07 September 2014

Doughnut behavior

Since Little Bear has learned to associate the parish hall with treats, we've definitely begun using the classic "Be quiet or you won't get a doughnut after Mass" good-behavior bribe. Last Sunday we had to explain that he'd been too naughty to have a doughnut, and while he was very unhappy about it then, he was very quiet all through Mass today.

But then there were announcements. And more announcements. And more announcements. And then someone was invited forward to speak about Stephen Ministry.

And I picked up the squirmy, stage-whispering, trying to be good but why is it taking so long, Mama? two-year-old and carried him out to the narthex.

I'm not sure exactly what I'm frustrated about... The oodles of announcements? The placing said oodles of announcements before the final blessing? Probably that; I know that there are things the priest really needs people to know, and it's not enough to hope that everyone will actually read the bulletin. But for parents of littles who are trying to learn how to behave in Mass, it winds up being a no-win situation: Little kids have short attention spans. It's a fact. When they are at the tail end of their ability to sit still and quietly, and someone else gets up to talk for another five minutes, parents have to choose between A) risking allowing their child to become disruptive, and B) taking their child out and missing the final blessing.

Neither is a good option for the parents, but also, neither is a fair option for the kid. If you take the kid out, neither of you receives the final blessing. If you don't take the kid out and they do start losing control of their whispering voice (or their patience, which certain two-year-olds have in very short supply as it is), whose fault is it really? If I know that Little Bear has already been still and quiet longer than I can reasonably expect him to, but I try to keep him there through the extra five-ten minutes anyway, does he lose his doughnut privileges that week? He's been good and quiet all through Mass, watched Father and the lector, paid attention... I don't think it'd be fair to punish him by taking away the treat he's been looking forward to all week, when if the final blessing had been given before the announcements Mass would have been over and he would have successfully been well-behaved all the way through. Kids learn to follow along with the Mass pretty quickly; they know when it's supposed to be done, and they don't have adults' maturity to not express their frustration when the announcements are never-ending.

But. If he melts down during the announcements and I let him have a doughnut anyway, he's going to lose the association between "good behavior" and "getting a doughnut." So even though I don't think it's fair to punish him for the announcements being too long, I can't teach him that we can be loud and unhappy in church and still get a doughnut. Which leaves me with just one option on Sundays with long-winded announcements: Heading out to the narthex and missing the final blessing.

Surely it wouldn't be that big a deal to switch the blessing and the announcements? People are conditioned to stay until after the recessional hymn anyway; I doubt they would actually lose many members of their captive audience for the announcements.

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