I can see how an LDS meeting without child noise might seem spooky, Enjoys. Besides, it’s the babies who keep me awake during sacrament meeting!
You (or your readers?) have raised a very good question. I’m a single person, but I’m definitely guilty of making faces at children. I’ve never realized that it might make the parents’ job more difficult.
As for when children should be taken out of the chapel, in an ideal world the parents would always realize when their children are distracting others and remove them immediately. This isn’t an ideal world, however. In my ward, parents usually remove children who are screaming or otherwise throwing tantrums; I’ve also seen and heard parents reading to their children during sacrament meeting (which is more distracting than the children’s chatting).
I’ve accidentally become part of the solution for one family. They arrived late to sacrament meeting one Sunday, and the only pew with enough space for them (six children) was mine. One boy was in my CTR 4 class last year; he immediately snuggled up to me and I kept him occupied for the rest of the meeting. Now the parents seek me out because I can always keep this little boy and 1-2 of his siblings quiet and occupied, giving the parents a break.
Thanks, Jody, for bringing up the fact that it isn’t just the babies who are babbling. Parents who read to their children (during the actual sacrament, no less!) drive me to distraction. I’m all for literacy, but there’s a time and a place to instill a love of reading. During a church meeting is not one of those places.
Yes, noisy children should be taken out of meetings so that the rest of the people can hear and pay attention to the speakers, the lesson, the sacrament, the announcements, the business, or whatever else. is going on. You take a noisy child out of a movie theatre, and it is the same principle.
My pet peeve on this is what happens next: When you take a noisy or crying child to the foyer, don’t make that a play place! If you do, you are then training your child that all they have to do is act up in the chapel, and they get to go out and play.
With my children, we made the foyer a punishment. They had to sit absolutely still and quiet and in our laps. There were no treats given in the foyer. There were no toys or quiet books. The foyer was almost a “time out.” If other children were being allowed to play in the foyer, we would move to the foyer on the other side of the building or an empty classroom.
The children quickly learned that in the chapel, if they were quiet, they got their quiet books and quiet toys and Froot Loops and sippy cup. The chapel became a much more fun place to be than the punishment of the foyer.
Now, as a grandfather, I will admit that I do play peek-a-boo with small children in front of me, but I try to do it quietly so as not to distract from the meeting.
Alan W. Hatch
Las Cruces, New Mexico
You brought up a crucial point, Alan. If parents use the foyer as a reward, the kiddies will never learn to be reverent in sacrament meeting. Thanks for bringing that up.
I am hearing impaired and recently began wearing a hearing aid. I needed two, but at three grand a pop I could only afford one! I live in a “young” ward where there are many babies and young children, which makes our sacrament meeting naturally very loud.
The problem I have isn’t with babies babbling in church – it’s with the children who literally scream or cry for minutes on end and the parents who don’t take them out so they can calm down and regain control. It is physically painful for me and others wearing hearing aids when we hear these sharp outbursts, especially if they are in close proximity. (I suppose I could turn down the volume on my hearing aid, but that kind of defeats the whole purpose of having it in the first place. Then again, if you only wear one hearing aid the sound can’t be turned down.)
During our class times these same children are running around the room, getting into other women’s purses, throwing toys and making a lot of noise as the teacher is trying to stay focused while trying to talk over them. There is always at least one child who is wearing the last fashion craze, the shoes with the built in squeaker that announces their location with every step. Don’t even get me started! Often their mothers are smiling in an, “Aren’t they just so cute?” kind of way and letting other women move them away from the piano or electrical outlets.
Yes, they are cute, but that doesn’t excuse letting them run wild.
But don’t be discouraged. Many of the women in our ward reach out and offer help, especially to the women who are trying to teach a class or serving in a presidency. There’s nothing wrong with husbands stepping up and helping out by taking a turn too. My son does it all the time for his wife. My husband used to help me, too.
It’s often just a matter of training the child what is and isn’t appropriate from a young age. When I had to take my children out of a meeting, it wasn’t to let them play in the hall while visiting with the other mothers until the meeting was over. They quickly learned it wasn’t fun to have to sit on mom’s or dad’s lap in an empty, boring classroom with nothing to do. After about five minutes they were usually happy to go back. I always brought soft, reverent toys or quiet books that they could look at or play with once the sacrament had been passed. Cheerios or other non-messy snacks can offer a distraction too, but please – no full-course meals! I’ve seen children eating everything from bananas to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on brand new benches!
I realize that moms are overworked and need a break to recharge their spiritual batteries. They often wonder why they came to church only to spend three hours out in the hall entertaining their little ones. I know this because I’ve been there and done that. It’s that season of life and part of the responsibility of having kids. I can promise you it doesn’t last forever unless, of course, you insist that the rest of the congregation relive that part of their lives vicariously through you and your children as you experience it!
