Question: When should we start bringing our child to shul?
Answer: The Gemara (Chagiga 3a) writes that the reason why children were also supposed to assemble at hakhel was to ‘bring reward to those who brought them’. Tosafos comments that this is the source for bringing children to shul.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 124:7) writes that one should teach his young children to answer amen. The Magen Avraham (OC 124:11) however cautions that children must be trained to behave respectfully if coming to shul. If they are going to run around, it is best not to bring them. The Mishna Berura (96:4) writes that one shouldn’t daven with a young child in front of them as they will likely distract them.
The Shulchan Aruch (OC 689:1) writes that children should listen to the megilla being read on Purim. The Mishna Berura (689:3) writes that this is only applicable to children who have reached the age of chinuch. The Chafetz Chaim bemoans the unfortunate reality that many parents bring their younger children who disturb everyone else (See Biur Halacha 689:6).
The Shelah (quoted in the Mishna Berura 98:3) strongly criticised parents who bring their young children into shul. Not only are they disturbing others who are davening and being disrespectful to the shul, but as they grow up, they will continue to talk and be disrespectful. Certainly, when they are mature enough to be respectful, parents should bring them and educate them about tefilla.
The Shaarei Teshuva (OC 104:1) writes that if a child is disturbing one from davening properly and signalling to them doesn’t help, then one should move away from them even while davening the shemone esrei. Thus, if a child is disturbing in shul, their parent should take them out immediately.In conclusion, while it is great to bring children to shul when they grow up and are old enough to be quiet and respectful, shuls should create children services for younger children to attend rather than attend shul.