Rabbi Ross. I have a 13-year-old daughter who is the world’s worst procrastinator. She pushes off everything and it never gets done. I’m not talking only about school work, even her personal life. I read your article about homework, that’s actually when I signed up for these emails. I’m talking about it affecting every aspect of her life. She’ll push off applying for a summer job until there are none left, and then she’ll be all upset. Any ideas? Sharon – Queens.
I believe that there is a big difference between a child who procrastinates, and a child who is a procrastinator. What’s the difference? Many of us procrastinate. We push off tasks until the last moment, or we do something more enjoyable. As a Rebbe, I would much rather call parents with positive reports about their children than grade twenty-five double sided tests. I push it off until I need to get them done. That’s called procrastinating.
When the procrastination routinely causes a child (or adult for that matter) not to fulfill a task or responsibility in a predetermined timeframe, then you have a procrastinator. Based on the email you wrote, “….and it never gets done”, I would agree with your assessment that your daughter is a procrastinator.
Why does it matter? If your child occasionally procrastinates, that means he/she is normal. Although it’s not a smart way of getting things accomplished, it’s not the worst thing. You can simply give gentle reminders to your child, or even leave a sticky note by her desk. I hate to write this, but you can even text your child a reminder occasionally. Not overbearing, just reminding. “By the way, you have that report due next week.”
On the other hand, if your child is a procrastinator, there are certain steps you need to take to help them out. Before we begin looking at solutions, let’s try and see why children become procrastinators.
I’m sure many of you realized that I left one out. Procrastination is frequently a learned behavior. If you procrastinate, your children will also. In any case, your child will hopefully not fit all of these descriptions. Even if it’s only one or two of them, it helps to understand what’s causing the issues. Let’s take a look at some solutions.
You need to speak to your child. Explain that you’re not upset, rather you want to help them deal with this issue. Let them explain why they procrastinate. While they’re talking, try to identify which of the above causes may be at play. Just as a doctor can’t effectively treat a headache without knowing the underlying cause—dehydration, allergies, stress, etc., you can’t effectively help your child stop procrastinating unless you understand what’s prompting the behavior.
Don’t punish or give consequences. The only consequence should be the one caused directly by their inaction. For example, if your child didn’t apply for a job, don’t do it for her and be the knight in shining armor. Let her deal with the consequence. Just don’t add on additional ones.
Don’t attempt solutions that aren’t matched up with the underlying issue. For instance, offering or withholding a reward for completing a task won’t help a child who is procrastinating because they don’t see why the task is relevant. While you might actually convince him to complete the task, it will begin a pattern of expectation that can spiral out of control. Your child might stop doing anything that he deems irrelevant, unless he’s offered a reward.
Make sure you are clear and realistic in what you expect from your child. For example, many parents may focus on the effort put forth on a school project or test, not the grade—but a child may think you expect them to earn straight-As in every subject. Try setting specific, achievable, expectations such as structured time to do homework, study, or do chores. In this way, your child will have a clearer understanding of what’s expected, and might find it easier to begin working on it.
Help your child break down the solution. There is something called catastrophic thinking. Here’s how it works. Your daughter might think, “I didn’t apply for a job, so I’ll be home in the summer. Therefore, I’ll end up working in a place with no friends. All of my friends will be in camp having fun and I’ll be left out. As a result, in school next year I’ll have no friends. I’m a failure. I give up.” You need to help your child break this cycle. Tell her, “Forget next year, or your friends, for now. Do YOU want to work in the camp? If so, take care of this today.” When dealing with younger children, actually break down the task. Don’t say, “Clean up the den”, rather, tell them to put away the train tracks that are on the floor.
Focus on the positive. Assuming your child has a book report due in two weeks, tell him the following: “Won’t it be awesome if you could complete this tonight? You could hand it in to the teacher tomorrow and she’ll be shocked. You won’t need to worry about this for the next two weeks, and you’ll get a good grade since you aren’t rushing!”
Tell your children that they’re not alone in this struggle – it’s real. Explain that you also procrastinate, and share what tricks you use to compensate. When children see that they’re not alone when dealing with a specific issue, it gives them a boost.
Help them get started. A large part of the problem of procrastination comes from feeling overwhelmed about the completion of the task. A science fair project takes hours of work — but the first twenty minutes will only take twenty minutes to complete. Just getting started is a step in the right direction. If your child knows that they only need to do twenty minutes of work, they are much more likely to start. You can help your child set up mini-goals in their overall quest to complete a larger goal. Achieving each step can give your child a boost, making them more likely to continue, or return to, the task positively in the future.
You may have to help your child manage time. Consider giving her a defined start time. For instance, “After dinner at 6:00, let’s get started.” You can also try setting some rules around the process, like working for a certain amount of time without interruption, or completing a specific amount of work before taking a break.
Give your child simple notes with what needs to be accomplished that day or week. It helps to stay focused on the task at hand if it’s constantly visible. A great trick is to leave the note on their chair as opposed to a desk, which can be cluttered. Another great spot is the bathroom mirror.
Positive reinforcement is fantastic. Reward your child if he/she finished a job ahead of schedule. Don’t only give a physical reward, tell them how impressed you are that they didn’t push it off.
Of course, some of these might work better than others. In most cases, following some of these suggestions can help your children get on track. However, if the procrastination is affecting every aspect of their lives, it may be a good idea to bring him to a therapist or psychologist for a deeper evaluation.
Wishing you all a good Shabbos.
I’ve noticed that my children are lacking in basic Middos. My kids don’t hold doors open for people, and won’t run and grab packages when my wife comes in from shopping. What really gets my goat, is that my neighbor’s kids seem to have wonderful Middos, and I always thought we were the better parents. Any ideas what I can do to improve their Middos?
I’m not sure what you want from my response. Did you want me to give you some tips on helping your children develop better Middos? Perhaps you are more concerned that the neighbor’s kids have better Middos? I wasn’t sure from the question what you cared about more. As I’ve mentioned earlier in the blog, I need to glean as much information from the question as possible. I’m not a psychologist, nor the son of a psychologist, but it seems that you’re comparing your children to others. That’s not so healthy.
Nevertheless, the question is fair. How can we inculcate our children with good Middos? Your examples are spot on. How can we train our children to help others without being asked, and to thank others without prompting? These are what we’ll call the Basic Middos. When we say “Derech Eretz Kodma LaTorah”, we’re talking about these “Basic” Middos.
There are a few things we all need to understand about Middos.
There are so many little things that can change the way your children view Middos. When you walk into the supermarket at the same time as someone else, do you let them go first? You can tell your children that it’s more important to have good Middos than to finish shopping one minute earlier. Sometimes you can explain to your kids why you’re doing certain things, other times you can just let your actions speak for themselves. This brings us to the second point.
The way you treat your spouse is the way your children will treat others. (There’s also the way you treat your parents, but that’s a different article.) Think about it. Who do your children see you interact with the most? When your wife comes home from shopping, don’t tell the kids, “Go help your mother” - get off of your rear and help out yourself! If you see your husband is thirsty, don’t wait for him to ask for a drink, run and bring him one!
I was in Gourmet Glatt a few weeks ago, and I saw a family shopping. The mother was carrying eight different items to the cart simultaneously, staggering under the weight and bulk. The father was on the phone having a loud and fun conversation. The kids were wandering next to their mother. The father jabbed one of the kids and said, “Go help Mommy.” Granted that’s a step in the right direction, but why not hang up the phone and help? Perhaps I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt. The point is, he missed out on a great teaching moment.
This isn’t foolproof. I know of many kids that would see their parents helping out and think, “Good for them!” It could be that the parents started worrying about their own Middos when the children were already older, or it could be that there are other issues. This brings us to the third point.
There are certain children that have good Middos built in. It’s not parenting, it’s their nature. They run to help others, they say thank you, and they are respectful. Other children are not. I’ve seen amazing parents with wonderful Middos, and their children don’t have very good Middos…..yet. Even if it’s not their inherent personality, it will kick in eventually. Nevertheless, those in-between years are frustrating. You spent so long showing and teaching your kids Middos, and they’re not emulating you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Your child might be immature or he might be lacking in sensitivity. It’s not necessarily a reflection on you. Give it some time.
I would also not harp on the negative. If your daughter didn’t offer the UPS driver a drink, don’t read her the riot act. I heard a mother say, “You always see me offering drinks! Why can’t you do it?” That’s not the goal. They might think that you only have good Middos to show off to others. You can merely reinforce the lesson to your children. “It’s a great idea to offer the driver a drink. He must be so hot and thirsty” It’s not a big deal, but if you make it into one, it will very likely backfire.
The last point was your child’s Yeshiva. Baruch Hashem we have hundreds of Yeshivos in many areas. You need to ask yourselves the following question. “Does my child’s Yeshiva make good Middos a priority?” It’s not a difficult question. There are many ways of finding out the answer. When your child has a chart to fill out at home, does it include only questions about their learning? It should have Middos questions as well!
When you call a Rebbe or teacher, do they return your call promptly? Do they give you respect as a parent? These might seem unimportant, but I assure you that good Middos trickle down from the top. If the dean or Rosh Yeshiva value good Middos, so will the Yeshiva. If not, you might want to rethink your options.
