Dear Lady Annoyed By My Kids At Mass

"Day 251: Life and the Living" by Quinn Dombrowski (2012) via Flickr

“Day 251: Life and the Living” by Quinn Dombrowski (2012) via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Good morning!

We don’t really know each other, but I felt compelled to write you this letter after our brief post-Mass conversation last Sunday.

I’m sure you remember me: I’m the overhwlemed, un-showered, snack-spilling, toy-bringing, throw-up-wearing, paci-dropping ringmaster of the three-ring circus in the pew directly in front of you.

We’re the reason folks miss the homily, the loud “Amen!” at the wrong time, the snotty handshake at the Sign of Peace, the distraction of nursing during the Consecration…and I could go on and on.

I’m not sure you knew this, but we’re also something else: deeply self-conscious about the way we may be impacting the Mass experience of others.

I’m guessing it probably doesn’t look this way, but every time one of our “supreme gifts of marriage” speaks too loudly, drops a hymnal, plays with the kneeler, or fills their diaper, we are completely embarrassed and terrified that it might be distracting others from their worship of Almighty God.

I’m realizing now that it must not look that way, because last Sunday you felt inspired by the Holy Spirit (I’m assuming) to let me know that I was handling the situation all wrong.

Didn’t I know there was a crying room where I could let my children be as crazy as they want to be? Could I take the screaming baby outside next time? Why didn’t I inform my children that they shouldn’t be dancing in the pews during the Gospel? Don’t I know people are trying to pray?!

I feel bad that I didn’t have much of a response for you at the time you provided me with this helpful feedback. To be honest, I was so crushed by your comments that I didn’t stand a chance of offering anything back other than, “I’m sorry.”

On the way to our minivan, my mind started racing with all the things I wish that I would have said in reply.

I wish I would have told you how the dirty looks and critical comments about children make parents second-guess whether they should be bringing them to Mass.

I wish I would have reminded you about Mark 10, where the disciples rebuked parents for bringing their children to Jesus. I wish I would have asked you if you remembered Jesus’ reaction:

“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'”

He was indignant!

I wish I would have reminded you about Pope Paul VI’s words in Gaudium Et Spes, where he reminds us all that,

“Children are really the supreme gift of marriage…”

The truth we all have to wrap our minds around is that one of the ways children are a supreme gift is precisely because of the reasons they are frustrating you (and me, by the way) at Mass. They distract us, annoy us, make it difficult for us to focus on our own priorities, and because of all that, they are working hard to turn us into saints.

I wish I would have let you know that my children annoying you at Mass may be exactly what God wanted for you, as a way to help you overcome self-centered thinking and become the saint God created you to be! I know that’s what he’s got my kids doing for me.

Lastly, I wish I would have reminded you that our Catholic faith is pro-life. And, as much as it can be inconvenient and difficult, annoying children and fussy babies are the beautiful result of those pro-life beliefs.

When I think of Jesus looking down at our parish, I have to image he gets a big smile across his face when he hears the priest’s homily being interrupted by babbling, laughing, and screaming youngsters.

As I was getting dressed for this Sunday’s Mass, I made sure to keep these responses at the forefront of my mind, finally ready to let you know what I really thought of your comments from the previous week.

And that’s when it hit me.

What if you’re not the cranky, old child hater that I think you are? What if your complaints about my family’s behavior at Mass has absolutely nothing to do with us? What if there is a pain, much deeper than I could ever realize, that led you to stop me after Mass last week?

A quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians helps remind me to put a stop the “all about me” thinking,

“…humbly, regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out for not his own interests but [also]everyone for those of others.”

Did I ever stop to think that your comment may have come from a place of deep suffering due to an experience of infertility?

Did I ever stop to think that your comment may have come from a place of sadness over a distant, unloving, or uninvolved spouse?

Did I ever stop to think that your comment may have come from a place of regret for not making Mass a priority for your children, who have now fallen away from the faith?

I’ll admit that I didn’t.

Instead, I let it be all about me. And, even worse, I let myself become consumed with thoughts of what I could have said to “put you in your place.”

And so, if I’m going to suggest that God put an unruly, loud, and annoying family in front of you at Mass for the sake of turning you into a saint, I’m going to also have to acknowledge that he did the same for me by bringing you into my life.

It’s up to me to decide if I’m going to take what he offers me through you and allow it to spoil my relationship with Him, or if I’m going to take it as an opportunity to say yes to Him and all that comes along with that.

It sure isn’t easy, but I’m going with the latter.

I’m praying for you, and I’m asking you to pray for me too.

As you can see from the insanity in the pew in front of you, I need it.

Copyright 2015 Tommy Tighe
Photo: “Day 251: Life and the Living” by Quinn Dombrowski (2012) via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.


About Author

Tommy is a Catholic husband, father of four boys, and the author of The Catholic Hipster Handbook (available now!).


  1. Cynthia Coleman on

    I just don’t get what people are hateful to those at Mass with kids. Honestly, I am probably annoying to the parents because I am always trying to play peekabo with the babies and waving at the toddlers. I have a 20yo and I don’t remember a lot of crabby people, but having only 1 kid it was probably easier to keep him in check with a 2 parent to 1 child ratio. I get crabby at adults who talk during the consecration or text during Mass, but bring on your kids!!! The way your ‘supreme gift’ affects my Mass is to make me happy at seeing kids and a family that goes through the struggle it is for the parents to bring their kids to Mass.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks Cynthia! And just so you know, people secretly playing peek-a-boo with the kids is one of the best ways to get through Mass πŸ™‚

      • Is there any way that maybe parents can take their kids out or if they have a crying room to take them there? Is inconsiderate to think that othere have to put up with your child

    • Everybody has to share the same space but today we find that a lot of parents let their children run noisly around the church, banging on doors, playing with metal toys on the seats. Many parents don’t actually attempt to stop this kind of behaviour at all. They seem to turn off. I have seen a child scratch his name on the pews while the mother watched him and did nothing. I have had kids eating chippies in Mass, the smell of which early in the morning made me feel sick. So some parents need to start being a bit more thoughtful. Thank you to those parents who do care and do their best. That is all most people ask. I mean I could bring my radio, all sorts of things to Mass and disturb the Mass if I wasn’t thoughtful of others.

