Today, when I took Becca out of the meeting I didn't let her get down and run around, like I might have in the past. It seems so innocent to let them run around - they are little, it seems hard to make them sit for so long, etc., but it is not teaching them how to behave at church - it really does just reinforce that going out into the hall is more fun than sitting with the family. Previous to reading this article I would have thought that Becca was too young to start training, she's 17 months, but she does understand a lot more than I give her credit for, and this is a good time to start training her in good habits so that I won't have to untrain her in a few months from now.
Here is a blurb from the article that talks about a pattern to follow.
The pattern I'm about to tell you works. I have never seen it fail. My wife and I have used it with four children who are amazingly good, loving, happy, righteous, creative, free-spirited, and patient -- in short, civilized. We have also seen it used by friends and family members, with similar effects. The details of the process are infinitely adaptable; the fundamental principles must be followed without fail.
Set Clear Rules. You have to decide exactly what standard of behavior you are going to expect of a little child. Once you set these rules you are as bound by them as the children are. You must follow them yourselves.
Our family's sacrament meeting rules for toddlers are fairly simple: Because sacrament meeting is a time that belongs to the whole congregation for the purpose of learning about and communing with the Lord:
1. No talking out loud.
2. No interaction with people on other benches.
3. The child never touches the floor.
4. Silent reading and drawing are the only permitted activities.
5. No food or drink during sacrament meeting, ever.
6. Partake of the sacrament.
7. Any activity that results in laughter or loud noise must stop immediately.
8. No hitting or hurting of anyone, by anyone.
9. Bathroom needs, diaper changes, and physical injuries are the only acceptable reason for leaving the meeting, and only long enough to solve the problem.
10. Willful violations of the rules result in removal from the meeting and containment.The "containment" is explained in his article and it is only for young toddler age kids. It seems like a nice gentle way to get a message to the child that sitting in sacrament with the family is better than having to be taken out in the foyer.
We follow most of them, but really need to work on the 'no child touches the ground' - I really need to help my boys sit - they are like yo-yo's all over the bench and it drives me nuts. One rule that we are more strict on is leaving for the bathroom. Sacrament is only just over one hour long and I think kids can wait to use the bathroom - if you start letting them leave, they start using it as an excuse to leave, or it plain just becomes a habit to have to leave during sacrament meeting. I know this is true, because if you watch it usually is the same kids that leave each week to use the bathroom. We have our children stop at the bathroom on the way to sacrament meeting and tell them that they cannot leave until after the final song. My boys are 5 and 3 and it is very rare that they have ever left because of a true bathroom emergency.