Before I continue with the parenting topic, let me reiterate that I do not think I'm in a place to give "advice". I consider this more of a "what I've learned" topic rather than advice. Things tend to look different when you're a little older and I'm not sure I would have not had the same opinion when I was a young parent. I think that may be due to the fact that by the time you get older you've sorted out what things are important and what things aren't.
For instance one of my big regrets in raising my two boys was that I too often punished them for being too loud in church. I'm not sure what's "too loud" and what's not but I am pretty sure that the only people who get really bent out of shape about a kid being a kid in church is their parents and really cranky people who are just going to be cranky no matter what. I've discovered that most people really don't mind a young child playing in the seat or even talking quietly. Now if they're crying or talking loudly they probably should be taken out of the service but DO NOT punish them for that. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing - being a kid. Its simply not fair and not healthy and not right to expect a child to sit quietly throughout an hour to an hour and a half service. I know when I punished my kids for being too loud in church, it was because I was concerned about what other people thought of my mothering. It had little to nothing to do with my kid. I bet I'm not the only young mother who has fallen to that .... and folks, that is not a good reason to punish your child.
I noticed something else the other day. I was sitting in the narthex at church when a young mother was showing her very young child the Christmas decorations at church. For those who don't attend our church, we have several trees that make up a forest with snow along the sides of the narthex and in those trees are placed several little ceramic animals. The mother wanted her child to see the pretty decorations but kept tell her not to touch them. And of course, the child was determined to touch the animals as many times as possible. Her mother would smack her little hand every time she did, which was so many times I lost count. I sat and watched and laughed inside at how people are so different. I remember a few years ago when I was babysitting a small child for a friend and how we had sat in the floor of that same narthex, next to the same display, pulled out the animals and played with them.
You see, kids learn at church in different ways than we adults do. They learn by touching, exploring, holding, and by how we adults respond to their childlike ways. Ever seen how a baby will touch your face all the time? Its his way of learning about you. Its hard for kids to connect with something if they can't touch it.
When my kids were born I traded in my white ceramic nativity set for a plastic one that they could pick up and play with. I wanted them to be able to have their hands all over that thing if they wanted to. And they did. I particularly remember how baby Jesus would always go missing every year - until we would discover him in Mary's arms. Logan was not content to let him lay in a manger - he apparently felt that Mary should hold her baby and every year would take him out of the manger and put him in Mary's arms. It was his way of being a part of the Christmas story. He wasn't aware of that at the time, but that's exactly what he was doing.
Let your kids touch things. If they break, fix it or replace it. Whatever it is, its not more important that you're child.
Now you say, that's all very well and good Amber but children need to learn to respect other people's property. Of course they do. I just don't think that church is the place for that. Teach them that when you visit other people's homes. Church is God's house. And he welcomes those little one's and so should we.
If we're really all about souls, we should consider that our most likely place to reach people for Christ is right there in our children.
Oh and speaking of church - take your children to church, don't send them. Kids learn way more from our actions than from our words. The world if full of people who regret not taking their kids to church. I know of few if any who regret taking them. Whatever it is that is taking you from church ... its not worth your child's spiritual development and its certainly not worth their soul. But the church isn't what it should be, ou say? Well neither are the schools, or little league games or anything thing else in life. There will be plenty of time to teach them how to deal with all the imperfections and disappointments that you've experienced at church when they're older. When they're little - take them. And make sure its a kid-friendly church you take them to.
If you missed my first post about parenting it can be found here.