      • I totally agree with you Teresa. As a retired elementary school teacher I have noticed this attitude that many new parents have today. It is that their children can do no wrong and they need to grow up without learning much about respect for others. Now it is in the church too? Children are lovely little creatures who need guidance from their parents early in life and they need to be taught a sense of order, respect, and boundaries. What do I know I guess…I am just a cranky old teacher…afraid not.

      • I just want to put my two cents on this comment. I am a mom of two children. I agree that there are a lot of parents that allow their kids to behave poorly during mass. There is one such parent at the mass we attend. But they are the parents, and we are not. I learned the extreme way not to judge parents. You see I am the parent of a special needs child. He has autism and Tourette’s, which means he yells out inappropriate things at inappropriate times. It has taken YEARS to train him not to say those inappropriate things, but he still says appropriate things at inappropriate times. Like repeating the gospel word for word LOUDLY. I have been the mom, who gets the complaints, I have been told to bring my 12 year old to the crying room, and I have also gone to our pastor and asked what I should do. My pastor says that it warms his heart to see children at mass, he also doesn’t care if they are ill behaved (they are children after all how are they going to learn?), and he is happy my son is so enthusiastic. He had fielded complaints, and has said, “well, Ryan goes to the 10:30 mass, he is not at the 7:30, or Saturday mass.” My son loves mass.

        And for the record I’ll behavior is nothing new. My brother and I were a force to be reckoned with at mass. My brother was taken out screaming– “mommy don’t spank my butt, I’m taking a crap.” My mom was called out for allowing me to dumb Cheerios all over the pew. It’s truly not a new phenomenon.

        • I am so glad I found your post Jodi, I have just left our Sunday mass because I was frustrated with MY children, reading your post made me feel much better and ready to try again!

  2. I’m so glad that our parish is very forgiving of children being children. Most of the time that the cranky looking old lady stares us down during our louder moments during Mass, she ends up saying how lovely or well-behaved the children are. I even had an older gentleman tell us that I shouldn’t take the kids out when they are fussy! Thank goodness for their grace, because we definitely need it!

    We went to a church on vacation this summer that was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I felt like the teensiest noise from our brood reverberated throughout the whole assembly. I was very glad that was not our normal parish! Children make noise, they are squirmy, they drop sippy cups. It happens. Let us all be understanding when it does.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks Emily! I’ve had that same experience…you think someone is staring you down with darts all Mass long, only to have them give you a great big “keep up the good work” after it’s all said and done! I love it!!

  3. Jennifer H on

    Amen to your article! I too had an experience this past Sunday with my 2 year old boy during mass. I was angry at the evil eyes I received during some toddler behavior. I commend you for making me change my awful feelings. Now I will pray for them instead.

  4. Thanks Tommy for sharing. I have had about everything good or bad said to me after Mass. I love hearing the kids because they are gifts from God. Our Faith is shared through them. To me all kids at Mass are a reminder how amazing God is and they are the future of our Faith. Its funny how the negative can eat us up and we forget about the positives. God Bless you and your family!!!

      • I love babies and had 9! I am secretly happy when they are in front of me at Mass, because I am not easily annoyed and find babies so adorable. I would have been uncomfortable though not sitting in the cry room if one was available when mine were young. In today’s crazy world, a lot of folks look forward to prayer and peace. I think that God loves children coming to Mass, but he also loves that we respect others Mass experience. Many people never had children or had unusually good children, so it is very trying on their nerves. So if a cry room is available, I say let the children and mother’s warm the seats.

  5. I am a grandmother of 8, so far. I know from my own life how difficult it is to raise a good, solid Catholic family. But please understand everyone, that there is a happy medium to be had here. Kids of course will be fidgety and fussy at Mass at times. The key is to teach them how to behave at Mass, and how to respect other people’s right to have a time to pray and worship within reason.
    If a child is getting loud, be kind and take him out for a few minutes. We did this and explained to ours what is acceptable at Mass, also reminding them why we go to Mass-to Love Jesus who loves us so much. Mostly they would be anxious to go back in and try again. They learned self-control and discipline that way. It works really well most of the time.
    It shouldn’t be an either or situation with kids: always be in Mass no matter how loud or obnoxious, or not come at all. It should be both and: stay as long as you can, but take your little one out briefly, then bring them back in.
    Having time to worship and pray at Mass is precious. As hectic and troubling as life is, it may be the only time some if us get to have time with Jesus.
    We love families with young children, all we ask is for everyone to apply a little common sense.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks for the comment! We have really benefited from sitting way up in the front at Mass. When our kids are able to see all the action, they are way more likely to be well behaved πŸ™‚

    • Make sure to take into consideration families with special needs. My daughter is nearly 7 and I have a very rough time with her not standing on pews or making noise, touching everything, talking and fidgeting; she has many issues that make mass a rough time for her and in turn for all of us. Taking her out may make her scream more. On the outside she looks her age and that she should be able to sit still and listen. But she’s not mentally her physical age. She also has sensory issues and ADHD.
      We try to be considerate, but as much as I’m stressed and stretched thin, please give parents the benefit of the doubt that we are doing all we can do. And we’re embarrassed and exhausted and feel stupid we can’t appease everyone. I’d love to give you a happy medium. I really would.

      • Tommy Tighe on

        Thanks for your comment Jeni!

        It is all too true that we can’t possibly understand all the struggles and difficulties that others may be coping with just by looking at them…

        Realizing that fact is a great step toward humility πŸ™‚

      • oh Jeni, that is excactly why I left today, seeing your story makes me feel like I can go back next time and try again, thanks for posting :). ( my 8yr old son) not someone elses child

    • I agree, Claire. We raised 3 kids and took them to mass. If they were only a little fussy or antsy and we could quiet them quickly we would stay in our seat but if it got worse we took them out….especially during the homily! Sometimes just standing in the outer aisle and rocking them was enough. It was a matter of common sense.

