Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunday Bribery Encouragement

Last Sunday was not a good day in church.

If you're my friend on Facebook, you're aware of that.  Seeing as how my status that afternoon was me wondering whether I'd qualified for extra points in the next life by not killing my children in church.

See, a couple of months ago, Chris was called to be a counselor in our Bishopric, which, for all you non-Mormon readers, means he's an assistant to the leader of our congregation, who is called the Bishop.  Our church has a lay ministry, and all leadership positions are filled by members of the congregation.

What this means for Chris is more responsibilities and more meetings.  What this means for the rest of us is Sunday services without Daddy, since the Bishopric sit together on the stand where they can keep an eye on the congregation be visible to the congregation.

The girls are old enough that they're not too much trouble in church.  They can control their wiggles (for the most part) and don't need snacks or emergency walks to keep them sane.  I usually bring a bag with notebooks, crayons and pencils to keep them busy, but they should be fully capable of sitting through an hour-long service without too much trouble, especially when they've been attending that hour-long service every single week for their entire lives.

Which is why I thought I was going to completely lose it on Sunday.

No, strike that.  I did lose it.  Completely.

I won't name names, but the experience culminated in all the coloring materials being confiscated (apparently the "dirty crayons" are unpopular.  Who knew?) and one daughter being marched out of the chapel and into an empty classroom, where she was placed on a chair in a corner and instructed to remain there alone until she was ready to be in church.

She contemplated the ramifications of this punishment and asked what would happen if she wasn't ready by the time church was over.

Suffice it to say, there wasn't a lot of meaningful worship going on in our pew that day.  And my daughters all spent the majority of Sunday afternoon in their bedroom, contemplating, in theory, where they had gone astray and what they could do to put themselves back in Mother's good graces.

I've been thinking about this ever since then, wondering where I've gone wrong and why it is that my children look on Sunday services as something they're being dragged to, rather than something they're attending willingly.  They love their Sunday school classes, but the worship service itself is clearly, in their eyes, something to be tolerated, but not enjoyed.

The one thing I'd decided by Sunday afternoon is that we are no longer bringing crayons to church.  Vicki is 10 and only colors because the materials are there anyway.  I'm pretty sure she can handle the meeting without a problem.  Lexi is 8 and should be capable of sitting quietly for an hour.  Even if she has no interest in the speakers, she has a vivid imagination and could easily lose herself in daydreams and simply appear to be listening.  I don't care, as long as she's not disruptive.  And Ellie...well, at 5 she may need a little distraction still, but I'm sure she could make it through one talk.  Maybe I'll still bring crayons for her.  I haven't decided yet.

But this morning I read this post by one of my favorite bloggers, Daring Young Mom.  It's comforting to know I'm not the only one out there dealing with this.    My favorite part? 
"Technically I know they’re not old enough to sit and worship for an hour and have a meaningful experience but I do think they should be capable of faking it so people around us can enjoy being there."

She has a great plan for encouraging this kind of faking it in her children.  I'm not thrilled with the idea of bribing my children to make it through church, but at the same time, not bribing them is clearly not working.  And I'm definitely not above bribery.  What parent is, truly?  And bribing with dedicated one-on-one Mom or Dad time?  Priceless.  At least in this house.

We'll be on vacation for the next few Sundays, and therefore going to church with grandmas, who seem to encourage good Sunday behavior without even trying, but you can expect a full report sometime after the New Year, when we've had a chance to test it out a few times.  If it works, I'll be able to enjoy meaningful worship and people at church will think my children are little angels.

If it doesn't, well, there are a lot of empty classrooms.


  1. I know you aren't asking for suggestions and you can completely ignore this but growing up (and I do this with my Ellie) my mom would make a list of words for those of us old enough to read. We would listen to the speakers to try and hear the words on our list. Every time they said one of the words we would put a tally mark by it. It's kind of a sneaky way to get them to listen to the talks. Ellie always gets excited when a word has so many tallys she almost runs out of space. It might be worth a shot for your girls.

  2. After reading the title of your post I thought, Hey she should read Kathryn's blog!" aaaand you already had. :) Let me know how it works. I figure I'm going to need that kind of help in a few years.

  3. Sorry about your Sunday. For some reason that I don't fully understand, when I have a bad Sunday it makes me more mad than when a weekday goes off kilter.

    I also read Kathryn's blog and thought of it the minute I started reading yours. I agree that her idea is brilliant, and one I will employ when my children get old enough. Glad to know that you are doing trying it out now to get all the kinks out for me.

    Good luck!

  4. I dread Sacrament meeting and the doctor's office with my kids.

  5. Daya, any advice is truly appreciated, and that's a fabulous suggestion! I'm so going to try it! My Ellie can't read yet, but it will be great for the other two. I love it because they'll be listening to the talks without realizing it!

  6. Along the lines of what Daya said: Sacrament Meeting Bingo. But the risk is hearing "bingo" yelled out during a meeting. Anyway, not just words, it could be stuff like hearing "uh" or "um" a certain number of times, or crying, or a lame joke.

    A friend of Rebecca's served a mission in Chile, and she said that in some areas church is only 2 hours long. Maybe you guys could lobby for that--you've already got an IN, Chris is in the bishopric!

  7. You have no idea how hard Chris would lobby for that, if he seriously thought it would be successful. I think I've heard of that, too. Sacrament meeting for an hour, then Sunday School and auxiliary meetings alternating the second hour. I could totally do that.

    And Bingo, while a good idea, whouldn't work for the daughter of mine who has no concept of what "whisper voice" means. She'll learn, but until then, Bingo would be a bad, bad idea. Entertaining for some, maybe, but still a bad idea.


Will blog for comments

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