When I first became Orthodox, there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on extending grace to children and including them in the Church at their own level. Certain factions always grumbled about this, though, and they usually seemed to be wealthier people who had contributed to the parish for a long time and wanted things to be “nice” for their worship experience in return. No bothersome children, please.
Now I feel as if the institutional church in general is currently swinging toward more strictness. Perhaps the recession has given those plutocrats within the church a louder and more important voice.
At any rate, I want to repeat something I said in the comments. Children, like other people, are what they are for actual reasons. Short-circuiting the process they need to go through to grow up, become full-fledged Christians, and not bother anyone anymore, is counter-productive in the long run.
Unfortunately, if your child happens to be one of the ones that doesn’t automatically act like you want them to in church, you probably feel a lot of pressure right now.
Here’s a story about that. Beginning a couple of years ago, notices began appearing in my parish’s bulletin and on the bulletin board asking people to control their children better in church and keep them quiet. I wrote a response and posted it on the bulletin board in return, asking for grace instead. The responses were immediately taken down and thrown away. Soon afterward, an usher manhandled my son when she didn’t like how he was behaving, dragging him out of the nave instead of taking him to his parents. He was terrified. She refused to apologize. The priest declined to discuss it with me. Since then I have attended very little. I felt that things were going in a bad direction.
A few months ago, I pulled into my church parking lot after Sunday Liturgy had already been under way for about an hour. I was sitting in my car, invisible to people walking around outside, and I saw a young mother emerge from the church building holding a sobbing, hot, red-faced two-year-old in her arms. The mother looked desperate and humiliated. She sat down on a bench and began trying to come up with ways to make the child “behave himself” – i.e. stop crying and be ready to act like an adult in church.
First she held him at arm’s length so he couldn’t get his arms around her. He screamed louder.
Secondly, she began poking him with a stick she picked up off the ground. The whole time she was furiously speaking to him in a low voice. He screamed louder.
Thirdly, she began slamming his little body on the concrete ground repeatedly, still talking furiously at him and trying to get him to stop. He screamed louder.
As all this happened, a quiet-faced Christ surrounded by blessed children gazed down on the scene from a massive icon in the church courtyard. She was actually doing this to her child 5 feet away from a giant icon of Christ blessing the children.
Meanwhile, inside the church building, a lot of thin, smooth-skinned, shiny-haired, well-dressed rich people were enjoying their well-deserved peaceful and quiet Liturgy hour.