    • I have 9 doc, and the latest are infant twins, lol! We have been though this a time or two, and still have a ways to go. I will say that your kids will do great, this will get better.
      We stay away from the cry room, my kids behave worse in there than in the church. We don’t allow toys, books, snacks, or sippy cups in church- they become things to drop, spill, and fight over. If a child becomes loud or upset & doesn’t settle within a few moments we take them to the back of the church and hold them if that doesn’t work we go to the gathering area. It takes a lot of work. Some days I feel like I have gained mor time in purgatory than heaven, but by the age of 3 they can sit through Mass! Our top tricks are: Don’t talk or explain in Mass, ignore them as long as they are behaving, learn how to give the “look” , restrain the child who is misbehaving (holding on your lap, or standing in the back of the church) as long as they are quiet & not distructive leave em alone.
      I completely agree, children belong at Mass- stay outta that cry room, do your best, this too shall pass! I will pray for you all & please pray for me as we do this one more time x2 lol!

    • I absolutely agree! I have 9 children. My rights end where yours begin. If my child’s noise or movements became such that another could not hear or pray then we took them out for correction.. Whatever that may be. We went to daily Mass. My 9 children weren’t any diff from others, its what we did with them that made them different. They learned that being in church was a time for quiet. We also went to Adoration each week. A child learns what he is trained to learn.

  6. Thanks so much for this article! The ending in particular is key for me. I’m a mother of three and I had an incident, years ago, on Mother’s Day, nonetheless, where the gentleman behind me told me to please keep my kid quiet. I’m saying it nicely here but I left Mass crying. My child was two years. It’s not easy to reason with a two year old and is even more distracting to me and to others to keep walking in and out of Mass, although I can’t help but do it when things get out of hand. I feel the best way to deal with it is to remember Jesus being indignant in the gospel about this issue, as you mentioned, and, as a parent, do what you pray is best for everyone at that moment no matter how you perceive others around you feel. That gentleman that reproached me about my child that day now smiles at my family when my 1 year old son makes more of a ruckus than my daughter ever did. Only God knows why he did that and thank God I left it to Him. (Proverbs 20:22)

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks so much for the comment! I always think, “If you think they’re acting crazy now, you should stop by our house sometime.” πŸ™‚

  7. Thomas,

    I very much related to your post. πŸ™‚ I’ve never had anybody say anything to me (and on behalf of parents everywhere, I am *so sorry* that you experienced that) but I’ve certainly been in multiple situations at Mass in which I was mortified by my children and doing my best to quiet him or her. I just did what I could and hoped that everyone in the congregation understood. A completely quiet parish, in my opinion, is a parish without a future. Children are our future! Children are not always quiet, but they always represent hope and joy.

  8. I worry when a parish has a nursery during Mass. I know it’s easier for the parents and they get a moment to sit and pray but, people are more understanding of a one- or two-year old making noise in church than they are of a three- or four-year old “who should know better.” How do our children learn the appropriate way to act at Mass if they aren’t at Mass practicing each week? When mine were little I did have the grumpy old man behind me making comments when I thought my son had actually done a pretty decent job of sitting that week. Children are our future. We need them. We need to love them and welcome them and pray for them. Priests were once little boys who may have run a tractor along a pew or snacked on cheerios. Not all little boys will grow up to be priests, but even fewer will if we embarrass their parents and they stop coming to Mass.

  9. Josie Holbach on

    Dear Tommy,
    I am a mom of 8 who is at the tail end of raising the young ones God has gifted us with. We got the rude stares, the clearing of the throat, and some unwanted suggestions at times. But one day when I was at mass with 4 littles around my ankles and a new one on the way at any time, Father got up on the pulpit and preached that he loved to hear the babies cry, the children yelling out “Amen” at the wrong times, and the dancing up the isle as we went to receive communion. He said that the more children there were in his masses the more our church was growing. It made me cry as I was struggling with “what am I doing wrong here”. But he also caused me to hold my head up high knowing that I was doing the Lord’s work in raising these littles that He has placed in our lives. So…as I am now a grandma of 2 itty bittys, I always remember to tell the parents that are around me struggling to keep their babies quiet and respectful of others, that they are doing a terrific job and I make sure to thank them for bringing their children to mass to share with us the joy of our future. So keep going, keep doing what you are doing, and keep praying for those that are not in the place that the Lord needs them to be to continue this walk in life to becoming saints.

  10. Beth Kilroy on

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am anxious to share it with others!!
    As the mom of 5 kids, I certainly understand what you go through. One day, I was so appalled by my 1 1/2 year olds behavior at Mass, I apologized to the pastor afterward. His response changed not only my comfort level at Mass but brought me to a different place in my faith journey. He actually spoke quite harshly saying that I was NEVER to apologize for a child in his church. I was blown away, especially because we had recently moved and the parish we had previously attended was not “child-friendly”. Although we do our best to teach our children proper Mass etiquette, they will make noise and be disruptive! We have to send up a prayer and trust that the Holy Spirit will do His work as He sees fit.
    Because I finally felt at home in this parish, my faith blossomed. I believe that one comment (and my pastor’s Christ-like example) changed my entire perspective. It wasn’t about me, my child, or the other Mass attendees. It was about bringing the children and ourselves to worship our Lord! It was about giving praise to the One who deserves all praise! That praise comes in all kinds of ways: the cry of a baby, the clunk of the hymnal hitting the pew,
    By the way, that very disruptive 1 1/2 year old is now 18 and looking forward to going into the priesthood! Praise God!

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Wow! I am totally blown away!! What a great blessing to have a son with a vocation to the Priesthood!! Awesome!!!

  11. I can TOTALLY relate to this article! I had a woman come up to me after Mass and offer to give me the name of a doctor that could medicate my boys! That was many years ago and my boys are now lead altar boys, very involved with the church and are open to the priesthood. I made sure we sat in the front rows of the church and had my boys watch the Mass, not in the back looking at people’s behinds or running around in the cry room. As a matter of fact we arrived late to an Ash Wednesday Mass and had to sit toward the back of the church and my then 3 year old was upset that he couldn’t see! I always encourage families with “active” kiddos to arrive early, sit in front and talk to their children about what is happening at Mass. Of course, when they didn’t sit still they had to sit on a chair, without moving, for an hour when we got home! πŸ™‚
    Have faith young parents that this won’t last forever, it only gets better and you will be blessed because of your efforts.

