“Ten Tips toward Reverence,” Ensign, Jan. 1998, 59–60
Reverence during sacrament meeting allows us to draw closer to our Father in Heaven through participating in the ordinance of the sacrament and through listening to the spiritual messages of the speakers. Our reverence in meetings also benefits those around us. As a courtesy to others at the meeting, we should try to be reverent so that neither we nor our children rob anyone else of their opportunity to worship.
The following guidelines are suggestions toward an ideal. Remain optimistic as you help your children move toward the goal of being reverent.
Encourage reverence as early as possible. If your baby’s fussing or playful babbling becomes annoying, give him or her a soft toy or a teething ring. Babies also love exploring fingers, so play silent little finger games for a short diversion. When he cries, take him out of the meeting. After checking to make sure he is not wet or hungry, and as soon as he is quiet, bring him back into the chapel.
As children get older, do not allow them to crawl around the chapel. And when you remove a child from a meeting, do not allow the child to run around and play outside the chapel. If crying in church is rewarded with a half hour of freedom, children quickly learn that they would rather play than sit still.
Avoid the use of force, as this may make your child resent sacrament meeting and resent you as well. If it becomes a battle of wills, neither of you will enjoy sacrament meeting. When older children become unruly, catch their attention and gently shake your head to indicate “no.”
Be patient. Training children to be reverent requires time. Don’t expect overnight success. If your children already have some bad habits, remember that it takes time to replace bad habits with good ones. You will need to do a lot of patient guiding, teaching, and encouraging to help your children change.
Praise your children when you have any success, no matter how small. Remember, praise is a better behavior modifier than punishment.
Be consistent in your expectations, not haphazard or part-time.
Practice at home. Establish a two- or three-minute quiet time with your child on your lap. Read a book or play with a toy. Gradually increase the time until you build up your child’s tolerance for sitting quietly.
Remember, children are different; some are naturally more active than others. But most children can learn to be reverent. Treat your children as individuals and you will have much more success. Don’t compare your children to others.
Each week will be different. Just because your children were reverent one week doesn’t mean they will be reverent the next week. We adults have our ups and downs; children are no different. The Lord allows us the privilege of self-correction, and we must allow our children the same privilege.
Plan ahead. Make sure children have had a drink of water and have been to the bathroom before the meeting begins. Don’t let your children leave sacrament meeting and go to the rest room alone unless you are sure they will come straight back. If they do go alone and do not come back in a reasonable time, find them and bring them back.
Bring suitable activities for children during sacrament meeting. Remember, these activities should help teach reverence.
Older children should participate in the meeting. Encourage them to locate scriptures mentioned by speakers during their sacrament meeting talks. Reading illustrated scripture books and the Friend magazine can also encourage reverence and lead children into sacrament meeting participation.
Younger children may need a church bag—a small bag belonging to the child and containing the things he or she will need during sacrament meeting. The contents of the bag can be selected primarily by the child as long as he or she can clearly make appropriate choices.
Avoid brittle plastic bags or noisy toys. For example, if your child makes “brooooom” sounds when he or she plays with cars, don’t bring cars.
A great way to make church bags is to spend a family home evening selecting and making things to go into the bag. You can make picture books with old magazine pictures or photocopies of the Friend puzzle pages; include some lacing cards and quiet books. Older children can make up puzzles using Church themes. A questionnaire on the topic of the talks can help older children focus on the meeting. They can then use this information as the basis of a future lesson for family home evening.
Our goal as parents is to bring up children to be responsible individuals who love and obey the Lord and live their lives to their fullest potential. Learning to be reverent during sacrament meeting will help us achieve this goal.—Jennifer Kidd, Fairfield, Victoria, Australia