My husband and I always used to hold hands when we prayed before a meal...then our first baby came along. Then, more often than not, at least one of my hands was busy either bouncing our new baby to keep him quiet, nursing him, or reinserting his pacifier. Welcome to a family of three =) The bouncing turned into shushing and the nursing turned into peeking to make sure he wasn't grabbing for food on the table. Enter baby #2. At this point I had long forgotten about holding hands during prayer. While focusing and actually partaking in prayer is the obvious goal during dinnertime prayer, I found that in realty my goal was just to maintain the quiet.
A month or so ago the kids and I were at a friends house to play and eat lunch. Before we ate, our hostess asked us if we held hands when we prayed. I replied, "No, but we sure can!" While she thanked God for our lunch, I noticed that I wasn't having to peak to make sure that my children were sitting and not reaching and not distracting themselves or others by fidgeting. How did I know these things? Because I was holding their hands! Light bulb moment!
Needless to say, we tried this at home and haven't turned back =) As a parent you can know so much about what your child is doing by simply holding their hand. Obviously they could still be making faces or something like that, but with a small child they usually get 'squiggley' when they are doing something silly like that, so you can still tell by the movement of their hand if something is going on that shouldn't be. Then, I find it so much easier to simply squeeze their hand if they are doing something wrong than to try to reach or motion or loudly whisper to get their attention while my poor husband is trying to pray.
After doing this just a time or two, my 1 1/2 yr old little girl caught on and asks to hold hands now when she sits down. She usually has already grabbed at a few handfuls of food, so before everyone is even seated, she will reach her gooey hands out wide and say "ands? ands?" Priceless for a mommy to watch =)
How do you handle prayer time in your house? Do you have any tried and true tips that help parents and children be able to actually focus while someone is praying?