  12. My husband and I have been blessed with two sets of twins, twenty months apart. We are married in the church, but my husband is a practicing Hindu and normally only goes to mass with me on holy holidays due to his work/school schedule. Recently I was screamed at by a man after the homily because he felt my children were too loud as they quietly played with some other children and their toys in the the cry room. He then proceeded to slam the door to the cry room repeatedly and turn the intercom volume on and off repeatedly before he announced that he was leaving. This rattled me and I did not respond to him. Another woman then also informed me that the children were very loud. She was sitting in the cry room with her husband and two teenage children. I try my best to get my children to keep their volume and comments to a minimum. But they are small children and getting up every time they make a peep is impossible. Thanks for your viewpoint!

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Wow, Theresa, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I’ll be praying for you, and the folks who were rude to you as well!!

    • One question…why were the adults in the children’s cry room, if they were in the church, they may not have heard the children at all?
      I am one of a large family – 6 girls, 6 boys. Looking back, my parents managed to keep us all mostly quiet and well behaved at Mass and if one of us fidgeted too much, we got a ‘look’. I recall that it wasn’t the fear of the ‘look’ or any punishment that concerned me, it was the knowledge that Mum or Dad was disappointed with my behaviour.
      We sat towards the front of the church and I remember other families, some of who were regularly loud or disruptive with toys, etc. (many children went to Mass in my youth), I don’t ever recall either of my parents making negative comments about other children at Mass, quite the reverse, we would inevitably all play outside while our parents chatted afterwards. Those are very happy memories for me. I miss churches full of children today.
      I agree that children should remain in the church from their earliest days, I cannot see how sending them to draw or play elsewhere is providing them with the love of Mass or an understanding of why they are there.
      My own children were taken to weekday Masses and Sunday Masses and expected to sit and behave. Mostly they did. I found that the routine before Mass helped with their behaviour during Mass. They were always toileted and then bathed before dressing for Mass, that helped to avoid toilet trips during Mass. They understood that they were expected to sit during Mass and why, even before they were old enough to know why, they were told that Jesus was there with us and that we should listen to Father tell us about Jesus.
      When I see or hear children fidget at Mass, I smile because they are there…I am saddened that our church has too few families at Mass today. I remember my child vomiting during Mass or filling a nappy and yes, getting either horrified comments or looks but I also remember my non-Catholic husband being there to help to deal with the clean up or the other children and the comments. That’s mostly what I remember, that my husband was usually there to help with whatever happened at Mass.
      I recall a teacher telling me that she can pick the children who attend Mass when they attend school…they are better able to sit and focus at school and understand when it is appropriate to sit and listen.
      I don’t know if any of my memories are of any use to anyone else but of all my feelings about children and Mass, the one that stands out the most today is that there are so few children at our local Church who regularly attend Mass…Christmas and Easter the parish has to move to the school hall to accommodate the huge numbers…but not so for Sunday Masses. That makes me sad and that’s what I pray about constantly.
      As my children grew up, we were often one of few families, with children, at parish Masses.
      While it may be a distraction to see a child playing hide and seek on Mum’s shoulder, I confess to a feeling of immense happiness when I reciprocate and see the delighted chuckles in return. I love the smile from Mum or Dad when they look back and realise that others are welcoming of their precious bundle of mischief.
      I don’t profess to have had it all down pat but I know that the importance I placed on our time at Mass did reflect in the importance and reverence my children subsequently placed on their time at Mass.
      I understand the distractions of life and the many things that drag us away from making Mass the focus of our lives and the well from which to draw our encouragement and also the place where sometimes we see the opposite example of both. I also know that when life presents its best or its worst, those who are grounded in faith do cope better and are better able to deal with life’s best AND worst.
      I know that God has the best sense of humour – usually I find myself right in the middle of the joke.

  13. Great article. Quick correction: Gaudium et Spes was a pastoral constitution of the Second Vatican Council, not Pope Paul VI.

  14. I had a priest ask me not to come to daily mass with my kids anymore. It was so hard going back to church after that. I had quit my job to stay home and I needed something in my life. I found daily mass and really enjoyed it. After about 4 months of going daily, I was told not to come back. I was told my daughter was too distracting to him, and he was forgetting his homily. I should leave her with someone else during that time and come to mass by myself.

    I only told one person that it was the priest and they were shocked. I have it in an email and showed them, and they still didn’t want to believe that a Priest would say that to me. My first thought was the passage in Matthew. I couldn’t believe that I would be told be a Priest to leave my kids home, when Jesus says “bring the children to me”. We went to a different church for a while and finally came back to our home church when that Priest left.

    We don’t have a cry room. If we did, I still wouldn’t use it. My kids have to learn how to behave in church. They need to learn how to act. If I remove them from the situation all the time, they won’t learn. My kids have to learn and others needs to remember Matthew as well.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, Sharon. Thanks be to God for your continued perseverance in the faith after a situation like that!

    • For the priest to say that then your kids must have been pretty disruptive and it’s your fault and not the children because you let them down as a parent. Also, you showed no consideration for the priest nor for anyone else sharing that sacred space. The church is not playground for kids. And many parents, like yourself, are treating it that way.

  15. I love the balanced perspective that you find at the end of this letter!

    There’s a great article written by an Orthodox priest that I read a while back that you might appreciate, given what you’ve said in this article, if only for this one quote from it:

    “Oddly, my experience is that almost all distractions are in my head, not in the room around me! Noisy children should be no more distracting that the blue of the sky – for both are entirely normal and natural. It is my dark internal musings, fears, anxieties and never-ending obsessions that distract.”

    Again, I really appreciate what you came to at the end of your article especially in seeing the potential woundedness of your fellow church-goer! It’s something all of us parents should remember!

  16. Well said. Our 4 year distracted our priest one Sunday and he actually forgot the homily. But he encourages the children to interact with him. If theres no crying the church is dieing.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Well said Anne!

      I always think about how easy it is to complain about fussy and loud kids, but we aren’t as concerned with gossiping at the doughnut table, or being distracted at Mass because the person next to you is chewing gum πŸ™‚

      If anyone needs to straighten up their behavior at Mass, it’s us adults!

