Monday, February 08, 2010

Criticism at Church

April is in charge of singing time in Primary, so I watch Peter during Sunday School. There are a grand total of two children under the age of 18 months in our ward, and both Peter and his friend were in the Sunday School class yesterday.
Peter was being a bit squirmy and a little loud; I tried settling him down, and then took him out. Fifteen minutes later he'd settled down a bit so I took him back in; he again insisted on being noisy, so I again took him out. I'm not sure how long we spent in the classroom, but it wasn't more than 10 or 15 minutes, and it's not like he was yelling and screaming. Just complaining a bit.
After class, a member I don't know very well, came up to me and said,
"Brother Jones, I know I don't know you all that well, but could you take your child out of the class a bit earlier? (The teacher) said it sounded like a bus station in there."
Now, average attendance in this ward is 80. We've been there for 18 months. We've been very active in the ward and gotten to know most of the active members fairly well (partly because of the small size of the ward, and partly because of the nature of my calling). I know everyone in the EQ, and all of the ward leadership--I know at least 75% of the active adult men fairly well. I don't know this man (and honestly, I don't really want to). I don't know the Sunday School teacher either. They are both the type who don't reach out to new members and don't really participate in the ward (as far as I know) beyond their callings.
I reacted politely to his criticism, (and now somehow need to balance it with criticism from others that I take Peter out of the classroom too quickly). Inside, though, I was angry.
How do you (and should you) react to child-raising criticism from ward members? Does the source of this criticism matter?


Katrina said...

That would really bother me too! I'm sorry that happened. I can't quite imagine our teacher saying that in those words, so I wonder what was really said... This kind of reaction seems to usually come from people who've never had children or who have been removed from it for so long that they have forgotten what it was like. As a parent, I just tune out disturbances of other kids and it doesn't bother me. I would guess that's how the majority of people are at church. And like you said, Peter is never very loud (not like my daughter!). So I don't get it either.
(Just for the record, our teacher did reach out to us when we moved in and does serve people outside her calling. In the past, she has held so many high-stress callings that for the last couple years the bishop has been "protecting" her to allow her some breathing room.)

alison said...

I would make a comment to the teacher; if Peter making noise is a distraction to the teacher, it would make sense to have a signal (um, direct eye contact, maybe throw in a slight nod to the door?) to let you know when he's not able to effectively think or teach. I know when I teach, I can ignore some things just fine, but would be completely distracted by other things.

I'd also sit right next to the door, so exits are simple. And possibly encourage the complaining member to sit closer to the teacher and farther from you. :)

When our kids were post-infant-pre-nursery, I pretty much stood in the halls with them during the second hour, and John kept them the third hour (I had to be in RS). I'd take our youngest into the nursery when she was about 15 months and visit with the other people in there when I had her.

The other option is for someone in the Primary to play with him while April's doing singing time. Our primary presidency loves up our chorister's baby while she's busy.

Tim said...

I don't really know the teacher well; she does teach every week, which takes a lot of effort. I think she probably does do a lot of good for the ward. I'm not certain of what she said or in what context she said it, and if she did say something I think she probably meant to keep it private.
Our ward doesn't have a lot of kids--I get the feeling many of them are not use to any noise in any meetings.

Tim said...

I didn't get the impression the teacher was distracted, but I could be wrong.
We'll be gone next week (my brother's getting married in Idaho) and part of me hopes the one brother worries that he offended me so much that I stopped coming. Maybe I could pull an awesome practical joke and talk the Bishop into calling him into his office to tell him I was so offended I decided not to show up.
In any case, I might just spend the next few months in the hallway. Plenty of good people out there to talk to anyway, and I think the fellowshipping out there may be more productive than spending time in the classroom.

JorgenMan said...

This kinda reminds me of when I was a kid. An middle-aged guy was giving a talk about kindness, and stopped in the middle of the talk to say, "Ma'am, would you please take that baby out?!" Genius.

He ought to come to our ward to appreciate what he's got. We've been producing babies quickly enough to keep four nurseries going since our ward was created two years ago.

Brentwell said...

Usually it comes down to that person's experience with children. People who have now or had small children are very understanding of a little fussiness. However, people that have never experienced that or who in some cases forgot it can get really uptight about children. Don't worry too much about one comment.

Tim said...

Wow. Bet your nursery is bigger than our entire primary.
You're right of course. I shouldn't worry about it. Still, it's very tempting to start sluffing that class, and use that as an excuse...

John Robinson said...

If I were a sunbeams teacher I don't think I would think twice about making a comment like "Man my kids were wound up today" or "Today was missing daddy day!". But it would be a comment on the state of the universe but very rarely a suggestion on parenting.

My guess is Peter's teacher made a comment about him being noisy in that vein, like "everyone's wearing blue today" and then this other fellow decided himself that this meant people need to wear less blue and took it upon himself to talk to blue outfitted people and let them know they had overdone it.

My response would be:

Assume fairly confidently that you don't need to do anything different in class.

Be sure to (nicely) ignore advice from what's his bucket from here on out. Even if the teacher asked him to talk to you about it, there are much more tactful ways to handle that.

Mommy Bee said...

Hmm, you know my whole recent thing about nursing in church? Kinda similar if you ask me. I'm trying to take care of my kid, and somebody else is bothered by the way I'm doing it. In my experience, most people think they know a lot, and many people like to share their views about things...and very few people are willing to let other people do things *their* way.
Yep, kids make some noise. But if you aren't willing to hear an occasional squeal, well, don't attend a family ward.

Jason, Becca and the three Kneefights said...

I don't know about you, but I go to my church meetings for two main reasons. The first is to regain perspective after my week by hearing other members' view on life and the gospel. The second, is to teach my kids that the first one is important to me. In that context, I decided a long time ago to take care of me and my family, whose spiritual development I have the most direct juristiction over, and not worry too much about the rest. If you gain something from being in the class, keep going. Don't let someone opionated win by doing what he wants if it's not what you would choose in the first place.

Cougarg said...

Hmm... something to look forward to! Actually, we are already getting comments about when we will start having kids. When we start is our own business, but if we did publicize we would surely getting contradictory advice. Every family has its own dynamic, so take what other people say with a grain of salt and know that you are doing what you think is right for your family.