What is appropriate to learn with my child?
Hello Rabbi Lapin and Susan,
I hope you are well.
My question is about sharing the Bible with my son. For many years now I have been blessed to go through the entire Bible each year with the help of a daily podcast. This year I am being intentional about listening to it with my son rather than by myself. My son will be 3 this summer. Are there any parts of the Old Testament you would recommend “saving for when he’s older”? I want him to have the full context; but there are a few stories that wouldn’t be rated appropriate for toddlers. The 19th chapter of Judges for example. How did you introduce your children to the Bible?
We chose to name our son Gideon after hearing you share Gideon’s story at Glenn Beck’s Man in the Moon event.
Thank you for all you do!
You and we completely agree that children should be introduced to God and His word from a young age. The absolute best way for that to happen is for the introduction to come from loving parents. But, while your question about dealing with ‘mature subject’ Bible sections is a valid one, we have a different approach than you do.
We have trouble understanding how a podcast geared to adults makes any sense to a two-and-a-half-year-old. Either you are not studying the Bible at an appropriate level or else your son isn’t. Both alternatives are, in our opinion, ill-advised.
Let’s use an example from music. We want our children to enjoy good music and wish to expose them to the deep joy and inspiration that such music can bring. Yet, we start off by playing often-silly rhythmic children’s songs and child-friendly pieces such as The Flight of the Bumblebee or the Carnival of the Animals. We would not play a Bach Sonata, as beautiful as it might be, and ask our toddler to sit and appreciate it (though we might put it on as background music during coloring time etc.). There are two dangers. Firstly, that the child comes to associate classical music with boredom and secondly, that by the time he can appreciate the structure of an advanced piece, he doesn’t have the tingle of delight at being exposed to something new and exciting.
The same holds true for the Bible. We need a balance. While we might play with a Noah’s ark stuffed animal toy with a toddler and tell him, in language he can understand, about God’s protection and the Flood, we need to be careful, as he grows and matures to make sure that he knows that this is not a fairy tale but a piece of Scripture that can grow with him and be learned on an adult level. (We can’t tell you how many people have told us about hearing our audio CD set The Gathering Storm and being shocked to realize that their knowledge of those verses had not advanced since they were teenagers. Their understanding of the Bible had not matured as they grew—they were still viewing Scripture through adolescent eyes.)
For this reason, there is great value in your toddler imprinting upon his mind that his mother studies the Bible on a daily basis. But we see little to gain by your listening to an adult Bible podcast together. The question of ‘mature topics’ should be irrelevant at this point. There are so many wonderful Bible crafts and books geared to toddlers that, presented with loving affection by you, will prepare your son’s soul for God’s presence in His life.
Children grow up fast enough; we don’t need to accelerate that growth.
Give your son a hug from us,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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