Rabbi Ross. A common theme in your articles is choosing your battles. My husband and I are trying to figure out which battles are worth fighting so we can make the proper decisions. How do we know when to fight a battle and when to let something go? In case you were wondering, we have two girls ages 15, 11 and a 7year-old boy. Thank you for you Avodas Hakodesh. D.F. Far Rockaway
That’s a fair question, although I actually don’t need the ages or genders of your children to answer it. I do frequently say to choose your battles, and I think that choosing them wisely is one of the common denominators of good parenting. Actually, the word “battle” is incorrect, since the fact is, that you and your children are all on the same side. Nevertheless, there will be things that you will disagree about, and for the sake of simplicity we’ll call them battles.
In my opinion, there are three types of battles you’ll end up fighting.
School battles are usually behavior or grade based. For example, if your child didn’t do well on his test or missed doing his homework a few times. These are important, since they not only affect his grades, but also teach him responsibility. You should be fighting most of these within reason. If he wants to have a friend over, play on his iPod, or anything else, he needs to have his homework done first. When there is an upcoming test, he should be studying. If he insists that he already knows the material, you can tell him as follows. “I’m ok with you not studying at all, however, if you don’t get above a 90%, you have to spend at least an hour studying with me for the next one.” (The test score and amount of time are obviously flexible and should be based on the child’s abilities.) It’s always a good idea to involve the school when necessary. It’s very important that children realize that that their parents and the school are in constant communication.
Personal battles are the toughest of all three. Here are some examples of personal battles that I’ve seen parents fighting. Making beds, chewing with mouths open, babysitting siblings, bedtime, and so much more. It’s so hard to know when a battle is worth fighting, however I can share some tips that might help you decide.
Wishing you Hatzlacha and a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. I just came back from the doctor, and I’m shaking. He recommended that my son who’s in 2nd grade be medicated. He diagnosed him with ADHD and told me that it’ll take a while to figure out the correct dosage. I feel that he’s pushing medicine on my son as a way of controlling him. Isn’t it the Rebbe’s and teachers’ job to deal with this? You can reply to everyone, please leave my name off. Private – Cedarhurst
This is an excellent question, and I’ve received many similar ones over the past few years. The reason that I’ve been loath to reply is simply because every case is different. Therefore, please excuse me if this answer seems a bit vague.
When I was a young boy I couldn’t sit still in class. I was unorganized and had the attention span of a flea. My teachers diagnosed me with a disease called “Ants in the pants.” They didn’t really have a solution, but my teachers used to give me some space. Sure, I was yelled at and even punished, but looking back, I think they were just confused. What do you do with a child that can’t seem to focus?
Nowadays, Rebbeim and teachers are much more understanding. We are trained better and have more support from the administration. I vividly remember going to Rabbi Herzberg A”H in 1998 and asking what to do about a boy that couldn’t focus on any topic for more than 15 minutes. He replied, “If this was your son, what would you do?” “Well, I guess I would break down the subject into 15-minute increments.” He replied, “Great. He is yours. Make it work.”
My first solution was to stop learning every 10-15 minutes and shmooze with the boys about something for a short while. The problem was, the other boys were losing out. Therefore, I began sending him out of class on errands, for example, to get copies. That worked much better since the other boys had fewer interruptions. Nowadays, that solution rarely works, since there isn’t only one boy with ADHD in a class, there can be quite a few of them!
Now, let’s look at your question. You felt that the doctor was pushing medicine on your child. I have known certain doctors that were quick to medicate. That’s why it’s important to get a second opinion if you feel that way. Most doctors are very honest and are looking out for your child, and if they suggest medicating, they must feel that it’s necessary.
As a general rule, if your child is learning well in school, has friends, and the main issue is his or her behavior at home, I would hold off for a bit. This might not be that easy. If your child truly has ADHD, after a long day at school he can really get out of control. He’ll need to unwind and might be very difficult at home. Still, if you can manage it, it might be worth the effort.
