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Forced prayers

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#1 Googliemooglie



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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:40 PM

I've always had this question and this seems like a great place to get it answered. Is it right for teachers and parents to force their children to daven? I mean, I personally know that when you're told to do something, suddenly you really don't want to do it. Shouldn't it be something our children should WANT to do by themselves? Shouldn't we express what a mitzva it is and how special it is to do, but if they choose not to daven one day, we could say "ok, but you're missing out on a very special mitzvah!" that may encourage them to daven through their own choice. Wouldn't six out of seven mornings davening with lots of kavanah by choice be much better than seven out of seven mornings davening with little or no kavanah by being forced?
Whew. That's my question

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 11:30 AM

Parents should definitely teach their children to daven from the heart with Kavannah.

But they also have to teach their children that Davening is an obligation, not an optional practice to be skipped just because someone is not feeling connected that day or whatever.

Halachicly, it is better to daven every Tefilah even if you just have minimal Kavanah that would allow you to fulfill your obligation than to Daven with more Kavanah but skip some Tefilos. But it is a pity to Daven that way; you lose so much.

So you need to teach your children both. One, that they should daven whether they like to or not, but also two: that they should like to.

The problem is that forcing children to daven doesn't always teach them they have to daven.

For example, parents sometimes stand over their children in Shul like a drill sergeant sticking their finger in their child's siddur every time the child's mind wanders The kid is being taught to stick his face in the Siddur but he is not being taught to daven. And as soon as the parent turns his gaze away, the child will stick his head out of the Sidur, not that it really matters whether his head is stuck in or out, since he is not davening anyway.

Parents need to first communicate to their children in both words and deeds that davening is important. When your children see you davening, they should see you davening. Not talking or being distracted or mumbling the words. Teaching by example is of course the best way to teach. And parents should also explain to their children the meaning of Davening and how it helps us, and how without it we are in big trouble.

At the same time, Davening should not be optional. It is just as obligatory as washing one's hands before Hamotzi or lighting the Chanukah candles. That must be communicated as well.

One more, very important thing. Parents should not bring children to Shul if they are too young to behave properly in it. Some parents think "Well at least he is coming to Shul." This is a terrible error. Such children are being taught that a Shul is a place to run around and play. Do these parents think that one day when their son gets older they will be able to just tell him, "OK, from now on you have to sit quietly in Shul at attention and not run around or talk to people."? That will not work. If a child cannot behave in Shul he should be left home. People actually bring their children to Shul for no reason other than to give their wives a rest. It is a wonderful thing to give your wife a rest, but not at the expense of harming your children!

And by allowing children to run amok in Shul you are harming them. You are teaching them to get used to violating the Kedusha of a Bais HaMedrash. The Machtzis HaShekel writes that the reason there is such a proliferation of people talking in Shul is because when adults were children their parents brought them to Shul just so they can be there and allowed them to talk. So they got used to talking in Shul and continue their habituated behavior even after they grow up.

It is true that we need to teach our children to daven properly. The first step to doing that is to make sure that we don't teach them to daven improperly. Or worse yet, not to daven at all.

#3 surviver2



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Posted 23 December 2011 - 07:45 AM

at what age do you start

#4 much2learn



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Posted 25 December 2011 - 03:22 PM

at what age do you start

Probably at the age of chinuch - it's all a matter of how much they can understand