The Catholic Herald asks the question whether special children's liturgies actually encourage bad behaviour in church. Rather than make an extended comment in the box there and irritate people, I thought that I might do so here.
In the Adur Valley we have both a regular Sunday children's liturgy and (now) pretty well-behaved children, thanks be to God. I assume that in my absence on Sabbatical, things are still the same. This is how we tackled it:
When I first became Pastor in Valle, I determined that I would try and follow the recommendation of St John Vianney that the priest himself should prepare the children for their sacraments. Now, our catechists are very good and willing, lovely people, and I was not prepared to unseat them, so I simply joined them.
Our Communion preparation sessions these days always begin with ten to twenty minutes when I myself talk to the children in the church. I meet them in the hall, and explain what behaviour is expected of them and why. Then we go into church. I start very simply, showing them how to make the sign of the cross (most don't know—itself rather, well let's just say surprising, but certainly telling), how to genuflect reverently, and generally how to behave in church. We learn all the normal Catholic things; the bits and pieces in the church, lighting candles, looking at the furnishings and talking about their purpose. Finally, we kneel down (important to kneel, I think) and pray together the traditional prayers (which most don't know); the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, and the Act of Contrition (to get by heart for their first Confession).
Finally, their catechists take them off, after a good genuflection, to the main bit of their preparation.
My personal involvement has all sorts of spin-offs. The most important, I think, is that I get to know the children; their names, their families, their commitment and the rest. This has been terribly important, I have found. Next year, for the first time, I will be preparing for Confirmation (and, yes, I get closely involved there, too) those I prepared for First Communion six or seven years ago. My contact then and since will, I am sure, make all the difference. I am very keenly looking forward to it.
But another spin-off is that those children know how to behave in church, and in many cases they behave better than their parents. And the bonus which I had not anticipated is that their younger brothers and sisters naturally model their behaviour in church on them, as younger siblings will do. And fewer children seem to be lapsing, though there is a lot of room for improvement there.
Oh, our children aren't perfect all the time, of course, but what child is? All I can say is that I am moved that we can have 60+ children under ten in a crowded building, and not hear a sound at the Consecration.