However, if your child is disruptive in school, falling behind in his schoolwork, or is completely unmanageable at home, he should be medicated. There are many amazing options these days, and they can really help your child. He will be able to focus better, learn better, and will even behave better. Since every child is different, it can take some time for the doctor to find the proper dose, and he will probably want to speak to the Rebbe or teacher for their input as well.
I want to reiterate that every child is different. There are some kids that can deal with ADHD or OCD without any help, and others that need all the help they can get. If your child needs medicine and you don’t let them have it, you’re not helping them at all. On the other hand, if your son is just a little rambunctious and you quickly medicate him, you’re not doing him any favors either.
I would like to address the last point you made. It is certainly not the Rebbe’s or teacher’s job to deal exclusively with one child’s behavioral issues. We really do want every child to succeed. We do want to teach every child. However, we don’t want to babysit. You must understand that although discipline is a part of chinuch, it’s not something that we necessarily enjoy. When one child is constantly disrupting the class, it affects the education all of the other kids as well, and that’s not fair to them.
Wishing you Hatzacha.
My son is in 8th grade, and we are arguing about high school. He wants to go to REDACTED, and I feel that it’s not a great environment. The boys going there are not a good group, and we’re worried he’ll really fall apart. However, I want him going to a different local Yeshiva where some better boys are going. My husband disagrees and says he should go to an out-of-town Yeshiva. This has become somewhat of a sore point, and we need some input. We were hoping you can advise us a little bit since you are both an excellent Rebbe and a parenting expert, and you could shed some light on this situation. Thank you so much. K.D.
Thank you for your kind words. There is a famous story of a psychologist who wrote many parenting articles designed to teach parents to remain calm when dealing with children. Early one Sunday morning, a bunch of children were playing loudly in front of his house. He came running out of his house in his bathrobe screaming at them and wildly waving a cane at them. (This was obviously before the rise of cellphones, so this incident never went viral.) When confronted, this psychologist explained, “In theory, we should always talk calmly to our children. Realistically, I don’t have any, so I can preach away.”
I only mention this story since you called me a parenting expert. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an expert in parenting. I’ve seen fantastic Rabbonim and well-known psychologists give courses on parenting, and yet they are unable to deal with their own children. At the same time, there are many typical families that have no issues at all with their children. Therefore, I’m very wary of the title “parenting expert”. My methodology on parenting is based on years of watching and listening to some wonderful people, ranging from Rabbonim to parents in the Yeshiva.
In any case, your question is a very serious one. In my opinion, there are four main parts to choosing a high school.
The educational aspect is very important as well. You need to speak to current parents in the Yeshiva. What level are they learning on? If there are boys falling behind, what steps are taken to help them catch up? What AP classes do they offer? After 12th grade, where do the majority of boys go?
The 3rd part was regarding the Rebbeim and teachers. What type of Rebbeim are in this Yeshiva. Do they focus on Middos? Do the Rebbeim have a Kesher with the Talmidim? Does the administration make time to talk to the parents? What is the turnover for the English department? High turnover is always cause for concern.
The last part is, unfortunately, usually ignored by many parents. What does support at home have to do with High School? The answer is, everything! If your son is in a local Yeshiva, you need to be prepared. Carpool isn’t so much fun at 10:30 at night, but it will happen. Your son might come home some days stressed out. Starting at 7:30 and finishing more than 14 hours later can take a toll. He might need some downtime, which can be frustrating since you want to spend some time with him. If you feel that you might not be able to deal with this, an out-of-town Yeshiva is a great option.
I always suggest that parents speak to the Menahel of their current Yeshiva and their Rav before making decisions. Many parents have started giving their 8th graders the choice, which I think is a horrible idea. You can ask them for their input, but they’re in 8th grade! They should not be making decisions of this magnitude. The one last point I would like to make is as follows. I heard from a very prominent person (I didn’t get his permission to quote publicly, so I can’t use his name yet), that if you have a stable home, you should keep your kids local. If there are any issues in the house, let them go to an out-of-town Yeshiva. It’s something to think about.
Have a great Shabbos.
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.