Staying in shul (and davening)

I have a found there a few factors involved when it comes to a getting a child to stay in shul and attempting to daven.  I am not a parenting, chinuch, or educational expert.  I am just a regular guy and these are my observations and what has, so far, worked for me.  Of course, if you child cannot behave in shul, then they really are too young to come to shul (regardless of age).  In no particular order the factors that I’ve observed are:

  • Seeing adults who take davening seriously:  This means no excessive talking and very little DADD (davening attention deficit disorder)
  • Understanding that coming to shul is a privilege:  It’s a special treat to get to come and daven to Hashem
  • Appreciating that shul is a mikdash me’at:  Instilling an idea of the kedushah of a shul is key (see this post)
  • Positive peer influence:  While we can offer direction, our children’s friends truly are influential
  • Having davening incentive programs in school:  A child needs to know that what he is doing is being observed and rewarded
  • Having slightly older role models:  Being able to look up to someone, even a grade older, can give a child someone to look up to
  • The candy man- As my son’s 4th grade rebbe told us a parent orientation, “You’d be amazed what your children will do for a gumball.”
Unless you started reading biographies of gedolim since infancy to your children, most of them are not so keen on staying in shul for all of davening.  I can’t blame them.  Most rabbis that I spoken with or parenting shiurim I’ve listened to suggest letting a child stay in for “as much as they can handle”.  My son has been going to shul on Shabbos morning with me since he was 3.  He has, for the most part, been sitting with me, davening what he is comfortable davening, and until he was 10, going to groups.

On Shabbos I daven in a very nice hashkama minyan that regularly has between 45-60 halachic adult males, of which 3 are between 13-17.  This minyan isn’t a heavily kid populated (mostly because it’s at 7:30), but the minyan is very kid friendly.  Currently including my son there are about 5 other boys in 4th-6th grade.  We have davened there for almost 6 years my son has always left the beis midrash right before haftorah and then, if I’m lucky, resurfaced by Adon Olam.  About 5 weeks ago I made the observation to him that of the 6 boys in 4th-6th grade, there are 3 that come back in for musaf.  I asked him if he’d be interested in coming in for musaf and staying until the end of davening for 3 weeks and as a reward we’d go out for pizza, just he and I.

He agreed and after the second week of going out for haftorah and then returning before Ashrei, he actually stayed in for the haftorah and didn’t even leave.  B’li ayin hora, he has been staying in and doesn’t seem to mind.  Now, my son and his father are far from perfect, but we are both aware of what’s expected of us.

4 thoughts on “Staying in shul (and davening)

  1. Morah Betsy M

    I lead a children’s minyan at the same shul where I run the Hebrew school, and I teach the children how to daven. I also teach even the youngest kids how to sing parts of L’cha Dodi and Adon Olam, and they get a sticker for coming into the “big shul” and helping lead those prayers. But it’s hard to get most of them into the main service at other times, especially if their friends are on the playground or playing in the classroom.

    When my son was young, he sat with us in shul (conservative, so whole families sat together), with toys, then books, and left for the hour that they had junior congregation.

    After his father and I divorced, I joined the orthodox shul and things were OK the first year because of the candy man and a young-20’s guy who would sort of lasso him inside his tallit and then sit with him on the men’s side. When the candy man died at 94 and the young man moved away, my son was lost. At 9, he was too old to sit with me on the women’s side, but didn’t feel comfortable on the men’s side. Eventually he started going to the conservative shul, ostensibly to sit with his father (I walked him all the way to the sanctuary and waited to make sure dad was indeed present), but in reality he spent many of the next two years playing with friends in the hallways of the conservative shul, then kiddush hopping his way back to me.

  2. Neil Harris

    I grew up “traditional” and my earliest memories of going to shul involved sitting with my dad and running through the dark hallways and basement.

    Eventually my friends and I were forced into Junior Congregation from about 1st grade- age 12, then it was off to the main minyan.

    The concept of the “candy man” for foreign to me until I started hanging out in Orthodox shuls.

    After bar mitzvah, it was assumed that you would either “help” with Junior Congregation or be part of the main minyan.
    I am fortunate that my parents schlepted me to our synagogue at such a young age.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *