Low Points in Parenting: Seven-year-old boys in Sacrament Meeting

This is a guest post from Hannah. Enjoy! I have a seven-year-old son. In my experience with motherhood, seven-year-old sons are the low point. And please don’t tell me to just wait until he’s fifteen, because I’m barely making it as it is. A few weeks ago in church Dad was home with sick babies, and I was in sacrament meeting with four older kids alone. Our stake has sacrament meeting last, so everyone is tired and hungry and ready to go home before it starts. My seven-year old was on a roll. He decided to see how far he could push it in public, in church. First he started talking loudly. I shushed him, and he smirked and went louder. I told him he wouldn’t get his treat at home for being good if he wasn’t quiet. He went louder. I threatened to take him out. He punched me. Hard.(Of course, we were on the fourth row, not having gotten to sacrament meeting quickly enough, so none of this was discreet.) I grabbed his hand. He kicked me. I told him he was going out. He told me that if I tried, he would kick everybody in our row on the way—in the face. He had me there. We were in the middle of the row, with nice elderly couples on either end. He’s a big seven-year-old, and I wasn’t even sure I could get him out, let alone keep him from kicking the neighboring families in the face. There were still fifteen minutes left in sacrament meeting, and I was stumped. I sat there trying to think while simultaneously holding his hands and feet as he kicked and punched me. The lady behind me said, audibly, “That boy needs a spanking!” I was close to tears. This went on for several minutes. Then I had a revelation (I’m not sure from what source). I looked a couple of rows in front of me and saw a new family in the ward. The father was an officer in the army, (very impressive to seven-year-olds, in my experience). I leaned over to my son. “If you don’t stop punching and kicking, I will ask Brother Anderson to take you out.” “He couldn’t!” And here’s the low point. “He’s in the army,” I answered. “He could probably kill you with his bare hands.” (“He wouldn’t, of course,” I added, a bit shocked that I had just threatened murder in church, “but he could.”) My seven-year-old’s eyes got wide. He quit punching and kicking. And he went home quietly. I had succeeded. I increased reverence in church by convincing my son I knew how to hire a hit man. I wonder how low I’ll sink when he’s eight.


Blogger j said...

My turn:

I told my two year-old that if he doesn't stop throwing things around, I'll "put him out of the house". I really didn't think it'd register at that time considering he was having too much hysterical fun at my distress. He was running about, yelling and laughing maniacally while tearing up the place.

It chilled me to the bone because he stopped dead on his tracks the moment I said those words. To my horror, he turned to me with a look of melancholy - as if I were an enemy to be feared. Only then I realized the gravity of my words: how awful for a child to hear his mother say he's not wanted anymore and is about to be thrown out.

He calmed down, sure, but at what price? I almost cried (with shame and bitter regret) and rushed to him with hugs and kisses. But the damage has been done and I have to live with it.

3/24/2006 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I can understand and I do not blame you for using that tactic. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

3/24/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

I love it!
But the big question is, are you sitting in close proximity to the hit man each week now? What would be funny is if you could get the man to every now and then give your son some surly looks.

3/24/2006 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger FluffyChicky said...

I too have a boy that loves to see how far he can push me. We live in an apartment complex with super-mean neighbors living right above us. They think that quiet hours are a 24-7 thing for everyone but them...and they have 5 kids running around non-stop up there (but that is a different rant). Anyway, I let my kids run and play and be noisy, but when it is quiet hours, it is SILENT time because I don't want to call down the wrath of the wicked witch upstairs and have our landlord tell us we are being too loud. Well, the boy knows that after 10 PM, we can't yell, scream, play basketball, whatever. One night (it was a weekend, so I let him stay up late) he started to throw a HUGE fit when I told him it was bedtime. He was kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs, which I knew could be heard through the walls and celing. The only way I got him to stop was to tell him that if he didn't quit the family upstairs would complain to the landlord and we would get kicked out of our apartment. I asked him if he would like to have to live out in the snow and cold and have to sleep under a bridge. He quit crying and said that he would not appreciate that at all (where does a 4 year old learn that kind of word phrasing anyway?) and he went to bed. He hasn't done it since then (2 months and counting!). Sometimes a good shock to their world is what is needed.

3/24/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I think that's great. Sit closer to Brother Anderson every week, but especially when your husband isn't there

3/24/2006 12:37:00 PM  
Blogger Bek said...

First let me say that I am sorry for the kicking/punching issue. That isn't funny. BUT, this post had me laughing so hard that I snorted!!

Hiring a hit man in church. Hey, he was playing dirty and knew exactly what your limits were, as a mother it is your job, in fact..your OBLIGATION to stay one step ahead of him....

I second having Brother Military turn to look at him a few times.

3/24/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Yikes! I would have threatened his life too! Sacrament meeting can be a special level of hell when you are alone with little (and not so little) kids. Sometimes I wonder why we try at all. Good luck, and definately have the Hit Man give him a look or two~

3/24/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Scoutmaster said...

One time we were at the zoo. My daughter (probably 3 at the time) was leaning WAY over the wall to where the lions were. I told her several times to stop leaning and finally said, "Do you want the lions to come over and eat your arms off?" It's insane the things that come out of your mouth when you're trying to control your children. I think you were completely justified in threatening a hit!

