Q&A: Library Day, Boys, and Family Culture

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With Amy’s permission, I’m sharing her recent email.
Hello Fishmama!
I was wondering if you could give me any advice for library day? My 6 year old daughter & I used to go to the library every week. She & I have both always loved books. Last August we adopted our son, M, from Ethiopia. He is now 18 months & is not fond of library day! 🙂 He is very loud, and does not like to be in his stroller. But, if you let him out, he will take off! If you leave him in the stroller, he gets angry & everyone in the library knows it! 🙂 He does love books – he’ll sit for quite a while and “read” them at home. But there’s something about the library!

Is it just that he’s 18 months? There’s such a huge age difference between my children that I think I forgot what she was like back then! Is it a “boy” thing?! Or am I lacking in my discipline?! We’re hoping to continue growing our family both biologically and through more adoptions. But I need to get some control over the 2 I already have! 🙂 Thanks for any ideas or advice. And thank you for your blog – it’s very helpful and inspiring!


Hi Amy,

I’m no expert, but I have found that library day looks a lot different now than it did when my oldest and I were able to go twice a week for storytime. I’m not sure if it’s the split attention, or what, but my toddlers have always struggled. I’ve tried several different ways to handle it at different seasons, including:

  • leaving the toddler home w/ my husband and going in the late afternoon/evening or weekends with the bigger one(s)
  • all going as a family on Sundays after church w/ my husband handling crowd control while I handled books, etc.
  • keeping the toddler locked in the stroller (I never had a screamer, so I’m not sure on that one)
  • not going for a season, but just requesting books online and having my husband pick them up on the way home.

These things have worked for us. But, we have never really “solved” it. That said, I think your situation is really normal — or we’re both weird.

(I’ll choose the former! )

As for your questions about the boy thing? Discipline?

Maybe, maybe not. That’s so hard to tell because every kid is different. I had four boys to start and they were never carbon copies of one another. Each one had things to surprise me with!

As you hope and plan to grow your family, you’ll find what I call “bottom line expectations” and the kids need to rise to those (provided they’re reasonable for their development, etc.) I’m not talking in a militant, toe-the-line or else manner, but rather, “we’re building a family culture here and part of what we do is enjoy the library.”

If the weekly trip is really important to your routines, I would test different things to help him be more content at the library. He’s still a little guy and needs help to learn that.

  • Talk about it with him before you go. He can understand more than you think. Tell him what you expect and practice “quiet voices” at home. You might even practice a library situation at home or outside the library. Make it fun. And talk about how fun it can be.
  • Provide age-appropriate activities for him to do while there. For instance, our library has a section of chunky books and puzzles esp for toddlers. I often leave my daughter in the stroller, push it up to a table, like a chair, and let her play with those items. If your library doesn’t have that, pack a small bag of things that interest him and save it only for the library.
  • Go prepared with a plan of what you will do if he acts up and be consistent. Likewise, praise and encourage him when he is behaving well.

With practice and dedication, you can teach him to behave appropriately at the library. But, it will take time and it will make you feel inefficient. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing, but you have to go with the right expectation. Teaching him the right way to go is harder than just saying the words.

Life with a second child looks different…

not better or worse, just different than it did with one child. Your daughter is so much older, you may have forgotten. God blesses mothers with amnesia from time to time. But, regardless, you are building a family culture with the exact precious people that God destined to be yours. There’s no “one right way” to do it, but, Lord willing, you’ll find your way as time goes on.

It goes without saying, “pray, pray, pray!”

OK, Moms, anything to add? What advice would you give to our fellow mama?

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  1. Your advice is great, but I'm not going to lie, I hate going to the library with my kids. We do it, but it stresses me out terribly.
    I have to go today and return -gasp- a damaged book and admit that I have no clue where another is even though I tore the entire house apart looking. Whoever suggested libraries as a frugal resource did not have my children. If it's not the toddler yanking out a page, it's the 5yo knocking over a glass of water.
    I equate facing our librarian with going to the principal's office. It's something I've been putting off, so now I have over-due fines, too.
    Amy, hang in there. If anything, know that you are not alone.

  2. It's hard to give advice when you haven't faced the problem. My children are quiet natured and don't like drawing attention to themselves. So I'm like you, no screamers here. I think part of that was also due to the fact that they knew there were consequences to bad behavior and we were consistent.