Of course, we need to always Daven that our children should be respectful to others. You can even tell them that’s what you’re Davening for. Let them know it’s a priority for you. Lastly, maybe ask your neighbor - the one who’s not as good of a parent, what he’s doing right. Maybe he can teach you something.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed something that drives me crazy. My neighbors are a wonderful Frum family, but they let their children call adults by their first names. My English name is Steven, and I find it so odd that these 9-year-olds are calling me like that. I would assume they would say “Mr. Sacks” because it’s more respectful. My children were taught never to address an adult by their name. I was curious how you felt about this. Steven Sacks – Brooklyn
Mr. Sacks, thank you for your question. This issue has been bothering me for so many years, and I was wondering when someone would bring this up. There is a simple answer to this question, and, although it may seem complicated, it’s pretty straightforward.
The answer is, yes, children should call adults with a proper title. You should be called Mr. Sacks by your neighbor’s children. This is not only an issue of respect for you, it’s a great way to teach children respect for their elders.
However, this somewhat simple concept often gets confusing. How do we define children versus adults? A six-year-old boy should not call his adult neighbors by their first name. How about an 18-year-old? At what age is it acceptable, if ever? Furthermore, what if this particular neighbor tells your six-year-old, “Call me Jerry”. Is that OK?
Additionally, there is also the family issue. When dealing with uncles and aunts, should children include a title when speaking to them? If the aunt’s name is Sara, should a child call her Sara, or Aunt Sara? What if this aunt doesn’t want the title added? Then there are those families that are careful to address adults by Mr. or Mrs., however, are less stringent with their own family members or very close family friends.
This is where parenting comes into play. I believe that we, as parents, should teach our children to address adults with a title. We should explain to them that we need to give respect to those that are older than us, and that one of the ways of accomplishing this is by calling them Mr. or Mrs., or even Dr.
However, we can also tell our children that there are exceptions to this rule. If someone requests that they be called by their first name, doing so in and of itself is a sign of respect. The same holds true with aunts and uncles. Ideally, they should have a title (unless the uncle or aunt is the same, or similar, age). If, however, this family member does not want a title, for whatever reason, the child (and you) should respect their decision. One girl told me that having “aunt” in front of her name, makes her feel old. That’s as good a reason as anything else.
On a somewhat related note, is calling someone by their first name only an issue of honor and respect? How about men calling married women by their first names? Although many people have no problem doing this, there are those who say it’s terribly inappropriate. There is something to be said (from a Tznius perspective) about not being on a “first-name basis”. This is valid sensitivity that some might have and should ask their Rav for guidance. A lot of this depends on situational awareness, but again, it’s not the type of question I can answer.
In conclusion, how we address adults and people in general boils down to one important lesson. Teach your children to be respectful of others – especially elders. Once you’ve accomplished this, everything else becomes smooth sailing. How to accomplish this? Well, you’ll have to read my response to that question in my next email. Alternatively, you can ask your own parents. They probably did a fine job.
Have a great Shabbos!
Dear Rabbi Ross. I’m pretty sure you must have received this email many times, but I have a problem with my 9-year-old daughter. She is a huge snacker, and is constantly munching on something or another. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m worried for the future. This will catch up to her, and these days it’s very hard to find the right guy in Shidduchim. What’s the best way to let her know that she needs to be more in control of herself without coming off as a psychotic mother. TIA. NAME REDACTED – Far Rockaway.
Whoa! I’m not quite sure where to begin. To answer your first point, yes, I have received many related questions. Most of them were regarding older kids, approximately sixteen and older. Whereas I’m sure it’s important to teach your child proper eating habits at a young age, I don’t think a nine-year-old needs to be worried about Shidduchim yet, nor should you.
In my opinion, this whole “overweight” issue is being approached the wrong way. We keep focusing on telling the girls that they’re still beautiful even if they’re not a size two. That’s nice and all, but maybe we should be telling the boys that weight isn’t such a big issue. Over the past several years, many of my Talmidim who have been dating told me that the Shadchanim are the ones that bring up weight. “She’s gorgeous…. a size two!” As long as we keep emphasizing weight, it’ll continue to be an ongoing obstacle.
We’re unfortunately quite hypocritical when it comes to this issue. If we as a community really believe this is a problem, we should address it head on. I’m sure that there are many Rabbonim and therapists that can come up with a better solution, but I believe it comes down to two main points:
That being said, the letter you wrote really bothered me. I actually felt that it would look bad for you if I used your name (which you gave me permission to do), so I redacted it. Is your daughter a huge snacker? The resolution seems pretty simple. Remove the unhealthy snacks, and let her nosh on healthy ones. Fruits and vegetables are a great substitute. Your local kosher market has dozens of healthy snack alternatives – though, unfortunately, there are hundreds of “junk food” selections.
I’m not going to say you are a psychotic mother, but worrying about Shidduchim when your daughter is nine years old is a bit worrisome. She’s nine! If you even hint about marriage now, you’re doing her a tremendous disservice.
Your goal as a mother is to make her self-confident. Compliment her daily, and lead by example. Make sure she eats a healthy and filling breakfast, lunch and supper, and, when she’s in school, pack her healthy snacks. Don’t use the word “weight”, not even in a positive way. An example of what not to say is, “Wow! You are looking really slim!” I don’t think that’s an appropriate compliment. You can say, “Wow! You look really beautiful!” Subliminal messaging is very powerful, especially with younger children. If you’re hinting about weight, she’ll pick up on it.
I have received emails from parents telling me that their children are extremely heavy, and asking what to say to them. I would like to reiterate that I have no background in dealing with this issue. I would suggest speaking with a nutritionist or your doctor and coming up with a workable solution. Include your children when making decisions, this way you’re not overbearing. It’s much better for your child to hear from the doctor that he or she is overweight, than from you.
Here’s what I have gleaned from many of you over the past few years:
Dear Readers. I answered this question from a parenting perspective. Over the past few days, I received many emails requesting more information from a professional. Therefore, I sent the same question to noted author and lecturer, Dr. Rachael E. Schindler. Dr. Schindler is a psychologist and founder of “The Five Towns Diet” meals home delivery and In-house nutrition expert at Life Gym.
Dr Schindler responds.
Thank you for bringing up this important issue. While I agree with the points Rabbi Ross brought up last week, I would also emphasize that, in my practice I have found that there are two categories of young snackers. One is the “hungry group”, generally having a sugar issue (either hereditarily or because they eat too much sugar already), so they always "feel" like they are starving. The other group are those kids that are bored and eat simply because there's just too much junk food in the house that they can grab, so why not?
The difference in handling these categories is that the first can be controlled by eating healthier and less sugared foods. The other requires a greater measure of self-control, discipline and/or distraction. Part of the confounding factors are "treats" in school and at "Shabbos party". They are not so easy to get around, since "everyone" enjoys them and you don't want to be left out, or not have the best snack!
In my practice, I like to differentiate as to whether there is a biological tendency to overeat, and therefore store fat in excess, or if the problem stems from emotional or biochemical issues. Either way, it is important to model the same message for the entire family. Don't give the child who is a little heavier different food than everyone else. You may think that it's not fair to the other kids, or that maybe one of your kids even needs to gain weight. However, we are looking towards improving our habits and lifestyle. It’s better to be consistent across the board, with the entire family, so that this doesn’t come across as a "diet".
Additionally, make sure gym classes or exercise is part of your child's routine, perhaps even doing it together from a video. Look at it this way, both of you will bond and be healthier.
I also advise to read books like "Eat This, Not That", where a child is able to see examples of smart choices in picture format. To illustrate, instead of eating 4 small cookies, he can have 5 medium sized apples. It's very powerful and helps them choose wisely when they see the comparisons.
One last tip, if it's too hard on your relationship with your child and having a negative impact, then I recommend seeing a professional, such as a nutritionist. For long term results, I would suggest not limiting yourself to those that list foods that you can or can't have, or who stress measuring. Rather, the best approach is to combine medical knowhow, psychology, sound nutrition, and exercise all in one.
Thank you Dr. Schindler. Got comments? We'd love to read them!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
A veritable “one-stop-source”, Dr. Schindler specializes in fitness, food, stomach problems, hormonal and behavioral issues for both children and adults. She can be contacted at Teichbergr@aol.com or (917) 690-5097.
I have a backlog of many interesting parenting questions, but I wanted to digress for a week. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank a special group of people.
Over the years, many people have shared with me horror stories about traveling abroad and needing medical attention. Specifically, these issues arose when traveling with children. A fever in America is dealt with by a visit to a doctor and perhaps some antibiotics. When we’re out of the country, even the simplest of issues can become difficult to deal with.
While in Eretz Yisrael a short while ago, my son dislocated his elbow while reaching for a chocolate egg. For those that are unfamiliar with what these are, it’s a bit of chocolate with a tiny toy in the middle, enclosed in an egg-shaped plastic container. It costs approximately 8 NIS, or here in America it seems to go for about $3.50. I highly recommend a second mortgage on your house if your kids like them.
In any case, I’m sure some of your children have dislocated their elbow as well. It’s painful when the arm moves, and quite scary for the child (as well as for newer parents). My son had dislocated the same elbow about a month ago, and it only took our local doctor half of a second to fix it.
When it happened again in Eretz Yisroel, we knew immediately what had to be done. We weren’t overly concerned, we just needed to get it fixed quickly. However, we found out that it’s just not as simple when you’re abroad. Baruch Hashem all ended well, and my son’s dislocated elbow was fixed.
The day after we arrived back to New York, one of my other sons had a serious allergic reaction. With his face and body swelling up, we were about to call our doctor. As I was dialing, he said, “My lips are hurting me.” That changed everything. I called Hatzalah. Three minutes later, two cars pulled up and some men came rushing in. Two minutes later there were a few more cars and an ambulance. Baruch Hashem, he was OK – needed some medicine and was good as new.
We are very fortunate to have an organization such as Hatzalah. They are professional, arrive quickly when we call, know what to do, and don’t request payment. There are a few things that all parents should keep in mind.
