See Jennifer's 'blog, Conversion Diary for a really outstanding discussion on how to get children to behave at Mass.
This truth finally crystallized for me the other day when I was asking my good friend Elizabeth Esther for advice. I was expecting a laundry list of tips about what toys to bring or what order to have everyone sit in the pew, and she caught me off guard with a simple question:
"What are you doing during the week to help them work on it?" she asked.
Uhh...what? She went on to explain that the way she grew up, Sunday service was the very center of life. Because it was seen as the most important activity and the focal point of every family's week, mothers would practice with their children at home to help them be better prepared to make it through the services on Sunday. Elizabeth, who has five young children (including one-year-old twins!) told me about the improvements she'd seen with her own kids after having them practice quiet time on mats at home on weekdays.
Our conversation made me realize that the problem was not that I hadn't found the right book to bring or discovered some magical church-only discipline technique; the problem was rooted in the fact that I didn't see the Mass as the center of my week. If I were to have the privilege of a recurring appointment with the Queen of England and had issues with the kids' behavior during those meetings, you'd better believe that I'd be working at home to help them learn age-appropriate self control for next time. So why am I not as motivated to deal with the problems that occur at Mass, a weekly appointment far more important than with any earthly royalty? Why am I not willing to devote any more effort into it than the hour or so spent actually sitting in the pews? That, I realized, is the question I need to be asking.
Image: Christ Blessing the Children by Lucas Cranach, the Younger