  17. I attend Mass at a chapel near our home – this Mass is attended by several LARGE homeschooling families, some of which have several children under the age of 5. There are NO disruptions or loud noises during these Masses. The fathers of these families are not the kind of men that a child wants upset with him/her for making noise and disrupting Mass. When the father is the head of the home and the kids KNOW he’s the head of the home, these problems DISAPPEAR. I see it on a regular basis. How is this accomplished? By Dad assuming his proper role as the head of the house and training the children on proper behavior is church. A family rosary every night with the little ones on Dad’s lap is the best way to instill this in young children – they become accustomed to being still and quiet for the rosary, so sitting still in Mass is not something new to them. The children should be told before leaving the house what is expected of them and the consequences for noncompliance. All of this done with gentle firmness – it is amazing!

    • Tommy Tighe on

      I appreciate your comment, Dale.

      But I have to say, one of our three children is an 8 month old, and I’m not sure the idea of the father being the head of the household is something that he can quite grasp at this point. He’s not being loud because he’s a disrespectful kid, he’s being loud because he’s a baby that doesn’t know any better.

      God bless those dads at your chapel, though, maybe they know something I don’t πŸ™‚

      • No doubt you have got this Montassori idea that a child shouldn’t be disciplined until the age of 15 or so. Your children eventually will not be welcomed anywhere it they are not able to behave.

        If you child is 8 months and being loud because he’s a baby that doesn’t know any better – then how old are you? You should know better and take your child outside until he settles down.

        You don’t appreciate that many older people are affected by noise. One day when you’re older you will know why and I hope that some one shows you a little more respect than you are showing other people sharing the sacred space with you.

        • Come on, everyone. It’s easy enough to keep mass quiet!

          When I was little, my parents kept me at home until I could behave myself. They went to separate masses, and while one was at mass, the other stayed with the kids. On the rare occasions we had to go to mass together, my dad would take me out if I so much as dropped a kneeler… And I wouldn’t get any desserts that night either.

          I think parents are often ignorant that people go to MASS to PRAY, and we do not appreciate that parents’ rudeness and lack of discipline is keeping everyone from entering a prayerful state. I’m a high school teacher, and I’m keenly aware of how two disruptive (or even whispering) students can derail the focus and comprehension of an entire class. This is why classroom management and discipline are so important!

          There have been days I’ve been so angry and distracted I needed to opt out of the Eucharist because I could tell my thoughts weren’t charitable. It’s gotten to the point that my husband and I seek refuge in the empty cry room, to escape all the noise and distraction in the main congregation.

          Every mass parents with kids just sit there while the lot cry and coo and drop toys… And everyone else sits there struggling to hear every 15th word of the homily, trying to pray for the dead and their personal intentions, but being interrupted constantly. I’m getting angrier and angrier that the parents could be so selfish. What happened to old fashioned manners and discipline? They come along with parenthood, you know.

          Granted, I bet Jesus is super happy those people have kids. Kids are a wonderful blessing– everyone knows that! Jesus loves children, BUT I doubt that he had to strain to speak over crying children when he was preaching in the temple. Preaching and praying are serious business, not to be trivialized by unruly toddlers. It’s not the appropriate time or place to show off your family.

          For the record, I’ve never said anything to the parents, because I don’t want them to feel bad, and I’m not confrontational. But I really really wish they’d control the situation and realize how bad their kids are.

          Kids shouldn’t take precedent over the prayers and concentration of hundreds of parishioners at once. It’s rude, and must be stopped. You’re not in a nursery, you’re in a place of worship. And let’s face it, the kids don’t know what’s going on anyway if they’re crying, writhing around and sucking on rosaries and bent prayer cards. My parents took me to mass beginning at 5 years old, and now in my thirties, I’m still a faithful Catholic, lector, organist, cantor… It can be done, guys. Please be polite to others.

        • Perhaps those commenters who require a silent mass should watch on tv from their couch at home….

          No? Not an option you say? You want to be PART OF THE FAITHFUL COMMUNITY during mass?? Well, consider that is exactly how I feel when you would like to banish young families to the cry room!

          Have a blessed day πŸ˜‰

    • I fully agree. I think a lot of the trouble with noise at Mass is that the parents don’t know how to teach their children to be quiet. There is always a little baby who will cry and that is perfectly understandable but not the way children are behaving these days – even at the supermarket where the managers are starting to order disruptive families to leave.

      You have no idea some of the Masses I have been to where several young children absolutely ruined the Mass by being so noisy. There was no point attending because most of the Mass couldn’t be heard. Confession was the same – children running around and treating the church like a playground. In fact I gave up going to daily Mass and so did a lot other people I know. Unfortunately it is this generation of parents who are the problem, not the children. There are one or two families who are considerate and take their children out into the foyer until they quieten down. Other families couldn’t care less.

      • Teresa,

        In keeping with the second half of the blog post, many people have been charitably silent towards you. They may have made the better choice. Still, I will say that your various comments reminded me of a passage from “Revelation” by Flannery O’Conner, which I recently re-encountered. It comes from the story’s climax:

        “She saw the streak as a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire. Upon it a vast horde of souls were rumbling toward heaven. There were whole companies of white-trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs. And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and the God-given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”

        We all need to have charity towards someone… You may have discovered your biggest charitable challenge in these young families.

        This may have been tl;dr and you may never see it b/c I am posting several days after you, but I’ll be praying that your heart may be softened. There are many others doing the same–I am sure.