1) Make sure your children know Hatzalah’s number by heart. Keep it posted near the phone as well.
2) Make sure your house number is easy to find – especially at night.
3) If you’re not sure whether to call, make the call.
4) Donate money to Hatzalah.
5) When traveling, buy travel insurance. It’s cheap and smart and I’m thankful we had it when we travelled.
Yes, this is not a typical parenting article – but sometimes parenting means being prepared for things that you don’t want to happen.
Wishing you all a wonderful and safe Shabbos.
Once again, I spent a good portion of my week reading some interesting emails (and comments) sent to me by a wide range of readers. I’ve noticed a fascinating pattern when it comes to these emails. Therefore, before beginning the 3rd part of this series, I would like to reply to the most common responses. I’m sure that many of you won’t like what I have to say – you’ve been warned. Next week, I will IY”H continue with Part III.
First of all, in many instances, when a parent of an OTD child emails me, they shift the blame onto their spouse. Many of the emails I received contained phrases like, “I tried warning him this would happen” or, “She would get so frustrated about the most insignificant things”. I’m not that knowledgeable in couple’s therapy, but it seems that blaming your spouse means there are more deeply seated problems. You and your spouse are on the same team. Although you can disagree about things, when it comes to raising your children you need to be on the same page.
Second of all, when children, or even adults, that are currently OTD email me, many of them insist that no matter what their parents did or didn’t do, they would have stopped being religious either way. As one person put it, “It’s in my DNA”. In other words, many of these people that are OTD truly believe that it had nothing to do with the way they were raised.
My response is always silence. It’s not worth discussing. However, it’s plain and simply not true. It might not be solely because of your upbringing, and yes, certain children are inherently born with stronger desires. Nonetheless, I don’t believe any of you are correct. You might think you’ve identified the reason(s), but, for lack of a better terms, you’re way off base. I know many amazing people that have raised all types of children. We’re talking about children that questioned everything and always hung out with the “wrong” crowd. They still did an amazing parenting job and all their children remained happily frum.
This doesn’t mean that any particular method of raising children is foolproof. It just bears noting that many OTD stories of regret could have been avoided. One father who discussed this with me was initially defensive. He felt that I was accusing him and/or his wife of not doing all they could. That’s not at all what I was implying. Raising children today is very difficult, and it’s constantly evolving with the changing times. We, as a klal, need to work together and learn from our collective mistakes. If a family has a child go OTD, we need to use that as a learning experience so we can improve our methodologies.
Lastly, many people have commented regarding what I said about a Rebbe or teacher not causing children to go OTD. Therefore, I would like to clarify that statement. I have spoken to many people that are currently OTD, and they insisted that their Rebbe or teacher was the sole cause of them either going OTD, or having serious doubts about Yiddishkeit. I completely understand. I don’t even disagree with them.
I do believe that one negative teacher or Rebbe can affect a child.... but I also know that good parenting can, and will, rise up to the challenge. As a general rule, there will unfortunately always be Rebbeim that are rotten (I certainly had my share of them growing up), Rabbonim that betray our trust, and even role models that are dishonest. I wish that parents recognized that their role is not to live vicariously through their children, but rather to be their last line of defense. We need to be there when our children are hurt or confused, and guide them or defend them as necessary. We need to create stable homes in which children know that they are loved and respected, so their self-esteem will withstand the bad apples.
Therefore, when I say that a Rebbe or teacher can’t be the sole cause of a child going OTD, it’s because good parents will overcome that obstacle and win the battle. They will rebuild their child, and help them get past it. They will defend their child at any cost, and show their child that no one is as important as he or she is. This will become a bonding moment, and if you play your cards right, it can even become a maturing opportunity.
Obviously, this isn’t true all the time, since every case is different. If your child is more sensitive, or if this particular “educator” was just plain horrible, the result might be worse. Nonetheless, I truly believe that, in most cases, good parenting will prevail.
If you’re unsure what to do as a parent, I wrote an article a while back about having a Rebbe who doesn’t like your child. Alternatively, you can always speak to your Rav for guidance.
Part III OTD
I would like to begin by thinking you. I have received so much feedback over the past few weeks regarding this ongoing article. Most of it has been positive, a lot of constructive criticism, and even a few people who believe that I should focus my talents elsewhere. I apologize that I haven’t been able to respond to many of the emails that have inundated my mailbox.
This week, we’re going to focus on ways to prevent children from going OTD. There are four categories comprising these positive, yet preventative, measures. Each one is a partner in a child’s growth.
2) Rav / Community
It’s should be obvious that parents are those that have the greatest influence on their children. What many parents don’t realize, is that they are full-time ambassadors for Yiddishkeit. Beginning at a very young age, parents need to give their children a love for Yiddishkeit in a kind and caring atmosphere. Some smart habits to develop, include:
A) Giving sincere compliments when deserved. Find reasons for your children to deserve them. If your daughter says “Amen” to a Bracha, turn to her and say, “You just created a Malach!”
B) Choosing your battles. Sometimes you need to let certain things slide.
C) Being genuinely happy doing Mitzvos. Keeping Shabbos, Kosher, Davening. If it’s a burden to you, you can bet it’s going to be a burden to your kids.
D) Don’t speak badly about other Yidden. If there is one thing we can take away from Tisha B’Av, it’s that Sinas Chinam is corrosive as well as contagious.
E) Treating your spouse well.
F) Living in an area with like-minded Yidden. In other words, if you’re living in a “Young Israel” type community and you are a very Yeshivish family, it might be difficult for your children. I am, Chas Veshalom, not saying what’s better or worse. However, when your children are older, it might be confusing for them to watch other good Jews doing things that you frown upon.
Please remember that some of these ideas might work well for some families, and not for others.
The next partner in a child’s growth, is the community and a Rav. I can’t stress enough how important a good Rav is. I’m not talking only about a learned Rav, Baruch Hashem there are plenty of those. I’m talking about a Rav who understands you and your family, and cares about you. Your children should be excited to talk to the Rav, and any difficult questions that your older children might have, they should ask the Rav directly.
However, it’s not only the Rav, it’s the community you live in. “Boro Park” or “teaneck” are not examples of community that I’m referring to. We’re talking about a much smaller, and more intimate group - the people that you interact with on a daily basis. People that Daven with you, whose kids go to Yeshiva with yours, etc. They should also be looking out for you, and vice versa. If you see that your neighbor’s son is hanging out with a boy you think is a bad Shidduch, you need to say something to his parents.
By the same token, if you think you friends need help with their children, speak up. I would tell them, “I see that you & I have similar issues with our kids.” You can then either let them know in passing what’s worked for you, or, if you run the risk of insulting them, you can let your Rav know how you feel.
The 3rd partner, is the Yeshiva. Actually, there are two components to the Yeshiva - the younger grades, and the older grades. The younger grade Rebbeim have an important job. They need to make sure that the younger children have an excitement for Mitzvos. They need to encourage children to help out at home, and lead by example.
A 2nd grader I know recently sat down in a pizza store. I didn’t see him make a Bracha before eating, so I asked him, “Did your Rebbe teach you how to wash for bread yet?” He responded, “Yup! I never see him washing though.” I don’t doubt that the Rebbe washes, it’s just that the children don’t see it. They need to see these role models love being Yidden in everything they do.
The older grade Rebbeim and teachers have a much more difficult job. They need to simultaneously convey and impart a love for Yiddishkeit and while making sure the children feel important. They need to answer any difficult questions honestly and carefully, and keep an eye out for kids that seem unhappy or confused.
There is a married Yeshiva Bachur I know who is a tremendous Talmid Chochom. He told me, “I don’t remember what my 7th or 8th grade Rebbeim taught me, but I remember how my 5th grade Rebbe smiled at me every day”. Rebbeim and teachers need to be cognizant about the importance of showing these precious children how amazing it is to be a Yid.
The last partner is, of course, Hashem. We need to constantly Daven that our children should stay on the path of Torah and Mitzvos. We need to Daven that Hashem should give us the strength and ability to be good parents and teachers. Just remember, Davening without putting in your Hishtadlus, is not a good way to see positive results.
If we all work together and follow these steps, the number of children going OTD will be a lot smaller. There is no magic formula – it’s hard work and we all need a lot of Siyata D’Shmaya. (This still doesn’t mean that if your child has an amazing and loving childhood, he won’t go OTD.) Next week, we’ll discuss what to do if your child is OTD.
Looking forward to your comments and thoughts. Have a great Shabbos.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing OTD in our communities. We’ve discussed what it is, some of the causes, and ways to prevent it. During this series, I’ve received well over one thousand emails. Some were from parents sharing details that are absolutely terrifying, and others were from teenagers and young adults sharing their thoughts.
In both scenarios, it was painful to read. Families torn apart because, let’s be honest with ourselves, parents fought the wrong battles. Sure, there are other reasons we discussed, but the fact is, so many of these stories I’ve been reading could have been prevented.
However, that’s not the goal of this last part. We’re going to discuss the aftereffects. How to deal with OTD after it’s become a reality. (I’m borrowing from an article I wrote a few years ago about this subject.)
There are two things we need to keep in mind:
The fact remains that we are all different. Just because your child does not want to imitate your way of life does not make him or her an evil person. If your daughter insists on wearing pants or partying, she is still a creation of Hashem. Arguing won’t work. Explaining how much they’re hurting you is counterproductive. This isn’t about you. It’s about them expressing themselves as individuals.
