Child Guide

Preparing Young Children for Services

HOW DO CHILDREN LEARN? One of the most exciting aspects of raising children is watching them develop and learn. Every child is truly unique, and there is no single approach that will work for everyone. However, there are some common principles that we can use to promote healthy development.

"FROM LEARNING FOR LOVE TO LOVE OF LEARNING." Dr. Rudolf Eckstein, a child psychologist and psychoanalyst described this principle. Infants and young children start learning because they love their parent(s) and want to please. From infancy on, they observe what those around them do and try to emulate them. If they see their parents practicing Judaism at home and attending services, they'll grow up understanding that religious practice is an important part of a person's life.

REPETITION, CONSISTENCY, AND FAMILIARITY: Parents quickly learn that bedtime rituals are an important part of a child's life. For the child, it is supportive and comforting when he or she knows what to expect and the activity involves a parent. The same principle applies when introducing the child to services. If the child hears, and later repeats, the Sh'ma and some of the Kabbalat Shabbat melodies at home, he or she will feel at home in the Sanctuary when he hears them there.

EXPECTATIONS: Children learn by "reading" their parents' expectations. Few children run around, talk loudly, or eat in a library because they are taught those behaviors aren't appropriate there. The same should apply in the Sanctuary. Will they make mistakes or test those expectations? Of course, that is part of learning. If the parent quickly and consistently reminds them of the rules and expectations, most children accept and follow them.

BRING THE KIDS TO SERVICES: The more they attend, the more comfortable they will be in the Sanctuary. The more they participate, the more familiar they'll be with the rituals and the less restless they'll be.