    • Dale, you are right about the preparation of a daily rosary each night. Mum and Dad would sit at the table with us after dinner and we would all say the rosary together. I agree that would certainly have helped us children to understand the appropriateness of being quiet and still during prayer and during Mass. Did we get the giggles sometimes, yes but Dad had a ‘disappointed look’ that signaled it was time to settle down. In our home, if Dad heard that we had disobeyed Mum or didn’t do what she had asked immediately, we got the disappointed look from Dad…it was enough. Dad loved Mum, without question we all knew that he considered her to be the best example of wife, mother and daughter, sister and friend and her faith was an inspiration to us all. They were devoted to one another and to all of us. I grew up wishing that every child could have the family I had, that every child could know the love that our parents had for us. I had friends who were in abusive families, our home was regularly full of other people, children and adults…meal time always had room for others. It was not unusual to arrive home from school to find a couple of extra children there for the week, Father had phoned to ask if the X children could stay to give their Mum and Dad a break for a week and to see if Mum and Dad could help them out. Whatever their diagnosis medically, within the first day, those children inevitably fitted in with the family with no sign of disruptive behaviour or aggression. Inevitably there were tears when they left. I don’t say that the various disruptive diagnosis are inaccurate, I do believe that not enough attention is given to the child as opposed to the expectations that the diagnosis brings – the child is not just about ADHD or Autism or Downs Syndrome…a stable, calm and happy environment and well behaved adults and respectful children creates the best environment for every child to find their space and their place, with minimum distress to all. Were there times of discord…of course…but the underlying respect and love meant that all of those times were resolved without aggression and without excessive behaviour towards one another. That was true of children or adults who were quiet as well, they fitted in and inevitably found a kindred spirit with one of us. We took the introduction of extras as nothing out of the ordinary and enjoyed having the extra playmates or young ones to take care of. I wish I was half the parent that mine were, I’m sure I fall well short…perhaps it was a different world then too, with parish life the centre of our family life.

  18. Please, please take your noisy, restless, distracting, snotty little kids…and sit in FRONT of me at Mass. I love every second of it. It enhances Mass because Jesus loves the little ones so much. I solemnly promise to play endless rounds of peekaboo, help you retrieve pacifiers, and whatever else you need retrieved. I know it’s hard to parent and even harder to pack up and come to Mass and I admire the parents of little kids who make it a priority despite how hard it can be.

  19. Im going to be the minority here but there is sometimes a lack of respect. I have a baby. I sit in the back row with my baby. If he makes a noise here and there and it’s not disruptive I stay. But if he starts “ba-ba-baing” through mass, we are in the cry room. Why? Because he’s my responsibility and as sure as I am that people would be fine, I’m not fine with him disrupting their time at mass. This is the way I was raised when I was little and I feel that it is only considerate to those around me.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks for the comment, Jackie. I totally respect that. For what it’s worth, your comment made me think of St. Paul’s letter 1 Corinthians 12, starting at verse 21.

      We need every part of the body to be fully whole πŸ™‚

      Have a great night!!

    • Krista Thomas on

      You are the kind of parent I love. You understand how distracting children can be and you have found a way to “Bring your children to Jesus” in a respectful way. I can only say…thank you. This parenting is good parenting. People who choose not to bring children to Mass have other issues. People who use excuses for their children being disruptive during Mass (and I’m am NOT talking about the occasional cry out for 13 seconds or the dropped paperback missal, or the peek-a-boo moments that are so awesome to see and experience), have very little courage in doing the hard things: parenting. Real parenting is showing children the boundaries. It was always like that. If you go to a Latin traditional Mass, you will see more reverence coming from those parents. It is about reverence. We have Jesus there – we are bringing ourselves to Jesus. We need to hear his Sermon on the Mount and other opportunities — all of us — which means when our children need us (and they do- been there, done that), we must tend to them. We must feed them. We must love them. We must discipline them. We must show them what reverence is about. This is loving compassionate parenting. Be a parent and enjoy it. Enjoy talking them to the back and nurturing them, showing them, teaching them. This will probably be scandalous to many. It is written with firm compassion and love for my neighbor. Having boundaries of reverence is respectful to Jesus and the priest and the elderly who cannot hear. Just be respectful of others. If you’re bothered by the noise (let’s hope so) that’s out of control (you should be), then simply love your child and neighbors enough to do something about it. Quietly. God bless you one and all.

  20. I don’t mind kids in mass at all. We have five and they now are all well past that age of up down crawl all over. My only problem is when a parent doesn’t do anything to occupy them or let them run amuck. This happened at my sons communion a few years ago. There were several toddlers who left their pew and went up to the altar tried crawling one chairs, one started pushing large candles, jumping up and down. One Altar server tried to stop them. The parents just sat there and looked straight ahead. Finally Father stopped mass and told the parents that perhaps it would be best to take the little ones over to the hall.

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks for the comment Ann! It reminded me of the recent video of a child walking up and sitting in Pope Francis’ seat.

      Pope Francis responded with a profound joy, and that warmed my heart!

      Have a great evening!!

      • My youngest, as a toddler, once broke away from me at the Lamb of God and made a run for the altar. His big brother was serving, and motioned the little guy to sit in the altar server’s chair. He sat there for the rest of Mass, then pitched a fit after Father had left the altar and I went up to retrieve him. Father thought it was hilarious and called my son his “little apostle” after that.

  21. The Priest at our Catholic Church once asked me why I sat in the Madonna Chapel (aka, crying room) during Mass with my baby & toddler. He said if I was more comfortable there then so be it, but not for the sake of others. He said if he visited my home he wouldn’t ask me to partition off our children. That the Church is also their home & they should feel welcomed & included. He said if anyone had an issue with the noises of a child, it certainly wasn’t him. We always sat among the congregation since πŸ™‚

  22. Jeanne Craig on

    Our priest often tells the congregation that he is not disturbed by the little children crying out at Mass. They are just being themselves, and we are glad they are there, as they are the future of the Church.

    Also, as his grandmother told him as he was studying for the priesthood: “Don’t you ever be critical of any child who makes noise during Mass, because no child could ever be as loud as you were!”

    So you never know… that noisy child just might be saying Mass one day.

  23. “If you don’t hear crying, the church is dying!” I forget where I heard that, but I love it!

  24. Even in Kenya we go through that. One time I was listening to Mass outside because my child was too loud and I had been asked to get out by an old lady; then a younger lady came outside to tell me the baby who was still cooing ever so beautifuly was disturbing her. My guardian angel must have held my tongue

    • Tommy Tighe on

      Thanks for bringing our Guardian Angels into this. We never stop to think about the amazing job they do for us!!!

  25. I never liked sitting up front – I didn’t find it kept my kids focused – instead it felt like whack a mole as their heads popped up and down.

    We sat in the back, and I felt like I could quietly correct their behavior, and when I need to take one out, I didn’t have to walk through the entire church.

    I’m glad when it works for you to sit up front, but just want to offer, that sitting in the way back can work too.

    FWIW, I have 9 kids. My youngest is 5 now, so, we’re back up near the front.