It hurts. There is no doubt that it’s hard for parents to watch a child leave the path they were set on. However, he or she is still your child. Keep the connection open. The goal is not necessarily to make them religious, it’s to show them that you love them no matter what. They might return. They might not. Either way, you have a responsibility to your child.
If you have other children that are young or impressionable, it can be even more challenging. Tell your other kids, “Your sibling is going through a hard time and we love him no matter what.” Only positive.
You do have the right to ask this child to follow your rules in your house. If your daughter has gone OTD and is wearing pants, you can ask her to please wear an appropriate skirt in your house. You can also ask that they refrain from behaving inappropriately or discussing private matters in front of the other kids. Certainly, they should not bring non-kosher food into the house.
Keep in mind that most children who go OTD are not trying to change you or be vindictive. They’re expressing their individuality. One 17-year-old told me his father told him, “My way or the highway!” He chose the highway. Now they lost their son.
Obviously, every case is different. When in doubt, you can ask for help. A Rav is a great person to ask, if he has an understanding of people and loves all Jews. I am fortunate to have such a Rav. If your Rav is better suited for a halachic discussion, call a psychologist. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
I want to end by sharing a few short stories people have shared with me. One girl who asked to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, told me the following. “My parents have always been strict. If I a had a problem with a teacher, I was always considered at fault. My parents would tell me every night that the reason they were so tough on me was because they loved me. That might have worked years ago, but actions speak louder than words. I didn’t feel loved. Once I became 15, I began acting out….. wearing shorter skirts that borrowed, or listening to music that I knew would annoy them. Thinking back, I’m not sure how I expected them to react. I kind of hoped they would pull me in and tell me they need me. I got the opposite. They flipped out and told me to sleep elsewhere until I acted like a Bas Torah. That was the last time I slept at home. Last year my mother called me begging me to come back. Not going to happen. I’ve been reading your articles about this, and had my parents showed even an iota of love, I would’ve jumped back into their arms.”
The second story is from a parent’s perspective. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I want to share what went wrong in my house. My wife and I both agreed that our son was an at-risk child. Therefore, we tried to shelter him. We didn’t let him watch movies or have anything his friends had. When he complained to us we always told him, “You’ll thank us later”. Well, later passed and he never thanked us. He stopped acting religious, and we lost our relationship with him. Looking back, we knew it was happening, but we were too stubborn to ask anyone else for help. We finally caved in and spoke to a therapist who explained that there was a difference between sheltering and preparing. Instead of taking away everything, we should have been giving it to him under our supervision. The sleepovers should have been by us. Once we understood this, we were able to contact him and show him we changed. He is still not religious now, and we don’t know if he ever will be. However, we talk regularly. The door is open.”
The last story is of a Chassidic family that has a son who went OTD. I met the father walking with this 19-year-old son (who was not wearing a yarmulke), and as I passed he called me over, and told me excitedly, “Mike got accepted into college!” His son was beaming. Parenting. He is doing it right.
We need to open any channel we can. Let them know that we love and care about them.
It feels right to end with a Brachah to you all. I know this puts pressure on you, but may you be zocheh that your children should want to emulate you.
Have a great Shabbos!
PS – I am still unable to approve comments for a while. Rest assured you can continue to email me or comment at any time. It just might not show on the blog for a few days.
This is definitely one of the most difficult articles I have ever undertaken. Since I began this parenting blog, I have been inundated with emails from parents asking for ways to ensure that their children don’t go “Off the Derech” (We’ll be using the term “OTD”). Other parents already have children in this situation and want guidance.
The obvious question is, what is the goal of this article? The answer is simple. Understanding. It would be great if we could understand the mindset of those that are OTD. I’m not just talking about our own children. I’m talking about all Yidden. However, ultimately, the article is focused on children that are going, or have recently gone, OTD, and the appropriate parenting practices. Therefore, if you are an OTD adult reading this, it may very well not apply to you.
I’ve divided this series into four separate topics.
Before I begin, I would like to write a disclaimer. When writing an article about this subject, it is understood that people have strong opinions one way or the other. I have put in many hours speaking to children and parents that are in this situation, rabbis and psychologists that deal with this on a daily basis, and many others. Although I would love to hear your thoughts, please keep all comments or other correspondence civil.
First of all, I truly dislike the term “Off the Derech.” I don’t even understand it. Who’s Derech are they off? Is it “Off the Derech of being Shomer Torah U’Mitzvos”? If so, then I’m afraid that, unfortunately, many of us are off the Derech in some way or other, albeit less drastically. Is it, “Off the correct Derech of following the Torah”? Well, let’s consider. If I’m sitting with a bunch of Chassidim, do they consider me “OTD”? Perhaps I am, from their perspective.
When we use the term “OTD” we’re usually referring to it as a child having gone off the Derech of their parents’ chosen path of being a Torah Jew. To illustrate my point, here’s a phrase that was emailed to me many times. “If only my son/daughter knew how much they are hurting us”. Or, “It is such an embarrassment to our family”. However, this issue is not always about the parents.
I’m not dismissing how painful it is for them and their families. However, this child also has a life, and probably a confusing one as well. Constantly referring to him as someone who is “OTD” is demeaning and insensitive. Believe it or not, a person that’s OTD doesn’t necessarily feel that they are off any path. Many of them have no regrets and are happy just the way they are. There are, in fact, many people in this situation who have embraced this term, and they wear it like a badge of honor. In any case, I think it’s better if we refrain from labeling anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they choose to label themselves, that’s their prerogative.
It is extremely important that we are aware about the feelings of others, even if we don’t agree with them. They are not second-class citizens, and we are not the ones to be judging them. I recently spoke with an eighteen-year-old girl, and she told me, “I might not be religious, but at least I’m not stealing from the government or running elaborate scams.” Hard to argue with that. While she has given up certain practices, she has apparently maintained good Middos that, unfortunately, some “frum” Jews have abandoned.
After speaking with over 150 teenagers in this situation over the past few weeks, I can safely say the following:
I’m not trying to generalize, as I’ve always believed that 91% of statistics are fabricated. Nevertheless, the points I made above seem to be the consensus of many of the people I’ve spoken with. There are certainly exceptions, but that’s not for now.
I’m obviously not condoning becoming less religious. I hope and pray that all Yidden become Shomrei Torah and Mitzvos. I personally love being religious. I don’t feel restricted, I enjoy Shabbos, and keeping Kosher isn’t a challenge. Nonetheless, this article is not about me. We all need to be cognizant that the first step towards understanding those that are less religious, is to consider their feelings.
This segment of the article was to discuss what, OTD means. IY”H next week, we’ll discuss some contributing factors. Again, I do understand that many people have different opinions on this delicate matter. I would love to hear your thoughts. You can email them directly to me (everything is kept 100% private and deleted after) or you can comment on the blog. However, I will not allow any comments that are insulting to anyone, or that contain inappropriate language, or Lashon Hora.
This is the second part of the OTD article. To help keep it organized, it's in the same blog. Before we begin, there are some very important disclaimers.
Many adults that are OTD have made it very clear that they resent the fact that I am listing “contributing factors.” According to the emails I received, “You make it seem like OTD is a disease”. No, I don’t think it’s a disease. However, from a parent’s perspective, having a child go OTD is not a desirable thing. Below is a list of factors that I believe can cause a child to lose interest in Yiddishkeit. I encourage you to comment on the blog if you have anything to add.
Most fundamentally, children are affected by negativity. We’re not talking regular negativity, we’re talking negativity about Yiddishkeit. Our religion is not exclusively one of restrictions. It’s about how we live and what we can, and sometimes must, do. Telling a child, “You can’t play that game on Shabbos!” is not necessarily the best way to instill an appreciation of Shabbos. A much better way of turning it into a teaching moment would be to say, “Let’s play that game tomorrow; we can play something else for now.” I’m not even talking about teenagers now, I’m talking about little kids. Let them grow up feeling excited and secure about who they are and what they represent. “You can’t eat that, it’s not kosher!” “You can’t go there, it’s not appropriate!” “You can’t touch that, it’s muktzeh!” “You shouldn’t watch that, it’s not tzniyus!”
There are 365 negative commandments in the Torah. It is no coincidence that the number equals the days of the solar year. If you’re telling your child, “You can’t. . .” more than once a day, you’re doing it wrong. There are 248 positive Mitzvos corresponding to the bones of our bodies (as the Gemara in Makkos 23b explains). This seems to teach us that being positive about Yiddishkeit should be the essence of who we are, as expressed by our actions. A conscious effort must be made to exclude negativity in reference to Yiddishkeit. Being a Jew is a positive experience!
A second contributing factor is anger. Although closely related to negativity, there are many differences. The Gemara tells us (In Brachos, amongst other places) that if you don’t get angry, you won’t sin. Anger is an emotion that does not have a place in the chinuch of children. There are times when a parent has to act angry. If your child disrespects your spouse, you can look upset and tell him off. However, once you become really angry, you’ll quickly lose control.
You might say things in anger that you don’t really mean. You might get frustrated over something insignificant. You might even do something that can have long-lasting consequences. We need to remember that low self-esteem is extremely prevalent in our communities, and if you combine that with an angry parent, it can have disastrous results. I would like to reiterate that getting upset at your kids isn’t called being angry. Even if you lose control occasionally, it won’t cause your children to go OTD. It’s constantly losing control or screaming that can definitely be a factor.
A third contributing factor can be a Rebbe. Many parents have told me that specific Rebbeim pushed their children OTD. I vehemently disagree. Granted, a “bad” Rebbe can be devastating, but that alone should not cause a child, in most cases, to go OTD. That being said, a “bad” Rebbe can really be a disaster. We’re talking Rebbeim that insult kids, make fun of them, and even antagonize them. Why would a Rebbe do that? I have no clue. I heard from an excellent Rebbe, that if you have a Rebbe that doesn’t love teaching Torah, the end result will be that he will drive children away from Torah.
