Rabbi Ross. My son’s last report card was absolutely horrendous. He is in 6th grade, and his grades dropped in almost every subject. When my husband and I sat down to speak with him, he blamed the teachers, the school and even his friends. There was no remorse and he refused to take any of the blame. We’re at a bit of a loss. He’s always been a strong student, and we’re shocked not only by his grades, but also by his nonchalant attitude. What should be our response? Malkie – Boro Park
Something seems off about this question. As I’ve repeated many times, I am not a psychologist, nor the son of a psychologist (although my father is awesome). However, it seems odd that you didn’t notice any changes in your son before this report card came. Usually, when a boy starts slumping in school, parents notice a change in their attitude. Nothing seemed different?
Furthermore, if he has always done well, why didn’t the school notify you that there was a problem? You mentioned he dropped in almost every subject, well that’s a pretty big warning sign. You didn’t get a phone call from the school or even a teacher? I completely understand that the school probably has a lot going on, but if they didn’t contact you at all during the semester, something is wrong.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s do some detective work. Without knowing your son, it’s really hard to give a helpful answer, but I can certainly give some suggestions. Obviously, the ideas below are just that, suggestions. You and your husband need to discuss a plan of action before sitting down with your son. As my grandfather used to tell me, a fool speaks and then thinks about the consequences. A smart person thinks about the consequences and then speaks.
Wishing you Hatzlacha and a good Shabbos
Hi. My son is extremely resistant to writing Thank You cards now that his Bar Mitzvah is over. He says he wants to call the people up and say thank you, since it’s more personal and saves time. It seems to me that he’s just being lazy, but I’m wondering if this is a battle I want to have. Thanks for your help. Chanie - Monsey
What’s a thank you card? I’m kidding of course. I deal with a lot of Bar Mitzvah boys, and I’ve heard all the complaints. “It’s boring and annoying.” “Why can’t people just give a gift and I’ll say thank you at the Bar Mitzvah?” These days we live in an age of electronics and instant gratification. Writing thank you letters is, as one of my Talmidim put it, “Monotonous”.
Hakoras Hatov is one of the cornerstones of Yiddishkeit. We make Brachos to thank Hashem all the time, and one of the first things that a child learns is to say Modeh Ani in the morning. If children learn to say “thank you” at a young age, they mature faster and learn to appreciate others. Not only will parents appreciate this, but it’s a great tool for marriage.
The flip side is, handwriting is slowly becoming a lost art, a thing of the past. As we rely more and more on computers and electronic media, having good penmanship is not emphasized. Even the kids that have nice handwriting, don’t usually have the patience to write for an extended period of time. This brings us back to your question.
Is it worth the battle? I don’t think so. I’ve heard of Bar Mitzvah boys paying their siblings to write the thank you letters for them, which is a fair compromise idea. It teaches the Bar Mitzvah boy the importance of saying thank you, and the recipients won’t know the difference. I once got a typed thank you letter, and I thought that was quite odd. Yes, the boy signed it on the bottom, but it felt wrong.
However, your son has offered a great alternative, in my opinion. He’s showing that he understands the importance of Hakoras Hatov, and is taking the initiative. Many boys would just say, “I don’t want to write them”, and yet he’s giving you a solution. Not only that, but it’s a very creative solution. It seems very personal, and I wouldn’t be insulted if a Bar Mitzvah boy called me to thank me for a present.
Obviously, there has to be some ground rules. No leaving messages. No texting. Calls should have some substance (“Thank you so much for the beautiful watch! I wear it on Shabbos and I really like it!”). He must speak slowly and clearly and make sure that it sounds sincere.
I’m sure that there are many people that will disagree with this, and they are entitled to their opinions. As you pointed out so eloquently in your question, it’s all about choosing battles. If your son is coming to you with a viable solution, I think it’s important to at least acknowledge his attempt, and discuss it.
As a side point, I’ve noticed that I usually get thank you cards quite a few months after the event. It’s understandable, since most Bar Mitzvah boys are quite busy between Yeshiva and homework. According to a few people that I’ve spoken with, one year is the limit. If anyone out there has any insights, feel free to comment.
Have a great Shabbos.
Dear Rabbi Ross,
My 9-year-old son has the world’s worst temper. He gets so upset about the silliest things and goes absolutely crazy. When it’s in the house my kids watch him and learn from him (he’s the oldest) and in public I’m so humiliated. I’m really at wits end. Counseling hasn’t helped except to hurt our budget. Please advise us. Private – Far Rockaway
We’ve discussed this a few years ago. I’m redoing the blog on the site so it’s easier to search questions. In any case, your son is one of many that have this problem. This is truly one of the hardest parts of being a parent; trying to prevent the moody kid from affecting the easy-going ones and overall atmosphere in the home. I don’t need to tell you how frustrating it can be, both to the parents and the siblings.
Most importantly I will tell you “This too shall pass.” I’m sure you feel like you’re losing it, but he will mature and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief. It won’t happen overnight, but the incidents will become less frequent as time passes. There are many tricks you can try, but the fact remains that it’s really a waiting game. You’ll have to wait for him to mature, after which he’ll be able to understand himself and his moods better.
I can easily spend a page or two commiserating with you, (as can many other parents.) Although there is no easy fix, there are a few things that can make dealing with him a little more bearable.
On a side note, I would like to point out one thing that I’ve heard from many parents. Although electronics (iPad, tablet, etc.) might seem great for calming your son down and distracting him, it can actually have the reverse effect. Something to think about.
You also mentioned that counseling didn’t help. Maybe you need a different counselor or therapist? It’s also worth keeping in mind that it might take some time before you see results. 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.