You make a good point, Hearing-Impaired, when you mention how hard it is to teach a lesson when there are distractions. Whether it’s a child trying to bang on the piano or the child’s mother visiting with a friend in the back of the room, distractions can cripple a lesson faster than you can say “down in flames.”
I am a mother and grandmother, hard of hearing, and have spent considerable time in the hall with happy, noisy babies. The noise of babies, crying or talking “Celestial,” is a part of life and not easily controlled. It is usually is short lived. For what it is worth, “It takes a village to raise a child” (and keep parents from overdosing). Hearing the speaker is only part of the sacrament experience – there is the service aspect.
Babies learn manners when we hold them close and keep them in the meeting – except when they are really out of control and we take them out to a “quiet room.” Needless to say, if there are other small children in that family, a friend should volunteer to sit those children while the parent takes Noisy out.
As a member of the audience having trouble hearing the speaker, I find I can do some things to help make this a win-win:
- Be friends with the parents so that we can cooperate with the unexpected, changing noise levels;
- Give the baby a clean new toy to change noise to chewing (with parental permission);
- Offer to hold the baby for a change of pace for everyone;
- Request headphones tuned into the chapel speaker system so the ambient noise is lessened (available from the meetinghouse library).
Survivor in Richmond, VA
Thanks for that great list, Survivor. I’m always a sucker for a list of suggestions! Those lists really help the readers.
When I was raising my babies, we had the Relief Society room wired so we could take our babies in there and still hear the sacrament service. We had so many babies in the ward, it was wonderful for everyone. I think it is cruel and unrealistic to think a baby is going to go through 70 minutes of sitting without making noise. Now that I am old, I do have a problem hearing, and I do wish they would take noisy babies out. Why not make it convenient for the mothers instead of making it hard on the rest of us?
When I visit my daughter’s ward, the Relief Society room is so crowded I have great difficulty in hearing any responses of the sisters. If babies were making noise, it would be impossible. I find most classroom situations do not address the problem of the hearing-impaired.
Responders almost always sit and address their comments to the teacher instead standing and speaking to the rest of us who may be sitting behind them. Many of the sisters speak in such quiet voices, also. I have told my daughter it is useless for me to go to her Relief Society and Sunday School because of this problem. I solve the problem of sacrament meeting by sitting in the first few rows where there are usually empty seats but yes, older people especially have difficulty hearing over noises. And it is usually difficult to get to church anyway, so you do want to hear if you make the effort.
Also Hard of Hearing
Also HOH has a point, people. If your Relief Society room doesn’t have the sound turned on so you can take children there, ask someone to show you how to run the system. A lot of parents may thank you for it.
I am the mother of three boys, ages 18 months to eight years. My husband works on Sundays, so I attend church alone with my boys. My 18-month-old is all boy. He is curious, likes to climb, play with cars, and loves to say “Hi” to everyone he sees (even during sacrament meeting). I often struggle to know if we should even go to sacrament meeting because I don’t want to disrupt the meeting for those around us. I do take my 18-month-old out sometimes, but it is difficult because then my other two boys are left to sit alone. I guess some would say that a six-year-old and an eight-year-old should be able to sit by themselves through the meeting, but that is another subject.
I have had several people in my ward tell me not to worry so much, and that my energetic boys and I have as much right to be there as anybody else. While I do sympathize with those who are hard of hearing, I do feel like they have more options than I do. At our ward, and I am sure most, there are hearing devices available in the library. They include an earpiece that receives input directly from the microphone at the pulpit. And, those who can’t hear can always sit closer to the front. (I know we usually try to sit near the back specifically for this reason.
As a mom, I am doing my best to teach my children that going to church is important. I am trying to teach them to be reverent. I also don’t want them to learn that if they are too noisy, then they can go out in the hall and run around. (I try to just sit on the couch with my son when I take him out.) But, being reverent is hard to learn. There are plenty of adults who have trouble with it!
As to other people trying to “entertain” my children, I love it! I love it when others make my son giggle, or wave and talk to him, or even offer to play with/entertain my children during sacrament meeting. I am only one person and there are three of them (my children), and any help that I get with them at church, even if it’s just playing peek-a-boo, is much appreciated.
And lastly, aren’t we told to be more like little children? Do you think that Heavenly Father minds if the little ones babble? I don’t think He does. I think He loves to hear them trying to sing and visit. He understands that they are little and learning too. Maybe we could all try to be a little bit more understanding, too.
Heidi, it’s a big relief to know that at least one parent isn’t annoyed when people like me interact with their children in church. I have often felt guilty about that.
As for the idea that a six-year-old and an eight-year-old should be able to sit reverently in church without parental supervision, I don’t know where that came from. I’ve seen a lot of adults who can’t (or won’t) do that, so I certainly don’t expect it from a little boy.