A fourth factor is what I call exclusion. The phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall” holds especially true for children. If a child is constantly being excluded by his classmates and neighbors, it can be a contributing factor in him going OTD. One girl shared the following story with me:
“From when I was 7 years old, I didn’t feel like I belonged in my school. The other girls made playdates left and right, but they felt I was too modern to join them. Apparently, their parents excluded me from everything. I just wanted to play, not discuss religion. I might have become more religious if I would’ve spent time with them. I was a shy and quiet girl, and being ignored destroyed me. Once I turned 14, I decided that if I was being considered a black sheep, I needed to act the part. So, here I am 10 years later completely OTD. My “friends” were not contributing factors, they were the cause!”
Obviously, if you think a specific child is not a great playmate for your child, you have the right to separate them. On the other hand, is it always the right thing to do? Certainly, if a child is being “shunned” by everyone else, no good can come of it. It’s a horrible feeling to be left out, and a definite factor in causing OTD. Parents should listen to their children If they complain about not having friends, or being left out.
The fifth and final factor is an obvious one – a bad friend. It’s no coincidence that I put this right after the previous paragraph. You need to know your child. If she is susceptible to external influences, you must be extremely vigilant as to who they hang out with. A bad friend can undo all the good your child has learned, and it can happen in the blink of an eye.
IY”H next week, we’ll discuss ways to prevent OTD and I look forward to your comments and emails. Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. A few weeks ago, I read your article about kids not going to camp. I have the opposite problem. My kids are all in sleepaway, and I’m quite nervous. Many of these camps tout their amazing learning programs, but when push comes to shove, they don’t learn very much. Davening seems amazing on the camp videos, but my kids tell me it’s a joke. I feel like such a bad mother that I’m sending my son to a camp where the environment is not suitable for a Ben Torah. Who knows what else he’s picking up! I would love to send them to a more Frum camp, but none of his friends are going, and I want him to be with friends. Help. Name Redacted. Cleveland Ohio
Surprisingly enough, I’ve received many similar emails over the past few weeks. I’m actually quite confused by this email and the others like it.
Firstly, if you truly believe that the camp you’re sending them to is not a good environment for a Ben Torah, why would you send your child there for the summer? If you are nervous about your son picking up the wrong messages, you can send him to a more “Frum” camp, as you wrote. Perhaps when you wrote “Frum,” you are referring to a more structured camp, which is more serious about davening and learning. Either way, you can certainly try and find one other boy from the neighborhood, or perhaps his school, going to such a camp, and chances are that he’ll make new friends as well.
You might be correct in assuming that the learning groups are probably not that serious. I’ve been to many of the sleepaway camps over the years as a learning Rebbe, counselor, speaker or guest. I agree that there is definitely a lot of story time and less serious learning. However, during the summer, many kids look forward to and appreciate having more down time and less structure. (As an aside, some kids need this in order to recharge their batteries after a year of hard work and learning.) Most camps try their best to make the most of the learning time and show that, even during the summer, it’s important to set aside time to learn Torah. If you really care that much about having him learn more seriously or for longer amounts of time, why don’t you have him tutored on the side?
Last year, I saw a mother having a serious discussion with her son’s counselor about his Davening in camp. His father told me privately that this same boy plays around the entire Davening on Shabbos. Of course, being the quiet type, I confronted the mother. She explained, “I want people to realize that our family davens well.” There we have it. It’s not about the davening; it’s about the family. As a Rebbe and a father, I do think Davening is very important. However, if you lead by example at home, your kids will likely daven well in camp.
I remember when parents were worried about sending kids to sleepaway camps because their boys would only shower once a week (hopefully), wouldn’t brush their teeth (of course not), and rarely change their clothing (why would they?)! Yes, your kids will learn some things that you might not be thrilled about, but they’re not living under a rock.
Before they leave to camp, you should have a serious talk with them. You can talk about the importance of personal boundaries, remind them of how special and important davening and learning are, regardless of whether at home or camp, and the importance of good hygiene. When they come back, you can discuss everything and “detox” them if needed.
The most important element of camp, from a parent’s perspective, should be the counselor. Sure, it’s nice for a boy to have a good friend in his bunk, but his counselor is the father and mother figure for the summer. If you have any fears or concerns, you can share them with the counselor, via the head staff, and hope for the best.
I hope I’m not coming across as non-caring. It’s just that I think that parents these days are rapidly becoming helicopter parents hovering constantly above their children. We need to let kids be kids. When we were younger we used to hear and talk about crazy things, and yet we turned out OK. My point is, we need to let them grow up by maturing the same way we did.
Have a good Shabbos.
On a totally separate note, beginning next week I will be writing a multi-part article about children going “Off the Derech”. I have spoken with so many parents and children on this topic. However, if anyone feels they have anything to share, please email me at Rebbe@yidparenting.com, as soon as you can. Thank you in advance.
Rabbi Ross. I just found out from one of the teachers, that my daughter is failing the 3rd term on her report card. Obviously, I’m quite frustrated that the school told me about this with only a few days left, but it is what it is. My questions are as follows. Should I make an issue out of it now? Should I just let it slide? I’m scared it will ruin her summer if I bring it up. Maybe I should bring it up at the beginning of the next school year (she’s going into 7th grade next year). This way, she’ll be serious about 7th grade. What do you think? B.R. – Cedarhurst
I’m a bit confused how you can go a full term and not know that your daughter is failing. Did she bring home any tests over the past few months? Has she been doing homework?
Although many children are responsible about their assignments and classwork, it’s always important to keep in touch with the teachers and the school. It doesn’t have to be a daily occurrence, but your children should always know that you’re on top of them.
However, if this is the first time the school or teacher has contacted you, they are certainly at fault as well. If a child is not doing well, the parents must be notified as soon as possible so that, together with the teacher(s), they can rectify the situation. Waiting until the end of a marking period is irresponsible and wrong. I would definitely call this teacher up, and ask her why she chose to wait until the end of the term to notify you.
In any case, your question is missing a lot of information. Is she failing everything? Hebrew subjects? English subjects? Is she aware that she’s failing? Being that I’m missing all of this information, let’s try and figure this out by analyzing the pros and cons of confronting the problem.
What is there to gain by bringing the grades up right away?
It seems that bringing it up immediately is the only logical course of action. You mentioned that you would want to bring it up before the next year begins so that “she’ll be serious about 7th grade.” I’m not sure why you can’t do both. Bring it up immediately, and then, before beginning 7th grade, remind her how each new year is an opportunity to start fresh.
There was one phrase in your question that really got me thinking. You mentioned that you were, “scared it would ruin her summer”. This is something I hear quite often these days. Parents are scared to disappoint, or “tell off”, their children. However, there is nothing wrong with a child being upset or disappointed once in a while. If she failed a class, she should be upset.
Initially, she might be angry at you for bringing it up, or at her teacher for failing her. As time passes, she will begin to take responsibility for her own actions (or inactions). In the meanwhile, you can consider it a growing experience.
I want to end off by sharing a really odd, but related, story that happened to me a few weeks ago. A parent called me regarding his son’s baseball team. Apparently, they lost a game that the father felt was unfair. He was upset that his son was frustrated. His exact words were, “I don’t want my son to ever be frustrated.” I was floored. There is nothing wrong with kids being disappointed, frustrated or upset. It’s actually good for children to experience different emotions and to learn how to channel those feelings positively.
Tell your daughter that you’re disappointed in her. Let her be upset for a while. Let the school know you’re confused why you weren’t informed earlier. Be more on top of your children’s grades. Last but certainly not least, have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. My 12-year-old son is a sports fanatic. He spends hours listening to the radio, reading stats, and memorizing useless information. Although I don’t think it’s really affecting his grades in school, I can’t help but become frustrated that he is wasting brainpower on such stupidities. I’m also worried that he’ll become overly involved and it will start affecting his grades. Besides, some of the sporting events have inappropriate things (dancers). What are your thoughts?
All children need outlets. Whether it’s playing ball, building with Legos, karate, or anything else - having an outlet is a good thing. I read your email a few times, and it seems to me that what you’re describing is perfectly normal behavior. I taught a student years ago that was the same way, and he currently works with some sort of sports publication.
I fail to see what you are worried about. His grades are not being affected, he’s happy, and he’s doing something that’s healthy, and yes, even challenging. The way I see it, one of three things will happen:
The worst thing you can do is make fun of what he’s doing, or even give him disparaging or disapproving looks. You don’t want to alienate him; you want to show that you’re involved and you care about the things he cares about. Although you may not understand what he’s talking about. If it’s something he cares about, it’s important.
In other words, my thoughts are that not only should you not make it an issue, you should tell him you’re proud of him. Remind him that it’s important that he continues to shine academically, but you are impressed with his ability to master all of this information.
Regarding the immodest dancers, or inappropriate language, that really depends on how you’re raising your children. If you are raising them in a very sheltered environment (which I seriously doubt, being that he’s so involved in professional sports), you have a point. Otherwise, this can be a wonderful learning experience.
When you take your children to any sporting event, you should preface it with the following: “There are people that don’t understand the importance of tznius or using proper language. We need to make sure that we look away from something that is not good for us, and we should not listen to things that we aren’t supposed to hear.”