  26. Some of the these differences of opinion are cultural. In Mexico it is normal for kids to run around the church during mass. But here the priest and most of the congregation expects relative silence. It’s not that one way is right and one is wrong. The other problem is people tend to naturally be most sensitive to their own current state in life, whether that is raising kids or whether that is being elderly and all its challenges. In addition there is a difference is parenting styles. It is absolutely true that in my parents’ time children learned to behave at younger ages than today because they knew a whipping awaited them at home if they misbehaved at church. And in those days no one brought food and toys into church – no matter how little the child. These days there is less emphasis on punishment. Again, now that one way is better than the other. So knowing we all come from different generations and cultural traditions we should try to be as accommodating to each other as possible. Parents: Don’t take it personally if someone is rude to you – let it roll off and keep doing your best. You don’t need to complain about your treatment or ruminate over it or write articles about it. Nonparents: Give the parents the benefit of the doubt and mind your own business. Pray to God in thanksgiving the parents are having kids and bringing them to mass and raising them in the faith. Offer to help them if they appear to be struggling. Don’t be judgmental.

    I think we can all get along if we put the other first, as we do if marriage. By the way, my own kids are grade school age through high school and have been in both positions.

  27. I am a mother of six children, ages 14 – 2. My 8 year old and 5 year old have autism. Going to Mass as a family, and daily Mass, is always a struggle. But when any of our children have started to make noise, we go to the back. My husband sits with my 5 year old daughter with autism in the back because even though she doesn’t make much noise, she stims with her hands (waves them around) and it can be distracting. My 8 year old can be very disruptive, but less now than when he was younger. We still remove him from the pew when he starts to have trouble. I take him to daily Mass a lot when I can. It’s routine for him and familiar. We also go to the early Mass (715am) or no later than 9am. We have found the later in the day or evening, the younger ones have a hard time. They’re little. They can’t help it. When I am able to go to Mass alone, it’s hard to watch other small kids basically throw sippy cups, crunch food on the floor, make so much noise, then the parents have a mentality that the rest of us need to be accepting and patient. When was it ok for our children’s behavior to dictate how everything around us? Children need to be taught that Mass is a scared place. This takes a lot of time and sacrifice on our part. So maybe for a long time, we will be in the back with kids before we can sit up with the family for Mass. If someone is saying something to us after Mass, during…or whatever, maybe it’s time to give pause and think that maybe…perhaps, we should considerate to those around us who want to have that time with Our Lord. Especially parents who have children with special needs. Sometimes those quiet times at Mass are times we desperately need. Just my thoughts. I’m sure most will not agree.

  28. So funny I came across this via Facebook friend in Indiana and then realized we have met. We belong to the same parish, and have had the same experience. As a result, we have been going to st. Augustine’s because they have the cry room where you can still see the mass. But, after a disappointing homily at st Augustine’s this past weekend, I don’t think in good conscience I can bring my family back there.

    You’ve inspired me to talk to father about this though πŸ™‚

  29. I really liked your post, and all the comments…well, you can tell when people have feelings about a subject. The only thing I can add is that 5 or 10 years from now, you will be hearing more of “what a beautiful family you have, it’s so nice to see [child] serving/reading/singing.” And you will know that the only reason your children are serving/reading/singing is that you persisted in bringing them to Mass all their lives, doing your best each time.

  30. First, a suggestion for those who find their Mass participation disrupted; would sitting all the way up in the front offer any help to you. No one could be a distraction in front of you. Your eyes would not see what bothers you and while you may still hear it you should also be able to hear the priest better.

    Second, for both the parent and those bothered by kid’s behavior; In the back of my mind I hear the religious sisters who taught me in grade school saying “Offer it up.” Their instruction is appropriate both for those with busy children and those who expect “better” parenting would fix this β€œproblem”.

    Having a humble and understanding heart is tough for anyone when the experience we want is not the experience we get; whether we are parents or another member of the congregation. Such is life. The way we face sacrifice in our life is a reflection of our unity to the sacrifice of Christ. Do we face it with humility and love? Or do we fight it with anger and blame?

    God’s grace in reception of the Eucharist will be present even when I cannot hear because of noise, attend at my best because of distraction, or be at peace because of frustration. This fits for both the parent and the bothered parishioner. Consider offering up your frustrations and imperfections as part of your participation in Mass. And pray (with love) for those who perhaps frustrate you (even your own children).

    The biggest obstacle for me at Mass is not children, it is me. My pride, my petty concerns, my desire to control, my judgmental attitude, my righteousness, my lack of love and humility. The list goes on but basically my sin. Reconcilition helps but my imperfections persist. Children are easy and far closer to the grace of God than I am.

    I am the parent of 6 who all had their busy moments. We sat in front, in back, in the cry room and walked the foyer. I wonder if those troubled by our children’s noise or behavior back then know that my children and wife are 5 of the voices that provides sings praise to God each Sunday as part of the choir.

  31. Way to go, Tommy! This post is NOT what I expected from the headline. I was expecting a confrontational, family-first, Jesus-loves-children tirade but I received a very well balanced piece that reminds ALL of us to view the situation from the other person’s perspective.

    I have three children and we used the cry room until our youngest was 1 or 2. Then we moved into the ‘main Church’ and we sat RIGHT UP FRONT. It was the only way they could see – and therefore pay attention. We still sit up front today – and my kids are 10, 12 and 15 (sometimes they are serving on the alter, so we’re nice and close!). We had our fair share of dirty looks and embarrassing moments.

    But I have to admit, as my children have gotten older, I’ve looked at other families and judged them in my own mind during Mass. I’ve noticed myself being critical of the way the parents have handled the disruptions. And then I catch myself and feel horrible for passing judgment like that. And when I’m at my worst…when I’m focused on judging others for their distractions…I’m usually in a very low place spiritually. So you are spot-on with the reminder that people who share their ‘less than helpful’ advice are often dealing with something troubling.

    Thank you for the reminder that the church is made up of people – and Jesus calls us to love all of his people. And for the reminder that one of the ways we worship God is through our love for others.