As a parent of adult children and living in a very young ward, I find it difficult to listen to talks and lessons with young children or babies babbling and crying. I cannot choose my ward; otherwise I would definitely try to find a ward whose members are closer to my age, or I would choose not to go to meetings at all.
I cannot tell you how many times I have left our meetings with a headache brought on by a child who insisted on babbling or crying throughout sacrament, who continued this behavior through Sunday School, and finished up the tirade in Relief Society. We are supposed to be teaching our children reverence during our meetings, but that is impossible when other children are misbehaving so. In addition, it is compounded by adults who encourage what I consider misbehavior during our meetings. Perhaps the solution would be to create a special room for these children and their parents to go to so as not to disrupt the atmosphere for those of us who are trying to show respect and reverence to our members and our Heavenly Father while in His house.
You’re in a tough situation, Noise Sensitive. I don’t even know what to suggest to help you. I hope someone’s letter this week or next can provide a solution to allow you to have a more worthwhile worship service.
I live in a ward where many members are older and wear hearing aids, and I know it is hard for them to hear when a baby is babbling. But I feel the children should be in the class if they are just “talking” but taken out if they are crying. As Brigham Young said, crying babies are like good intentions – they should be carried out. I have a son who wore a hearing aid and I know it is hard for people who wear them to filter out the baby babble or anyone talking and still listen to the speaker.
I also have my grown children who have new babies or young toddlers and they feel they are out in the foyer most of church and miss most of the talks or lessons if they would take out their baby every time they cooed and babbled. So maybe the people who like to smile and make faces at the babies could hold them or take them to the back and rock them for awhile.
I also have some children’s church books I can pass to the parents if they want to show the child the pictures, as well as some quiet books they can look at in my Grandma bag.
I had seven children and some were talkative, so I appreciate friends who let me stay in class and were not too upset with my children, and we could still hear the lessons. It’s also hard when the kids are taken out and then let to play in the foyer so they kids “want” to go out.
It is hard to know what is best.
Thanks for your suggestions, Gramma. Readers, young mothers usually won’t turn down a little help if it’s offered in a kind and loving rather than a judgmental way. If you’re good at playing with babies and young children, you might want to take a turn and let the mother hear a talk or a lesson one Sunday.
I wanted to write in about this topic because I joined the Church as an adult and my perspective might be interesting. I’ve been a member more than 20 years now, but can clearly remember my first experience in an LDS church. It was noisy! Rowdy, even! Not only were there a few younger-than-three-year-olds squawking and making noise, there was, in fact, a three-year-old actually perched on the bishop’s knee (his mother was in the hospital, having had a new baby)!
And here’s how it made me feel: I was home. I was in a family. I was in the trusted confines within which warts and all could show and escape judgment (Yes! I was so naive!). Well I still like it. I’ve even raised my own children in the atmosphere, so I’ve known the struggles that come with the territory. Here are my thoughts/tips:
- It’s best if we can all refrain from judgment. If you really are having a problem with a certain family’s noise level, why not offer to help? I’ve taken care of the youngest child in a family with five girls under seven years old while the father sat up on the stand for two years. It was hugely gratifying, and we had a great time of it.
- Maintain as much perspective you can. Not only are none of us in perfect control of our littlest family members (much less our older ones, much less ourselves!), but children are a major part of the reason we are all meeting together – our families. In churches I had previously belonged to, these little ones were either kept in a “crying room” (whether or not they were crying), or relegated to “children’s classes” that were held at the same time as the main church meeting. Our adult meetings were always quiet – like a tomb.
They were about as warm and inviting and full of love and life too.
- If you do have a little one in church yourself, carry on! It’s not going to go well every week, and some weeks there’s just no help for it and you’ll need to walk some halls with a chronically crying infant, or take a toddler out for a bit. My feeling is that it should be done only when necessary, so the child is brought up understanding that the priority when we are at church is to be reverent as we worship together (within age-appropriate limits, of course). My husband was in bishoprics during all but three years of our youngest son’s life (now a teenager). I have a lot of practice with managing older and younger children in sacrament meeting. When my toddlers got to the point that they were making a fuss in order to leave the chapel, we sat in dark classrooms with the door partly open, waiting for the child to get him- or herself under control only as long as that took. Some weeks I had to leave three or four times, but never more than a few weeks in a row, and then the idea of leaving sacrament meeting began to lose its charm.
- If you are someone who is being distracted by noisy children and being a help to the parents isn’t a good option, maybe sitting elsewhere would be a good idea. It’s pretty quiet in the front two or three rows, especially in the center seats. The chapel is big enough for all of us, in every walk of life, and your needs are important too. If you can’t concentrate in one area of the chapel, I promise that the atmosphere can be dramatically different in another one. Go on a hunt for the spot that best suits your situation.