Once you’re at the game, be a good role model. If there are dancers, talk to him while they’re dancing. If there is someone speaking inappropriately, turn his attention elsewhere. This is a great way to turn this into a learning experience, as well as a bonding opportunity.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. My husband and I have 2 children ages 4 (boy) and 1 (girl). It might sound like it’s a bit early for parenting advice relating to Yiddishkeit, but we’re wondering one thing. How can we make our children love being Jewish? We feel like it’s such a crazy world, and we would love to get a head start. Thanks in advance. S & D in Queens
You’re not early; if anything, you’re late. I’m sure you’re well aware of the famous story about the Chofetz Chaim. When a mother who recently gave birth asked for advice on raising her child, he told her (not a direct quote) that she was already 9 months too late. The first step in raising children is working on yourself.
In any case, your question is an excellent one. So many parents tell me, “I just want my son to be happy!” Happiness that is not based on anything substantial won’t last. The same holds true for love. Your children need to love being Yidden, and then everything else will fall into place.
A few weeks ago we wrote an article in memory of Rav Binyamin Kamenetzky zt”l, discussing this concept. “If we want our children to love Yiddeshkeit, we have to genuinely love being Yidden. We have to be excited about every day.”
That is, I believe, the most crucial way of imparting a love of Yiddishkeit. Both parents need to be excited about being a Yid. This means saying Modeh Ani with enthusiasm in the morning, making Brachos out loud, bringing in Shabbos with a smile, and more. When your children see the happiness radiating from you every day, it will make an impression that will last a lifetime.
Another idea which bears mentioning, is staying away from negativity associated with religion. Allow me to explain. As parents, there are times we need to put our foot down. Saying “No” occasionally is actually a good thing. Children do require discipline and a consequence can certainly help keep them in line. However, many parents blame religion for anything requiring discipline. Here are some examples.
The last piece of advice I will share is called complimenting. Many parents compliment their children for the silliest reasons. I recently saw a young mother eating with her children in a pizza store on Central Avenue. She complimented her children approximately five times while I was waiting on line.
“You chew so nicely! I love the way you’re sitting! You really know how to stay clean!” I got a huge kick out of the way she made everything into a big deal. It sounds great, but it can result in two problems. First, her children might become addicted, if I may, and expect to be complimented for everything. When they aren’t complimented, they might feel insulted. Second, it becomes difficult to ever give them a sincere compliment when they do something truly deserving of one.
What does this have to do with a love for Yiddishkeit? When you compliment your children, you can do it in a special way. Here’s an example. If your son shares his blocks or snacks, you can say, “Hashem loves when kinderlach share! You are such a wonderful Ben Torah!” You not only gave him a compliment, you gave it in such a way that he is excited to be a Yid!
Keep in mind that you should never do the opposite. Years ago, I saw a father tell his 14-year-old son, “Hashem despises kids that don’t look inside the siddur!” Aside from that being completely untrue, it’s an insane comment to make. Incidentally, that boy is completely non-religious now. Although I don’t know all the details, I can assure you that using Hashem as a disciplinary tool was not a great idea.
To summarize, the three main ways to give over a love of Yiddishkeit to your children are:
Wishing you much hatzlacha in raising your children to develop a genuine love and enthusiasm for Torah and Mitzvos.
If you have any other ideas, please share it with everyone by commenting.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. My 10-year-old son is refusing to go to camp this summer. I offered him either sleepaway or day camp, but he says he doesn’t like camp and he wants to stay home and “veg”. He’s an easy-going boy, and I can’t imagine him making any trouble, I’m just worried he’ll be bored. I’ll also be saving a few thousand dollars in camp tuition which is nice. Is it a problem if I let him stay home?
Most children look forward to camp all year long. However, there are always those kids who don’t enjoy the camp experience at all. It might be an aversion to sports, making new friends, or even becoming homesick. These kids don’t want to hear about it, and this frequently includes day camps.
It might be frustrating for you to have your child home, nonetheless, I don’t believe that any child should be forced to go to camp. Having said that, however, before you allow your son to stay home for the summer, you need to set up guidelines and conditions.
First and foremost, boys should spend some part of each day learning with a chavrusa or tutor. Although many summer camps tout their advanced and superior learning programs, I do believe that the basic goal in most camps is to ensure that each boy is prepared for the new school year. Therefore, you need to make sure that your child keeps up as well.
Ideally, this tutor should learn with your son for an hour every day. If he can only come a few days a week, that’s also fine. It would be beneficial to arrange for the learning sessions to take place in a shul or yeshiva, to demonstrate to your son that learning is serious. If this is not possible, make sure that the learning takes place in a quiet room, free from all distractions. He should always be dressed properly and have Davened before learning.
The second condition should be regarding friends. One huge benefit of camp, is that kids have an opportunity to develop and mature socially through interacting with others. You don’t want your son to miss out on this experience. As such, you should set up a playdate or outing with friends at least twice a week. They can spend time playing in someone’s backyard or you can take them bowling one day. It doesn’t necessarily matter in whose house they get together, or what they do. The point is, he must remain social.
The third condition should be setting up a schedule or routine. Your son is going to have a lot of free time in his day. This could be the very reason why he doesn’t want to go to camp, since some kids need time to be free and explore without being subjected to a rigid schedule. However, he needs to create (with your help) a basic itinerary for each day. You don’t want every day to become pajama day or iPad day. He can go on a bug hunt, play with legos, bike ride or anything else. He just can’t hang out in the house all day.
The final condition should be that he can’t tell you, “I’m bored.” Those words can drive any parent crazy. Although you will gladly help him arrange activities, it’s not your problem if he has nothing to do.
I’ve included some hints to help you make an informed decision.
Have a great Shabbos.
Thank you for this tremendous initiative, we’re sure that it takes so much of your time. My husband and I are dealing with a serious problem regarding our precious first born daughter. She has always been a sweet-natured and easy going girl. However, she is now in 7th grade, and has become great friends with a troubled girl. She becomes extremely defensive when we bring this up, and this girl is having a very bad influence on her. What can we possible do to remove our daughter from this girl’s clutches without having our daughter hate us? It’s so frustrating watching years of our effort as parents go out the window. Thank you for your help. PRIVATE Cedarhurst
I can understand from your question how concerned and heartbroken you are feeling. You have put all of your Kochos into your daughter, yet she seems to be negatively influenced by this friend.
Before I suggest what can be done to help your daughter, I must ask you to assess whether her behavior is in fact troublesome, or simply normal teenage conduct. As our children become teenagers, many feel the need to assert their independence and express their individuality. This is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as your child is still treating you respectfully and behaving appropriately, it might not be necessary to turn this into a big issue. Instead, show her love and support and continue to model good behavior.
Your mentioned that your daughter’s friend is “troubled.” Does that mean that she has a troubled personality? Or that she is going through a troubling time and attempting to express herself through rebelling? Either way, I understand from your question that this friend is not acting as sweet-natured and easy-going as you say your daughter is does.
If, in fact, your daughter is showing unhealthy signs of rebellion and behaving disrespectfully, then I will not try to convince you to give this friend a chance. I do realize that many people would suggest inviting her over, and see if perhaps your daughter can have a positive influence on her. However, I’m a bit more of a realist. History has taught me that, as you pointed out, the influencer is usually not the stable child. Therefore, we’re going to concentrate on your daughter.
To better understand your situation, we need to highlight the main places they interact. There are actually four locations that come to mind. Her school, your house, the friend’s house, or anywhere else.
Let’s first discuss how you can minimize their interaction at school. First and foremost, you need to contact the teacher and principal immediately, and ask for a joint meeting. When they ask you what the subject of the meeting is, you can tell them, “My daughter’s future.” At this meeting, carefully explain the issue you’re having. Don’t focus on the issues her friend has, rather focus on the influence she’s having on your daughter. It’ll be even better if you can have your husband accompany you to the meeting.
Your goals are to separate them whenever possible, and make the school aware of the situation. Be prepared for the following questions. Have you spoken with the girl’s parents? How do you know she’s having a negative influence? You do know that sometimes girls in 7th grade like to test their parents occasionally, right? These are all fair questions, and you need to give honest answers. Speak from your heart.
Then next step, is to keep your daughter occupied. We’re talking housework, projects, family time - whatever will keep here away from this friend. That won’t work for too long, but every minute counts. Try not to become too obvious, or make any comments that will allow her to catch on to what you’re doing.
The most important step can really help solve this issue, but you need to do it carefully. Give your daughter a day off from school, and spend some “Mommy & me” time. Go anywhere together, and make sure she really is having a great time. Once she is completely relaxed, you need to have the following conversation.
“You know that Daddy and I have put tremendous amounts of time and love into you. We are so proud of the way you’re turning out, and get such Nachas from you.” Stop the conversation there. Continue to have a great day with her. A short while later, open up to her. Tell her that her behavior has been shaky as of late, and that her teachers and principal have noticed it as well.
Don’t blame her friend. Don’t say, “I knew this would happen.” This is her day. Tell her you defended her to the school, but they realized that she is picking up bad habits. The gist of the conversation should not be the she has to sever ties with her friend. Rather it should be that she needs to be cognizant that she’s hurting herself. Don’t make the conversation long or drawn out. Once you’ve made your point, continue your day.
You need to really have a good understanding of your daughter before doing this. Judging from the email you sent, I’m assuming that you do. Will she get upset at you when you bring it up? Not many girls will, if they’re having a relaxing day. It’ll be much easier if you can anticipate her reaction, but there’s no way to guarantee it. No matter what happens, you’ve put doubt in her mind.
There are other things you can do, but many of them are pretty severe.
