This is a topic near and dear to my heart, as I'm sure it is to most of you. How to keep the wee ones respectfully behaved for the duration of a Sunday worship experience. Without using duct tape, that is. I know that some churches have nurseries, but in all of my years of church-going I've never encountered such a miraculous phantasm. So, let's prevail under the assumption that we're all grinding it out on Sundays with our little tots in tow right beside us in the pew.
I know that parenting philosophies vary with regard to how to keep the children quiet and behaved for an hour or more once a week. My personal philosophy is: I'll do *anything* to keep them quiet and happy. Pretty much *anything*. This includes (neat, never messy or noisy) snacks, sippy cups, books, crayons, and a stuffed toy. I know that some disagree with me on the snacks and sippy cups, and to each their own. I won't judge you if you don't judge me. We're talking goldfish crackers here for the 2 year old, not a 5 course meal involving melted cheese. Now that Henry is 3, I'm trying to wean him off the distractions so much, particularly the snacks. No more sippy cup, and he gets 1 small snack per Mass. Like those individually packaged fruit snacks. When it's gone, that's it, and he knows it. I'm trying to get him more involved in the Mass - he does the sign of the cross, drops the envelope into the collection basket, and shakes hands during the peace offering. That's definitely helped. Inevitably, we get one "I have to go potty!" per Mass, and usually NOT because he actually has to go potty. He just likes the church bathroom. Sigh. We bring books, and he's pretty good about looking through those. Naturally, he has to ask questions about them in that toddler stage "whisper" but... you win some, you lose some. That just comes with the territory with pre-school aged children.
For younger children, my feeling is that whatever you need to do to secure their contented happiness for an hour - DO IT. We all understand, and those that don't will get over it. Jesus tells us to bring the children to Him, and for those that brave wrestling the 18 month old in church, much reward will come your way :) You're doing the right thing. I'm definitely of the mindset that the way to get children to behave better in church, and hopefully enjoy it as adults, is to bring them. That's how they'll learn and get an appreciation for being in a sacred space. There are certainly weeks wherein you just *know* that bringing them will be a near occasion of sin for you, because the chance of them behaving atrociously is near to 100%. I've had many a week of that myself. But we persevere, doing the best we can. Right now, Hank likes "chooch" and asks to go with me each week. He's a real sweetie pie :)