Try taking the 8 year old to church when there is no Mass going on. Walk around with him and get him familiar with the paintings, statues, altar, tabernacle etc. Tell him stories about the saints whose statues he'll see and explain what goes on during the Mass. Another thing you can try is to introduce him to the missal. Show him how he can read along. Perhaps this will help him be more focused during the Mass.
I'm a brand new convert to the Church, and I don't know the Stations and very many saints yet. He hates reading and this is a big obstacle because I love reading. However, I think if one of the priests or the deacon gave him a tour, or if I scheduled a tour of the cathedral, it might help. I think I've seen I coloring book style missal that explains the Mass. He likes to color (he won't color or read in Church though because he thinks it's disrespectful), and he could follow along with pictures. Thank you for giving me these ideas.
Have you tried rewards? Start small and work your way up. If he kneels quiety throughout the consecration you'll do X after Mass. Once he masters that work your way up.
I have not tried rewards, but I may try it to stop the talking. I do not insist the older children stand, kneel, sing, exchange the sign of peace or pray, and I don't know whether I should bribe them to do so or not. They have told me they do not want to be Catholic, but have spontaneously begun kneeling, singing, praying, and going to receive a blessing from the priest during the past 2 weeks.
Last but not least, ask the priest if he has time for you to stop by so that he can meet the children. This is a good time of year to do that because summers are slow.
I'd like to meet the new priest, but it's still his first week at the parish. Do you think he would have time for us?
Have you tried sitting in the front? If he knows that the priest could actually "see" him, maybe it would help?
Fourth row is the closest I've been able to get. We take up an entire pew, so I might have to get there more than 10 minutes before Mass to get the front pew. That might help, because the 8 yo would have a clear line of vision, but if he can see what is happening then he will also have lots more to talk about.
Should we sit closest to the choir, or sit where the kids would have the clearest path to the priest to receive a blessing during communion? I would think sitting near the choir and podium would keep them quieter during Mass, but with 4 children it may disrupt the flow of traffic to jump to the other line.
I agree that it is too much to expect strangers to correct your children. Most people don't see that as their responsibility, and those who do ... have probably experienced a backlash from some parents (in stores, restaurants, etc.) so they would hesitate for that reason.
I respectfully disagree. If the parents aren't taking responsibility it's not up to you, leave them alone, you probably will get a backlash. I was referring to assisting parents who are taking responsibility, but the child openly rebelling against their efforts.
When a mother is correcting her child most people say, "Oh it's okay, he's not bothering anyone," "Don't be so harsh, she's just being a child," "He isn't hurting anything," or the worst "Don't worry, I don't mind if you (fill in the blank)." This is what undermines a mother's authority.
A stranger can comfortably lend aid by telling a child to do what the parent is asking or reminding him he making his mother's life very difficult. It makes the child aware he is wrong and is embarrassing himself.
Admonishing another person's child should be an act of solidarity with the parent, making the battle 2 against 1 and disarming the child.
On the other hand, when someone is already struggling with a child, and you tell them the child is bothering you, then the parent has both you and the child angry with them.
Sometimes I think people are to afraid to tell other people's children "no" when it's appropriate because many children are so aggressive.