I'm trying to do the math and figure out how many kids you have... 6 or 7?

3/24/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Thanks for all the great stories, and advice! (This doesn't mean stop, of course). It's nice to hear I'm not the only one.

I also loved the idea of having Brother Anderson give him looks now and then. But so far I haven't dared confess to him what I've done.

The only thing I had thought of was putting my family next to the aisle if I'm alone with the kids, so at least anyone he kicked would be related.

And Scoutmaster, I have seven.

(By the way, the title should have said "Sacrament" not "Sacramanet." And I had some formatting problems. Sorry--this was my first time doing a real post.)

3/24/2006 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger moddy said...

I so know where you are coming from. DH was in an car accident 3 months ago, and hasn't been able to attend church since. So I get to wrestle with my 5 yr old son and his 2 yr old sister. I wish I had a hit man in my ward, I bet that I would get at least a couple of peaceful meetings out of that threat. Last month I had to physically carry my 5 yr old out of the meeting as he is kicking and screaming, while also trying to carry my bag and get my dd to follow. I wasn't on the end there was a man and his 2 kids sitting between me and the end. He didn't get up, he didn't even glance my way as I was dragging/carrying my son out, at that point I was hoping my son would kick him, just to get him to move!
One thing that I don't understand is when other members can see that you are at your wits end and that you don't have backup (ie: hunbby) why they don't offer to help, atleast take your other kids so you can deal with the one that is melting down.

3/24/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger sirdavid said...

In my opinion you did the right thing. What was the right thing? Your best! The woman behind you needs to be quiet or help. Suggestions like that kid needs a spnaking does nothing but make it worse for you.

Our daughter has learned that in Sacrament meeting you are reverant or you end up in the hall with Dad, but that is only becuase I have a calling that requires me to be at Church 3 hours early so we always have prime seating.

Good for you for what you did! You can't be afraid to make the kids listen, if you rush to their aid after you punish them then they'll know you will never go through with the punishment.

I say Bravo!

3/24/2006 03:40:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

Here's my other thought-more serious in nature :)
I agree with sirdavid. I have always taken my children to church sans Daddy, so while I only have two, I know all about doing it solo in Sacrament. My way of training my people was my daughter didn't leave my lap until she was 3 years old. She had total freedom on my lap-she could color, have snacks, even wiggle a bit, etc. The second she was out of control it was out the chapel and into a room, sitting in a corner. We did this about three times and she learned she had more fun in the chapel. So, by the time my second was born, she could sit through the meeting, in total control of her body. Now, #2 is almost three, and she is more wild/impulsive than #1, and may have to be on my lap a bit longer than three.(I've tried granting her bench priv's and it's chaos within minutes.) Luckily she's only about 24 lbs. I guess you could threaten your seven year old with having to spend Sac. meeting on your lap if he continues to act like a two year old. ;)

3/24/2006 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Ok, I THINK I fixed most of the formatting problems. It looked normal on blogger, I swear, and then it came out strange when it posted, but I didn't have time to fix it right then - just posted it up and left the house.

I guess cutting and pasting isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

BTW, I laughed so hard I cried.

But I do hope he doesn't have nightmares about Bro. Anderson. Someone once told me gardeners liked to take little kids and put the leaf blowers on their legs and mangle the legs, and I couldn't walk on the same side of the street as gardeners working (and this is in LA) for years.

3/24/2006 04:58:00 PM  
Anonymous sue said...

I love it! I have 4 boys ranging from 14 to 7 and a very "spunky" 5 year old daughter. I would love to have a "hit man" in my ward. It would really take some of the pressure off of me.

3/24/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

Hannah, are you sure you don't have my son? OK, mine is only six, so it can't be him.

I'm so sorry about your bad day in church. I think a little military/mafia tactical threat was absolutely in order. Maybe someday when your son is a bishop he will look back and laugh and feel sorry for making you say that!

3/24/2006 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger FrogLegs said...

I don't think that's low at all. I've got a seven yr old as well-- and you know what? Sometimes you have to put fear in them. Obviously you had to do something extreme-- he was being... I can't even think of a good word. And like Elizabeth said-- sit close to the "killer!" LOL!

3/24/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

7 years old seems a bit old to be throwing a fit like that to me, but my memory is off when it comes to smaller kids...my youngest is 11. But especially if he's big for his age? I would've been livid--and I rarely get mad--if one of my kids had behaved like that anywhere, but especially in church. Making use of the military man was pure genius. But I would've been threatening a significant punishment--much bigger than just no after-church treat. I don't mean to come off like the lady who said he needs a good spanking--I'm just trying to offer some help: I would sit my son down before church this Sunday and tell him in very serious tones that sort of behavior is completely unacceptable, and warn him if it happens again, he's suffering consequences. Loss of tv/videogames for a week, or whatever.

But hitting/kicking/etc is a serious offense in our house.

