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.
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.