  32. Thank you for this article! I have 3 sons and a not-yet-Catholic husband. Due to the chaos my rowdy boys create, there was a time I attended Mass without them. I just couldnt manage them without another adult. However, through my kind, patient priest’s counsel, we all head to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day. My reluctance was due to my boys likely disrupting the other parishioners’ worship experience. It was selfish of me to leave them home! How can they ever learn to behave in Mass if they’re never at Mass? How could they prepare for their sacraments, learn to participate appropriately, and, ultimately develop a relationship with our Eucharistic Lord? Those first few weeks were difficult and embarrassing. I would end up crying and apologizing to all the families around us. Every single week, those other people would say “at least they are here,” or, “they’re children. They were fine. Don’t worry about it.” Not too surprisingly, my oldest 2 are now very well behaved. They made their First Holy Communions in the Spring. My youngest is still disruptive and has trouble staying still through the entire Mass. However, we’re there and it will get better. When my boys were baptized, I promised God that I would raise them in the Church. Someday, I pray, my husband will join us all at the Lord’s table. Until that day, my boys and I will be there, as I guide my small domestic church towards Jesus and his Mother.

  33. Hey, just want to say thanks for this uplifting post. I’m a Catholic priest, and read a nasty piece on US Catholic about this from a guy complaining about parents with kids. I seriously thought it was an Onion piece, but it was a real article and he was serious. Pathetic. Thank you for living out your faith, and people need to be reminded that if they receive Holy Communion and show reverence there, and then stare, judge, make people feel unwelcome, they’ll get a reminder of what they did not do to others they did not do to Jesus when we are all judged. Keep on living out your faith and God bless you.

  34. not being blessed with children, I don’t know how you are feeling, but, if your child is disrupting half the church, and you just sit there, and keep shushing and playing loudly, instead of taking the outside, I have a problem with that. Sometimes it is SO bad, I don’t even remember what Mass was about, because 1) I couldn’t hear it and 2) there was so much distraction, that I personally feel like I didn’t go. I remember going to church when I was 4 and 5 years old, and I was not allowed to act like that and neither was anyone else. Our church didn’t have a restroom, so there were no constant trips. Tonight, there was this little boy about 4-5 yrs old went to the bathroom twice within 3 minutes, flip-flopping his way through church, obviously nothing urgent going on. Where is the parent? Maybe once in a while if your children are in difficult moods before Mass you could think about the other parishioners and go to a different Mass when things are calmer? Thanks!

  35. I sure needed this today! “They distract us, annoy us, make it difficult for us to focus on our own priorities, and because of all that, they are working hard to turn us into saints”.


    God Bless you!

  36. Thank you so much for writing this. Today in mass, my 1 1/2 year old daughter was extra wild. I kept her distracted with a tiny bag of cookies, some dry cereal, and her doll. When it was time to shake hands with our neighbors and offer our sign of peace, an older woman crossed her hands as I reached out to shake hers. Confused i went on, thinking maybe she was being polite because she was sick? Then as my daughter had another minor tantrum, I gave her the remaining pieces of her cereal. The woman turned to me and said rudely, “What else are you gonna feed her?” I realized that my presence and my child’s was not wanted. I struggle so much to bring my two children (my son is 2 1/2) because they can be so distracting. I feel like I should not even go. But thanks to reading your article, I’m willing to try again next week. Thank you for your insight.

    • Oh goodness, I’m so glad you found us! Hang in there Mom Melody – I was definitely YOU several years ago. You need Mass, your kids need Mass, and your parish needs to have you at Mass! You’ll be in my prayers this week. I wish I could come sit next to you next Sunday.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me!! My entire family will say a prayer for you and your little one’s tonight, as well as for the lady who made you feel unwelcome. Keep up the amazing work of helping your kids (and that lady) become saints!!

    • It made me so sad to read your comment, Melody! I’m glad you are encouraged to try again. It’s hard to bring little children to Mass–but it WILL pay off. Praying for you and all parents of littles, and, as Tommy encourages us, praying for those who are less than welcoming.

  37. Thank you Lisa, Tommy, and Barb. We will be there on Sunday again. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement so very much. I’ll let you all know how it goes! I thought to myself how so many leave church because of what other members say or do, and I cannot let these things shake my faith and values. Thank you all. πŸ™‚

  38. I have a couple loud small ones myself (1.5 year and 3 mo). When they scream or babble too loudly, I take them out. While I can care less about the old ladies who give us dirty looks, I am also RESPECTFUL. My children need to learn they are not allowed to scream and be monkeys. I also do not bring in a load of junk (i.e. food, blankies, toys, pencil, paper, crayons, etc etc etc). Actually, I notice the more stuff parents bring to distract their kids, the more the kids are loud and all over the place.

    Since you are determined to let your children be disrespectful at least sit in the back. By the way, I know many of your sort who go to mass and let their kids kick and scream and not do anything about it (there’s even a couple who let their kids run around the church during mass). You feel offended when people naturally get annoyed with you and then proclaim yourself a living martyr. Mass is centered around Our Lord, not your side show. When your children misbehave and scream THEY become the center of attention.

    As for the sarcastic comments about making saints out of those who find you annoying, it sounds more like a lame excuse for being a jerk.

    I take my children out when they misbehave. Please do the same.

    • Amen! There is misbehavior and their is just being a child – and as a parent it is our responsibility to recognize and act accordingly (not selfishly.) It is amazing how people who are irritating or irresponsible to somehow proclaim it is their right and duty to sanctify others. Huh?

  39. Tommy, your family is a blessing to all who attend mass. They are 3 of the most well-behaved kids I’ve ever seen and you are two of the best parents I’ve ever seen. In addition, with this blog post and in the comments you are BEYOND charitable. I’m appalled at some of them. Someday, very soon, your kids will be grown and you will long for the day when they were this age! Believe me…i speak from experience! πŸ™‚ We love you AND your kids!!

  40. I went to mass and the priest told me at the entrance that I could not go inside with my two year old daughter. He said that the older ones found her too loud and couldn’t hear the homily. He said she jumped in someone’s lap last week. I was shocked! I would take her outside often and I did not think she was that disruptive. I am respectful of others and am mindful of others. You cannot always ‘reason’ with a two year old! I was very upset and will not be returning to that church. My child was not that wild. The devil wins that fight. So sad and disappointed. I had to stay outside like a bad dog. Sad the Catholic priest did not want me to come in.

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.