Haztlacha Rabba and wishing you Nachas.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. My wife’s younger brother is what we’ll call an oddball. He says and does weird things, but our 3 kids think he’s hysterical. Although I don’t want to stop him from spending time with the kids, I would like to give my children a heads-up that things he does might not be appropriate. My wife seems to think I’m overreacting. Please back me up. Sam - Woodmere
One of the most difficult parts of responding to these questions, is that there is crucial information missing. How old are the kids? What “weird” things is he doing. How would you give a heads-up? Then again, I don’t want to write an article about a once-in-a-lifetime situation, so I guess we’ll have to discuss various scenarios.
Many families have that one sibling who is a bit more “colorful” than everyone else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, some parents don’t know how to deal with a child who’s different than the others, and this frequently has interesting results. A very Yeshivish family that I know has a fifteen-year-old not-so-Yeshivish son, who I taught years ago. When his older sister brought a prospective young man to the house to meet her parents, they warned her brother that he had better come into the kitchen with a hat and jacket. He did, although he was wearing a bathing suit instead of pants! (The Shidduch worked out, B”H).
I digress. We as parents like to protect our children as much as possible. I can certainly understand why you want to warn or prepare your children. They are impressionable and tend to pick up bad habits quicker than we can imagine. It’s even scarier when they are dealing with a relative or family member – there’s a much greater chance they’ll imitate him!
The first point I would like to make, is that you need to take a step back. If your brother-in-law is not acting dangerously or being hurtful to others, it might not be such a big deal. If it’s simply that he’s acting immaturely, such as making faces out a car window or breathing in helium while singing, then it’s not so bad. On the other hand, if he’s making fun of others, using inappropriate language, or joking during Davening, that is a problem.
If you’re not sure exactly what he’s doing, simply ask your kids. This shouldn’t be a serious sit down with stern looks. It’s more of a casual, “So, what did uncle Bob do with you guys today?” Then listen. Don’t comment or make snide remarks. Just hear them out so you can evaluate and make an educated decision. It might be prudent to have your wife hanging around the area while you are schmoozing with them. Kids do tend to exaggerate, so if they say, “We robbed a bank machine,” it could just be that he withdrew money from an ATM.
In regards to giving your kids a heads up, I’m not sure if that’s the best solution. Even if you do a great job, it might cause hard feelings in the long run. If you don’t do a great job, it can have severe long-lasting repercussions. In other words, trust your wife. No good will come out of talking to your kids about this.
Talking to your quirky brother-in-law, on the other hand, well, that might be smarter. He may be a little off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand children. I would just tell him, “Do me a favor and tone it down a little with the kids. They respect you so much, and I’m scared they might be focused on some things more than they should be”.
Obviously without knowing all the intricate details, I can’t give stronger or more specific guidance. However, here’s one of the key rules, being honest is usually the best solution. Obviously, if that doesn’t work, you would need to rethink your strategy. But, initially, I would always go with the most honest and direct approach.
I just want to make clear that this is assuming you trust your brother-in-law around your children. If you have even the slightest suspicion that something very inappropriate may be going on (hamyvin yavin), I would immediately terminate the relationship between him and your children, unless it’s closely supervised.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,
Is there a secret to raising children that love Yiddishkeit? How do you teach your child to be a mentsch? What can I do to ensure my child is a Ben Torah? These are some of the more common questions I receive every week.
Although I would not respond to these questions during a typical week, this week has been anything but typical. We all lost a Tzaddik and a leader in Rav Binyamin Kamenetzky zt”l, affectionally known by many of us as the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l. When I was hired as a Rebbe in the Yeshiva of South Shore over 20 years ago, the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was one of my mentors. Therefore, I would like to answer some of the earlier questions based on my relationship with the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l.
The first question was regarding the secret to raising children that love Yiddishkeit. Well, there is no secret. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l had a method to make sure every child he came in contact with was happy. He smiled. All the time. Not one of those fake smiles – kids can spot those a mile away. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l had a genuine smile that would light up the room.
Approximately 9 years ago, my bechor, Binyamin Zev, was with me in the Yeshiva early in the morning, and he was running down the hallway, as 5-year-olds tend to do. Of course, he ran smack into the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l. I was mortified. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was not. He grasped Binyamin Zev’s hand warmly and said, “I love when Yingerlach are happy!” I remember vividly as Binyamin Zev just stared at him in awe. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l gave him a pat on the cheek and, with a huge smile, continued on his way.
Last summer, I brought my son Moshe to Yeshiva to pick something up. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was there and my son was staring at him. When the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l saw my Moshe looking, he quickly ran over and said to me, “Nuuu! Take a picture!” He then put his arm around Moshe. It was pure love, and everyone felt it.
If we want our children to love Yiddeshkeit, we have to genuinely love being Yidden. We have to be excited about every day. When the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l came to this area, it was spiritually empty and desolate. How did he raise a family that loved being Yidden when they were surrounded by so many challenges?
It seems that the Rosh Yeshiva & Rebbitzin zt”l loved being Yidden. They didn’t just survive day by day. They embraced being Jewish. They passed on that special Kamenetzky smile that melts away other people’s issues. We can do the same. If we show our children genuine love and happiness, they will soak it in. Smile at your kids and show them how much you love being a Yid. It worked for the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, it’ll work for you.
The next question was, how to teach your child to act like a mentsch. Watching the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l, it seems apparent that there is no way to teach this concept. It seems you have to live it. What’s a mentsch? A mentsch is someone who cares.
A few years back, one of the boys in in the Yeshiva ran into, and broke, the glass panel outside Mrs. Weinberg’s office. Mr. Vaiselberg put tape on it to make sure it wouldn’t get worse, and a replacement panel was ordered. Later that day, The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l came in with his driver, and as he often did, stopped by to say hello.
I was there when he walked in and saw the broken glass. His smile disappeared and was replaced with a concerned look. “What happened”?, he asked. He began to touch the glass. “When will this be fixed?” Mrs. Weinberg told him it was being taken care of. It didn’t help. He walked to the other side and back, visibly worried. It was only when the Menahel, Rabbi Herzberg, came out and reassured him that it was a priority that he settled down.
Don’t get me wrong. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l had nerves of steel. You can’t create a community without being able to deal with seemingly insurmountable issues. However, broken glass can hurt someone. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was a mentsch in the purest sense of the word. He cared too much to just ignore the danger.
When raising children, we need to lead by example. If a Hatzalah ambulance goes by, we need to stop and say a kapitel of Tehillim. Our children will take notice and it will become ingrained in their Neshomos. We need to call up someone who is sick, and let our children see, and hear us, wish them a Refuah Shelaima. Taking our Kinderlach to a nursing home is a wonderful way to do this as well. Show them you care.
When I was twenty years old, I was already a 7th grade Rebbe in the Yeshiva. Since I had no beard, I looked really young – actually I looked like one of the boys. Whenever I went to a Bar Mitzvah, and the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was there, he would walk next to me and introduce me as “A star Rebbe”. I realized right away he was trying to make sure that people didn’t think I was one of the boys. It happened many times. Why did he do this? It’s because the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l cared. I taught a few of his grandchildren, and this special mentschlichkeit was passed down to them as well. If we want our children to be mentschen, we need to show them how it’s done.
The last question was, how to ensure our children are B’nai Torah? Over the last twenty years, the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l would stop by many classrooms to watch the children learning. I personally think it helped recharge his batteries… he would soak in the Torah learning. About eleven years ago, he asked my 4th grade class a question. “Why does Rosh Hashana come before Yom Kippur? Wouldn’t it be better if we first did Teshuva, and only then asked Hashem for a good year? Why would Hashem want to give us a good year if we’re full of Aveiros?”
As is typical with 4th graders, they all raised their hand with various answers. Some were on topic. Some were not. I’m not sure that all the boys even knew why they were raising their hands. Everyone else was, so why not? The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l had no problem with this. If the boy didn’t have a good answer, he would smile and say, “Close”. I was thinking, “Close? The boy made no sense!” The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l was unfazed.
After a few more tries, he told the boys, “Rosh Hashana is when we acknowledge and crown Hashem as king! It’s not about asking for a great year, it’s telling Hashem I love you! You’re my king and I need you!” It wasn’t a Dvar Torah – it was the Rosh Yeshiva’s way of living. His excitement was off the charts and the boys loved it. When he left the room, one of the boys said one word. “Wow.”
That’s right. It was “Wow!” The love for Torah was obvious and contagious. We need to get excited about Torah, and that excitement will trickle down. The Rosh Yeshiva zt”l loved every second of learning, and it didn’t matter who was learning!
Even when the boys played outside, the Rosh Yeshiva considered it a part of Torah. He would stand outside with his trademark smile and watch for a minute. He didn’t have time to spare, every second was so important. However, watching Yiddishe Kinderlach playing was pure Nachas.
At my son’s Bar Mitzvah last year, he came in to dance. As the band played, he was having the best time. The funniest part is, as people were getting tired, they were leaving the dance floor. In his nineties, the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l outlasted most of them!
This is how you create B’nai Torah. You mold them. You fill them with excitement for Torah, Mitzvos, and, yes, even dancing and ball playing. Everything you do is with Simcha and happiness. I never saw the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l wake up in the morning, but in my mind, he was the epitome of Yisgaber K’Ari. He came into every day as if it was the only day. If we have that mentality, our children will become B’nai Torah as well!
Although the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l is not with us anymore, his lessons and attitude live on. We should be Zoche to raise Ehrlicher B’nai Torah, with Middos Tovos and a love for Yiddishkeit. That’s what the Rosh Yeshiva zt”l would want.
Have a good Shabbos.