- As in every conflict, it’s love that overcomes all. Striving to find positives in each person, and even in conflict situations, always brings the very best of results, and helps us grow as children of God. It feels so nice to be understanding and forgiving, why not apply that to this situation, whether you are the on wrangling with youngsters or the one who has to try and hear the Sacrament speaker’s opening joke over wailing tykes. We’re all in this together!
Seen Both Sides
Seen, your letter reminded me of a response I read long ago in a “Dear Abby” column. The author, Abigail VanBuren, had for some reason found herself in a Mormon meeting. It was just as rowdy as they all are. When someone mentioned Mormons in one of their letters, she responded that she thought the noise in the meetings was charming and refreshing. I’ve never forgotten that. A lot of times in life, we choose whether to enjoy something or to take offense at it. Apparently “Abby” was in the former camp.
Boy, this is close to the heart to me. I have a brother that is hard of hearing. When he was in school, the rule was “sit in the front of the class” so that he could hear the teacher. Now, when my family arrives at church, the older couples arrive earlier, and they take the back seats in the chapel. They have not yet complained about my six children. But the trauma comes when there are some people that really don’t remember what it was like to be a child. How long is sacrament meeting? That is a long time for a child to sit still, and fold his arms, when he either can’t see the speaker, or he doesn’t understand English yet!
The children have a right to be in the meeting, and you never know what they actually are picking up from the testimonies and stories from others. The Holy Ghost can touch a heart, no matter how old. If a child is happy, and not louder than the speaker, then he should be allowed in the meeting (in my opinion).
I attended another church with my grandfather, and when they were in the adult worship meeting, the children were shuffled off to the nursery (children of all ages) to “play” until the adults were finished. Even as a child I was offended! I wanted to be with my mother and grandfather! I didn’t like being separated, just because I was a child!
I think if the little ones are acceptable to the Lord, then we need to accommodate them as well, and use our agency to move to the front, and allow the families with children to be in the back, to duck out if they need to, without interrupting the meeting.
You make good points, Belleneve. The only thing I’d bring up is that I know a lot of families who want their children to sit up front so they can see. These parents say it makes their children more reverent. So I don’t automatically assume the parents of young children want to sit in the back. In fact, my normal assumption, from the experience in our ward, is that just as many parents want the front rows as the back ones.
I am a mother of 10 children, all born within 15 years – so I always had at least one toddler. Since they are all grown up, my memory may be faulty. However, I remember taking pride in how well behaved and quiet they were during sacrament. Since my husband was a ward clerk back in the days when they sat up front on the stand, I sat in two side rows with the four or five oldest in front of me and the rest split up on either side of me. I worked at keeping them quiet. The oldest knew that I could count to three with my fingers and if I got to three they didn’t get dessert for dinner. Since Sunday was the only day we always had a dessert, that made a difference to them.
Friends would help if I had to take a small one out, but that didn’t happen often. I had a bag of Sunday-only stuff with me that the little ones didn’t see the rest of the week, and the older ones were allowed pencils and paper (we quit with crayons when they argued about colors).
“Sitting quietly” was also something we practiced at home, with the children sitting quietly with me on the sofa with books for 10-30 minutes at a stretch.
I also remember the classes and how much it would bother me when other parents allowed their young ones to run around the classroom while mine had to sit on a chair beside us or on a lap. I was much tougher than most parents today and there were certainly a lot (did I say all) of great messages that I never heard. But it was worth it.
That said, one of my best friends is 91 and hard of hearing plus legally blind.
We sit together every week directly in front of the teacher, and she is not shy about saying, “Speak up, I can’t hear you.” I am awed at her bravery. However, she, too, is bothered when we have a noisy family sitting behind us in sacrament meeting.
I don’t suppose there is an easy answer (although I have, with permission from the parents, started bribing one family’s children). When I see them sitting reverently during the passing of the sacrament, I give them a small candy bar that they can eat on their way home after the meetings. This week, only two of the four got their candy and believe me, the two that didn’t were listening! I do watch they know it.
Thanks for writing, Jaqui. With ten kids of your own, you are the voice of experience!
I have also found that a little candy bribe works on children (and on adults too) in a church setting. However, having been asked by a bishop not to call them bribes, I call them SMODS. It stands for “Spiritual MOtivation DeviceS,” but whatever you call them, they work like a charm.
Okay, readers, that’s it for this time. Join us next time for another fun-filled discussion on the topic of babbling babies in church.
Until next week – Kathy
“A two-year old is kind of like having a blender, but you don’t have a top for it.”
Whether you want to create your own personal history or would like Kathy Kidd to do it for you, Kathy’s blog has what you’re looking for. Go to www.planetkathy.com and click on “Writing a Personal History” to get more information.