Time to Daven
Many weeks ago, you sent an article about Davening in shul which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, going to Shul is not the issue in my house, it’s Davening. My children (boys and girls from 3 – 13) have no desire to Daven, and it really bugs me. I always Daven well, and make sure not to talk or disturb others during Davening. My wife does not Daven, since she is involved with the kids. What can I do to make my children Daven without forcing them? Yehoshua D. – Woodmere
Yehoshua, this is an excellent question. You made so many great points in the question, including that you Daven well (which is so important for your kids to see), and that you don’t want to force your children (which rarely works). There are many ingredients to achieving good Davening, and we’ll try to analyze which ones generate more success with children.
I’ve always believed that the best time to start teaching children about the importance of Davening is when they’re toddlers. Making a Bracha and Bentching are great ways to inculcate within them the importance of thanking and communicating with Hashem. It’s not just making the Brachos, it’s your attitude. As the Gemara in Brachos says, “we don’t want it to be a burden”. Therefore, instead of saying, “We need to Bentch now” or, “Did you Bentch yet?”, you could say, “Let’s Bentch to thank HaShem.”
It’s important to keep in mind that, even as children mature, it’s better not to ask them whether they have bentched. They might view this as a challenge or test. Instead, try handing them a bencher and saying “Here’s a bencher.”
The next component of teaching davening is the mother’s influence. It’s so interesting how non-Jews think that Yiddishkeit is male centric. It’s the exact opposite. A Jewish mother is not just a mother. She’s also a role model and a Morah. The love she displays as she does Mitzvos is ingrained within her children forever. The way she Davens and communicates with Hashem will become the foundation of their Davening as they grow older.
Although I’m sure that every mother wishes she had the time to Daven, we all know that free time is hard to come by for any mother. A Jewish mother has a lot more on her plate (pun intended). However, she can still instill within her children the importance of Davening. It’s an attitude. Sitting down with the kids to say Modeh Ani, making sure they all washed Negel Vasser, and even saying Brachos together with them, are all so very important.
Additionally, when a mother says Brachos, she can say them out loud and teach her young children to say Amein. One mother told me that during Birchos Hashachar, she verbalizes what she’s about to thank Hashem for in English, and then makes the Bracha. For example, “Now I’m going to thank Hashem for giving me eyes that are able to see”….for Pokeach Ivrim. This helps the children internalize that davening is not simply saying words. Rather, it’s about truly talking to and thanking Hashem, recognizing that everything is a gift.
Another huge ingredient is the Yeshiva. It’s the job of the Yeshiva to show your children how amazing it is to have a connection to Hashem. They should motivate your kids to Daven better at home, in Shul and obviously in Yeshiva. They shouldn’t be making it a battle either, rather they should make the kids excited about it Davening. On the Parsha sheets that are sent home, it should ask the parents to notate how many times he/she Davened and/or went to Shul.
The next step, is the father. Does he come to Shul on time? Let’s look at it this way. If there were a huge football game going on between the Jets and the Giants, would you turn on the TV a few minutes late? Of course not! There’s the pre-game, the Pre-pregame, and the interviews. Lehavdil, when you come to Shul, your kids are analyzing you. Do you come a few minutes early and take the Davening seriously? Or, C”V do you show up late and catch up with friends before opening a Siddur?
All of these components (the mother, father, Yeshiva and environment) must be consistent in order to successfully and positively influence our children. It goes without saying that regardless of our efforts, the most important ingredient is our Davening for Siyata Dishmaya in the raising of our children. We need to Daven that our children appreciate the importance and value of Tefilla.
Enjoy the tips below, and as always, use your judgment.
12/8/2016 10:30:11 pm
Absolutely wonderful article. A must read.
12/8/2016 10:30:54 pm
Why wasn't this emailed yet? I checked my SPAM. by the way, this should be mailed to every Jewish parent!
12/8/2016 10:37:30 pm
We had a baby girl last night, and I'm trying to get everything settled. IY"H it will go out in the AM.
12/9/2016 07:38:54 am
Mazel Tov. May you be as good a parent of a girl as you have been a Rebbe/Mechanech of boys.
12/8/2016 10:41:42 pm
Wow! Mazel Tov! And you still wrote an article!
12/8/2016 10:32:13 pm
So, I have a question. I agree with this article 100%. Now, If you're Davening, and your son asks you a question, should you interrupt your Davening to answer?
12/8/2016 10:39:42 pm
That's a great question! I would only answer your son, if it was related to Davening. If not, I would just smile and point at my Siddur, not gesticulate frantically with angry stares and shushing, Either way, explain gently afterwards that you don't like to interrupt your Davening.
12/9/2016 07:44:51 am
One has to bevy careful about not answering someone because of davening. See story of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perahah and otto haish when the Rabbi was davening shma and waved off. Yeshu with disastorous results for Klal Israel
12/8/2016 10:33:10 pm
Mazel Tov on the girl! You should be Zoche to raise her L'Torah, Chupah, "Umaasim Tovim! In the Zechus of these amazing emails, you should have Nachas from all of your Kinderlach!
12/8/2016 10:40:00 pm
12/8/2016 10:34:08 pm
My father used to force my brothers to Daven. Now they never Daven and one of them is married. You are so right.
12/8/2016 10:35:15 pm
I now you're a chart fan Rabbi Ross. No charts for Davening? This is one of your best articles by the way,
12/8/2016 10:41:06 pm
Good point. I'm only a chart fan when it's used properly. Davening in most cases should be motivated without constant rewards or motivations.
12/8/2016 10:35:40 pm
I forwarded this to all my siblings. Wonderful! Keep up the good work.
12/8/2016 10:43:02 pm
Another great article. I learned to check the blog first. :-) This was very well written. The "time based Davening" is an excellent point.
12/8/2016 10:51:20 pm
I learned this from Rabbi Follman many years ago.
12/8/2016 10:43:33 pm
Thank you for this. I will read a few times, and try on my children.
12/8/2016 10:44:49 pm
Mazel Tov to you and your Rebbetzin! Now you can try these parenting tips on your own child!
12/8/2016 10:46:54 pm
Um. I think this is the Rabbi's 9th child. I think he gets his ideas from parenting. I mean that as a compliment. - EJ
12/8/2016 10:49:23 pm
I have so many thoughts about this week's article. All good BH. in short, I always believed that we need to make Davening less of a chore, and more of an experience. That's why I was puzzled about your disappointment in youth groups although I fully understand.
12/8/2016 10:50:02 pm
You should send this to some Christian organizations. They have the same issues.
12/8/2016 10:53:22 pm
I do have a few christian subscribers interestingly enough. They often email me pointing out, that as you pointed out, they have similar issues. That being said, I'm writing these articles from a Yiddishe perspective.
12/9/2016 06:59:57 am
So many key points. Parents should really try and let their kids appreciate the opportunity to talk to HaShem.
12/9/2016 07:09:01 am
Regards from the Holy Land. Great article as usual.
12/9/2016 07:37:24 am
Number Seven. Don’t compare your children. A lesson my parents could have used. "Your sister always..."
12/9/2016 07:42:10 am
Thank you for the kind words about the importance of women in general. Many times, it's hard on us. The Men celebrate Purim, go to Shul, Dance with the Torah, and it's tough. It's important that women understand that WE are the ones running the show.
12/9/2016 09:47:10 am
Sorry if this is a repeat of a comment, but many times kid just don't love standing still. Or being squished, or spending time singling. It isn't about prayer aka, connection to Hashem that deters them. If you make a big deal about how their behavior manifest, attributing it to prayer, then of course they will not want to daven.
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Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.