Is there a problem with using a non-Jewish babysitter? My friends seem to think my husband & I are horrible people because we do, but it’s really necessary. The alternative of sending him to a playgroup is too expensive, and ends too early. Is there a problem with using a non-Jew to watch my children? Name Redacted - Cedarhurst
Is there a problem? Well that depends on what you want your child exposed to. When my wife and I had our first child, we agreed to only have Jewish babysitters watch our children. Although we were lucky enough to have many awesome experiences, there were some pretty scary ones as well. B”H we caught them on our nanny cam and resolved the matters quickly.
Crazy experiences can happen with anyone, Jewish or not, and that’s why parents need to be extremely vigilant. Nonetheless, I feel that a Jewish babysitter is a far better option. At a young age, a child is so impressionable. The way this person interacts, speaks, and even plays with your children, can have long-lasting effects.
Let’s face it, raising children isn’t cheap. Actually, it’s quite expensive. In a few weeks, I’m going to share a very interesting question about children and costs. Suffice it to say, you need to separate expenses into at least two main categories - necessities and luxuries. I’m not going to go into detail, but having a Jewish babysitter seems to me to be a necessity.
I don’t believe your friends think you’re horrible people because of your decision, rather, they disagree with you. There have been many stories circulating about babysitters feeding kids non-kosher food, letting them watch inappropriate material, and more. Leaving your child with a non-Jewish babysitter should not be your first option.
If it’s any consolation, I know many people that have had non-Jewish babysitters and their children have turned out wonderfully. Additionally, I do understand that there are times or situations where one doesn’t have a choice but to use a non- Jewish babysitter. I’m just not a gambling man.
The below suggestions are not only for non-Jewish babysitters, but for Jewish as well. Anytime anyone is near your children, including a housekeeper, contractor, plumber, gardener and so on, you must be vigilant.
Last year, we discussed some Seder hints. This year, we'll try building on it.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful and meaningful Pesach. This year in Yerushalayim!
First of all, thank you for these wonderful emails. They are a huge part of our Shabbos table. Our question is concerning my son’s choice of Yarmulkas. I grew up wearing a black velvet yarmulke that covered a large part of my head. My son has begun wearing the ones they give out at Bar Mitzvahs to Yeshiva. Should I be fighting this? Will he grow out of it? Thanks for your help. - D & L Far Rockaway
Rabbi Ross. Shabbos has become really difficult over the past few years. My older boys, ages 12, 9 & 7, insist on playing games that I never did as a child on Shabbos. They play football in the backyard, basketball on the block, baseball in the street, and all sorts of boards games that I always thought were forbidden. They also change into regular clothing as per my wife, but refuse to change back for Shul. I’m very unhappy about this, but my wife insists that unless I give them another option, I can’t take it away, since they’ll resent Shabbos. What do you think? David
David, I thought about this question for many weeks, and I am truly stumped. Years back, I remember playing games like Sorry, Monopoly, and chess with my siblings, and once in a while playing outside in the playground. We never played sports. Then again, living in the city, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to play.
Nowadays, kids have easier access to fields, equipment and more. As you pointed out, making an issue out of playing outside can backfire. Your children can c”v come to resent Shabbos, and associate it with frustration and restrictions. In order to simplify the solution, we need to break down the main issues.
A) Is it okay for children to dress down on Shabbos? While some families wouldn’t even consider it, others don’t see a problem. In every community, “dressing down” can mean something totally different. To a mother from one Yeshiva, dressing down means black pants and a white polo. A different Yeshiva might call that Shabbos clothes. They would call a tank top and shorts “dressing down”. In either case, is dressing down OK?
B) Is it OK for children to play organized sports on Shabbos? Whether playing ball in a backyard, or on a basketball court. Is this ok?
C) What are alternative activities for kids to do on Shabbos?
Believe it or not, this actually won’t be a long article, since the solution is really quite simple. There are two main ingredients that we need to juggle. Giving Shabbos respect while not making Shabbos a burden. Our goal as parents is to find the proper balance for each child.
I’ve listed some ideas that might help you find that balance. Wishing you Hatzlacha!
Rabbi Ross. I know you were supposed to be emailing an article about Shabbos afternoon. However, I was wondering if in honor or Purim, you could discuss children and alcohol. I’m worried that my boys who are in high school, might drink on Purim. I’ve heard this can have serious consequences. Should we just keep them home? Sarah L.
I was going to share an article about Shabbos this week, but you are correct. It might be better to discuss alcohol, since Purim is around the corner.
I would like to think that the situation has improved over the past few years. Hatzalah and a few other organizations have been running amazing campaigns to raise awareness on the dangers of drinking.
There are some Yeshivas and Rebbeim that make jokes about this. I had a Rebbe that said, “Drinking is to Purim what oxygen is to people.” I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that alcohol overconsumption can cause serious injury or death, c”v.
I would like to share some Purim tips that I’ve come up with over the years. Enjoy, and as always, please let me know your thoughts.
Children are allowed to drink alcohol for religious purposes in many states with parental supervision and state-specific requirements. You would have to check the particular laws of your state, but if your son’s school gives them alcohol, (or looks the other way) they can land in some serious trouble. It might be a good idea to bring this to their attention.
Anyone (including dads and uncles) who is a bad drunk (violent, abusive, inappropriate, etc.) should not drink.
If you do drink on Purim, it should be as part of the Seudah. This way your children associate the drinking with the Mitzvah.
If you are planning to drink, (and I’m not condoning it), it should not be the focus of the day.
If by drinking, your wife will have a difficult time, you should probably not drink.
If your teenager wants to spend Purim in Yeshiva, you need to make it clear to him and the Yeshiva that he is forbidden from consuming anything with alcohol. Make sure it’s in writing to the Yeshiva.
I would suggest getting him an ÜBER (or a responsible mode of transportation) to and from Yeshiva, if you’re not driving him. Don’t let him go with friends.
If your older teenager wants to have a L’Chaim, make sure it’s after eating a nice amount of bread.
Purim should be a happy day. Try to make it a fun day for your kids.
There is a new concept going around for younger kids. Instead of giving Shalach Manos to a few friends, the class gets together at one house and they exchange bags. Some classes exchange one candy/nosh in lieu of a Shalach Manos bag. As sweet as this sounds (pun intended), I’m not sure if it’s the point of Purim. Although it’s inclusive, it’s also more expensive and possibly inconvenient. I am not sure what to make of it. Many Rebbeim have shared with me that they are uncomfortable with it.
The Purim Seuda should include lots of fun, singing and perhaps even Purim games, which focus on Purim themes/mitzvos.
In anticipation of Purim, let your kids be involved in the shalach manos and costume preparations. It might also be a fun idea to let them make signs or pictures to decorate the door/house.
Any other great ideas? Please feel free to post them on the blog.
Have a Freiliche Purim & a good Shabbos
It was a little over a year ago when Yidparenting began. Originally meant for a small group of parents, it has, Baruch Hashem, blossomed into an article read by many people weekly. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed a certain disturbing trend which I would like to address.
There are many types of Jews. Some men wear a Gartel when they Daven, some don’t even wear a hat. Some women wear a sheitel, some a tichel, and some don’t cover their hair at all. Nonetheless, they’re all still Jews.
Sometimes we need to take a step back and understand that we’re all on the same team. You might be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Allow me to explain. About three months ago, I began receiving emails that really bothered me. Here’s a sample of a few of them:
“I am greatly confused about your Shul article. Who cares if the kids go to Shul? Half of the adults don’t Daven. This is a non-issue. People need to chill out a bit, being overly religious becomes fanatical.”
“I can’t believe you’re advocating kids having smart phones. They are tools of the Yetzer Hara! I’m quite disgusted!”
“Please write an article about girls dressing more Tzniusdik in the street. It’s really horrible!”
“I’m writing regarding your article about music. Do you really think it’s a bad thing for kids to listen to non-Jewish music? What’s the problem with it? What’s next – wearing a shtreimel?”
My Bubby, A”H, used to tell me, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” If other Jews are not 100% like you, does that make them wrong? Aren’t we supposed to be understanding? I have seen Gedolai Yisrael talking to Jews that were not religious. They didn’t seem to be judging them. Does sending your son to a particular Yeshiva make him a better Jew?
On the flip side, if there is a Jew that wants his son to wear a black hat, why does it bother you? I was flabbergasted when I got a call last week from a friend who told me, “Frummies are taking over the 5 towns!”
How does this relate to parenting, you might ask? It’s pretty simple. Good parents don’t judge other people. They teach their children to be tolerant of others, and they lead by example. Making a comment, or even rolling your eyes when someone is different than you, is a horrible idea.
Let’s work together, in unity, to bring Moshiach. Being understanding of others is a great starting point, and smart parenting. Next week, the article will address a fascinating question about Shabbos activities. I hope you all enjoy.
Have a great Shabbos
Last week, we began discussing the dangers of children and social media. We left you with the following 4 questions:
To reiterate, this e-mail is directed at parents who allow their children to utilize social media on their electronic devices. I’m not judging. I’m not condoning. I’m simply offering some guidelines and hints that can help both you and your children learn to use social media in a safe, responsible, and appropriate fashion.
Comments will not be posted this week until after Shabbos.
Hi Rabbi Ross. After reading your emails for the past few months, my wife and I wanted to ask your opinion about something. We know that you are connected to two worlds, Chinuch and technology. Using your understanding of both, what do you think the best way to monitor our 13 year old daughter, who is using Instagram and Facebook? She gets all annoyed when we check up on her and ask to see her account, yet we think as parents we need to stay on top of this. What are your thoughts? Eli K. - Brooklyn
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.