3/24/2006 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Kids SO know when they have your number at church. I remember the Sunday when, with hubby gone and me 8 months pregnant with #5, #4 (two years old at the time) decided it would be worthwhile to crawl under the pews to the back of the chapel. Since we sat near the front, he had a nice long trip. There was nothing I could do but let him go and wait for him to go out the other end, dying of embarrassment the entire time.

You did the right thing, and that woman behind you should have known better than to try to correct another mother. SHE needed a spanking! :)

3/24/2006 07:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this blog makes me grateful I don't have kids.

3/24/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

That's funny. And it was pretty smart if you ask me.
I think you solved the problem that you were having then, but you need to think through the rest of it. Discipline isn't just making the bad behavior stop right then, it is also making it not happen again in the future.
Parents often forget this. They give in to the whiny toddler because they need the toddler to be quiet right now during ...... but they just set themselves up for future whiny stuff.
So, I would maybe have a talk with him and your husband. Make sure he knows that you and your husband are unified in enforcing rules (your husband is bigger & stronger, and so knowing that he supports your word even when he isn't there will help). Talk about inappropriate church behavior that he exhibited and then tell him what will happen next time. (One verbal warning stated clearly "This is your warning" and then if he is still wild/loud he will have to go in timeout in the foyer and get no TV for 1 day or go to bed half hour early, or whatever the appropriate punishment.)
What would worry me about the incident is the lack of respect that you are the adult and that you enforce the rules. I think that your impromtu solution was good in that you showed that no matter what, you would make the consequence happen. But, at home, there is no hit man around to take advantage of.
Good luck!

3/24/2006 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Thanks for more ideas and stories. I agree that it would be nice if other people helped, but I can understand why they don't. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do.

To the Wiz--thanks. I'm sure all of the problems were with my original, though.

And to everyone who was concerned that that was the extent of my son's consequences, don't worry. It wasn't. Telling him he wouldn't get a treat was only for when he was talking a little bit loud. Later he was way beyond that. He got plenty of talking to and other consequences when I got him home. And we haven't had any problems that bad since.

But I do still worry about the next time he decides to push it!

3/24/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

"7 years old seems a bit old to be throwing a fit like that to me,"

I thought the same thing. I'm not trying to be difficult here, but this doesn't seem like behavior within the normal range.

3/24/2006 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

Brilliant!! Alas, we are a military ward and kids know that the guys are just average Joe daddies. Maybe we could tell them something else scary..... "He's a civilian, so he could ground you and be here long enough to enforce it!" just doesn't have the same ring to it though.
A friend who has 3 and one on the way was at stake conference while her husband was in Iraq. Her daughter was bouncing in the pew and crawling around and the guy behind her actually had the nerve to bonk her on the head and tell her to cool it!!
Think what you will about a child's behavior, but it isn't always instigated by parenting or lack thereof. In many families there are very well behaved kids and also kids who like to push the boundaries, if parenting were they only factor than they'd all be the same.

3/25/2006 01:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Hannah said...

Julie--I guess I don't know normal range, except in my own family. But both of my boys had a really wild period at about the age of seven (especially at church). I attribute it to not liking full-day first grade, and being frustrated by having to sit any extra amount (and having Sacrament meeting at the end of the schedule, when they're tired and hungry).

I admit he's on the challenging side, but I do think he's still within the standard deviation, judging from my friends and neighbors. I hope so, anyway.

mo mommy--Thanks for the story. I do hope it's not just my parenting!

3/25/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Jane B. said...

In my experience it is the boys who are wild at 7 that grow up to be the brilliant scientists and the community leaders. The boys that are quiet and obedient at 7 are the ones that I worry about. It takes real intelligence and creativity to think of threatening your mom with kicking the whole row in the face. Your clever solution to the problem shows where he gets his smarts.

3/25/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Sheridan said...

As a mom of an 8 year old boy... I have been there. I don't know that it has gotten better, but at least now that he is baptized I can throw out, the you made a promise to God. But it is actually the Cub Scout motto that seems to motivate him more!
Sadly we have no army men in my ward, or I might have to try your idea on Sunday!

3/25/2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bradley said...

I often wondered if I should help other families deal with their children during sacrament meeting (before we had two of our own to worry about). There are two reasons that I didn't/don't. First, I've heard too many accounts of people acting indignant when others offer to help like you've just told them they are incapable of being a parent. Second, the reactions of kids to being controlled by a relative stranger in any way (even just sitting by them) can have unpredicatable and noisy outcomes.

Perhaps if I had been their primary teacher or home teacher I would have acted differently.

3/25/2006 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger A Payne said...

I HATE THIS BLOG! I realize that I am not as much as an "individual" as I think I am. I am just a cookie cutter mormon mom having the same experiences as other mothers.
I told my 7 year old twin boys this Sunday that if they weren't good in Primary, their teacher, who is a DEA agent could take them to Mexico and they would never come back!

3/27/2006 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

a payne -
LOL! Sorry to disappoint you in your individualness. Deportation is a pretty serious punishment for misbehaving, though. :)

I can't wait for my boy to turn seven now....

3/27/2006 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Kingdom_Seeker said...

I'm learning all kinds of new tactics. I wish I had been that creative. Did it help himbehave in the future?

9/04/2008 08:44:00 PM  

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