    That being said, I do know of a lady who made a scrapbook with her daughter about how to behave in church service. They took pictures of her doing things the 'wrong' way and then the right way. Example: There was a picture of the daughter lying on the floor under the pew, then on the opposite page was one of the daughter sitting quietly with a book. Don't do this, do that type of thing. The mom said the book was something they pulled out the night or morning before church service to remind her daughter of proper behavior. It's worth a shot!

  3. Amy, is this the only library in town? Some in our area have a better developed children's area that have tons of things to amuse toddlers…puppets with a theater to play with, puzzles shaped liked trains and cars, old computers with toddler software to bang around on, etc. If where you go currently is your only option, then maybe a "library bag" just for him that would have things inside to keep your little guy occupied for a while? Or a special case for toy cars or trains (or whatever he is into) that only comes out when you go to the library, etc. If at the end of your visit you picked up some books that matched his interest, that might be meaningful for him in terms of getting to love books!

    Is your older one in school outside of the home? Maybe signing up for a mommy & me storytime just with him would help to grow a love for the library. The enthusiasm of a great children's librarian can be so infectious!

    If all else fails, I say take him to the park and run him ragged before your library trip. I have three boys and that has been a strategy of ours since they started to run. :0) Wear him out and then pop him in the stroller with a snack and a drink and maybe you can buy yourself half an hour or so…or with luck, maybe he will fall asleep. :0)


  4. I admit that I used to HATE going to the library too. But with each kid it seems to be just getting through the 18 month to 2 yo stage. As was mentioned be consistent with discipline.

    Heather- we are going today to try and catch up on some fines too. Just last week we found a book, that I had already paid for, between the matresses. hehe.

  5. My son (4 1/2) and I look up books online that we know he's interested in. I put those on hold so they're ready when we get there. We still spend some time in the kids section, but if the plan goes south and my younger one isn't into the library that day we will at least have gotten the ones we reserved and can make a quick escape.

    I second the idea about finding the library in your area with the best children's section. One of ours has a very adult library feel, the other has a large kids section with small tables and chairs they can read or color at and cushioned nooks for kids to curl up with a book.

    When possible, I do like to make sure to take my oldest alone for special mommy/son time in addition to our regular library trips.

  6. I agree with Katie–find a library with a cool kids' section. Our "far-away" library has a toddler computer and an enclosed kid section. The closest library requires a library card to use the computer and doesn't have as much kid stuff.

    Too bad the library doesn't have a crying room like at church! You could just sit in there with the little howler and watch the big kids in the kid section.

  7. It's a season, and one that won't last forever. There was definitely a time when my boys were toddlers that I went to the library alone (while dad watched them) to pick out big armloads of read-alouds along with books for me. At other times I would take them, but knowing that toddlers have short attention spans and my boys were active and wiggly, didn't plan to stay too long. Once they got restless, and each had a book in his hand, we would go. I wanted the experience to be a pleasant one, not a punishment! One library in our city has a glassed-in kids area. I'd definitely drive a little further for that one when the guys were in that stage. — Anna

  8. I can completely relate to "library day" What I have decided with my 5yr, 3 yr and 13 mth old is that I am training my children in what is appropriate behavior for the library. Training being the continual operative word. We go on a day and time that it's not too busy and I take my time with them. I try not to make a big deal about it when my youngest is screeching or my son yells across the room excitedly about a book or movie he has found. I calmly remind them about Library voices and distract the baby. No child is perfect and the experience is what's important, that's what I want my children to remember. I think we mommy's tend to be more embarrassed and elevate the situation more than any one else gives thought to.

  9. Thank you to everyone for their kind, wise advice! I agree that the training part is the hardest – he's so much different than my daughter so I need to be more consistent & patient! The last comment is true also, no one else seems to mind him – I just tend to get embarrassed if they're not angels. The librarian has even told me it doesn't bother her!
    For now, we're going to try a library down by where my husband works. We'll go over his lunch hour so he can run baby control & I can still help my daughter find books.
    I'm so appreciative to have found this blog & to have so many of you willing to help. Thanks!!

  10. We are on the way home from the library. We go twice a week. Our county has an amazing early childhood library area in two of their many libraries. It’s called Storyville. It’s free and honestly like an enormous interactive, hands-on creative play area with books!

    If your son won’t do the stroller – try an Ergo or baby hawk. My son never rode in a stroller! You can find them used or find a baby wearing class in your area if you want to try one out!