Rosh Chodesh Tamuz just passed, and we’re approaching the three-weeks again. It’s the time of year when my wife and I become all confused. It’s supposed to be a sad time and there are certain restrictions that we observe. No one seems to take this seriously. Camps have workarounds and the non-musical music is just as jazzy. How do we impart to our children the importance of this time period? David – Far Rockaway
I answered a similar question a few years ago. I agree with what you’re saying, to a point. To say, “No one seems to take this seriously” is certainly generalizing and is incorrect. Camps don’t have workarounds. They ask questions to Rabbonim and are told what they should and should not do. They don’t say during the Nine Days, “It’s too hot, let’s go swimming!” They speak to the camp Rav and the camp doctor, and then make the appropriate decisions.
The music point is one that’s discussed quite frequently. To go into detail is beyond the scope of this article, but it’s not so simple. There are many questions that can be asked. Are drums considered a musical instrument? Is prerecording voices and synching them to a beat allowed? In either case, these are questions that need to be decided by your Rav.
The primary question that you asked, though, is, “How do we impart to our children the importance of this time period?” That’s a fair question. Below are a few points I would like to make that might help answer your question.
In the Zechus of your wonderful parenting, may we be Zoche to experience the coming of Moshiach.
Rabbi Ross. I know that you are involved with a local baseball league, and we have a question about that. Our 5th grade son is currently in a similar league and is a horrible player. He can’t make any plays in the field, and he strikes out pretty much every time he comes to the plate. He begs us not to sign him up, but we have no other options. Baseball requires the least talent of all the sports, and we want him to have at least one sport he can play. In case you think his teammates pick on him, they really don’t. They always tell him “Nice try” and encourage him. We think he should stick this out, but he wants to quit. What’s the best play? Lauren – Kew Gardens
I am impressed that you understand your son is a weak player. In our local league, many parents with sons who are extremely weak players still give them strong ratings. This hurts our rating system since those teams end up mismatched, and then these same parents complain that the teams aren’t fair. Some of the ratings were actually quite funny. We had a parent rate their child (who is an extremely weak player) a 10 out of 10. She explained later, “He has such wonderful middos—I couldn’t give him a lower number!”
You make a few valid points. First of all, baseball requires the least amount of talent to play at a basic skill level. Almost any child can be taught to catch a ball, stop a grounder, and hit a baseball. When parents tell me “My son is just clueless and can’t really play,” I always disagree. Almost every child can be taught baseball at an elementary level.
There are two ways to foster these basic skills. The obvious way is to spend time playing with him. This even includes having friends come over and play, having a catch, or even watching a game together. Alternatively, you can hire someone to work with him on these skills. If he’s not athletic, he probably won’t become an all-star but he will develop basic fundamentals and enjoy playing the game.
Most important is his attitude. If he refuses to play and just stands in the field doing nothing, you have a problem. You can’t force a child to play ball if you know he won’t actively participate. If your son wants to play, spends time practicing, and isn’t a good player, kids will understand. If however, he doesn’t care about the game, the other kids will be a lot less tolerant.
This brings us to a question that has been debated for many years in Little Leagues across the U.S. At what age should children that aren’t able to make even basic plays continue to be on the team. Certainly in 1st through 3rd grades all kids should play. I’ve noticed that once the boys hit 4th grade, there is a large discrepancy between the boys that can and cannot play. Here’s an example. I was watching a 4th grade game where there was a pop fly to right field. The fielder got completely confused, didn’t come close to catching it, and then threw to first when the runner was already on the way to 3rd.
Even though the team was tolerant and sweet, (they lost the game), the coach told me that they were frustrated with this boy. Therein lies the problem. While you’re correct that they boys are being nice to your son, they are probably a bit frustrated. It’s understandable if your son is a weak player but is trying hard to win. It’s not so simple if your son just wants to be on a winning team and doesn’t take the game seriously.
A few people have e-mailed our league asking why we have playoffs and why we keep scores. “Let the kids just play friendly matchups!” is a common request. As sweet as that sounds, it’s not baseball. We’ve had other people ask us why there are strikeouts. When does it end? Are we at the point that we’re so worried about children’s feelings that we need to stop all competitive sports? I dislike when games end in a tie. Kids need to learn how to lose and even how to win. We’re not preparing our children very well for the future if we’re always “protecting” them.
I’m sure that many people will disagree with this, and I’m ok with that. My personal feelings are, if your son shows no interest in playing baseball, perhaps it isn’t the right sport. When you have leagues in baseball, it’s inherently somewhat competitive. If your son has no interest in playing, I would agree that he should not have to play.
What he should be doing to get exercise is something discussed in a different article. I would agree that you shouldn’t call it quitting. Rather, tell him that if he really feels strongly that he doesn’t want to play, he should come up with a different activity. Alternatively, he should agree to at least play baseball with your husband in the backyard.
Wishing you hatzachah and a good Shabbos.
My husband has been telling me that I’m overdoing it with the kids and guilt trips. It sounds funny, but it’s family tradition. I guilt our children into doing what needs to be done. People might think I’m a horrible parent, but my parents did it to me and my siblings, and we turned out OK. What’s wrong with a little guilt? Esther - Brooklyn
Before I respond to this e-mail, I would like to clarify something. Using the excuse “My parents did it to me”, just doesn’t cut it. Can you demonstrate that, because of the way your parents made you feel, you are a better person for it? Perhaps if your parents hadn’t made you feel guilty you would have been happier, or more successful! I’m not a big fan of this logic.
In any case, your question was “What’s wrong with a little guilt?” Being a successful and nurturing parent obviously includes several elements. There is what I like to call the physical/spiritual aspect, which includes sending him to Yeshiva, helping her Daven, providing them with food and clothing. You also have what I call the responsibility aspect. This includes ensuring that your child is safe and well-behaved and treats others with respect.
Another aspect is what I call the emotional aspect, which includes nurturing your child’s emotions. One difficult challenge for parents is raising kids without instilling guilt in their psyches. What is guilt? Guilt is a common feeling of emotional distress that signals us when our actions (or inactions) have caused, or might cause, harm to another person, in any way. While there can be situations where guilt is useful, when it comes to children, not so much.
How do parents make their children feel guilty? Here are some common instances.
“You know what? I’ll do it myself!”
“I work so hard taking care of you, and this is the thanks I get?!”
“I’m like a slave to my own children. You’re making me so sad!”
Comments like these give the parents some control. One mother told me that the purpose of her guilt trips was not to motivate her children, rather, it made her feel better. I completely understand. I’m not saying I agree, but I understand. It gives her power in the situation.
Here are the issues that may arise if you continuously give your kids a guilty conscience. I’m not saying any of them will happen, only that it can. I’m pretty sure that if you give them a guilt trip occasionally, they’ll be fine. However, if you continuously load them with guilty feelings, here’s what can happen:
Let’s take a hypothetical scenario. You are doing homework with your 3rd grader and need help watching the baby for a few minutes. You turn to your 8th grade daughter who is frantically texting all her classmates, and ask, “Can you please watch the baby for a few minutes?” She replies, “I’m really taking care of something now, and I watch her all the time.” Should you…
As always, if you feel that you keep reverting to the guilt trip, you might want to consider speaking with someone (a mentor, a therapist, a good friend) for advice. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or a “horrible parent” as you wrote. Rather, it’s just making an effort to grow as a parent and develop a new skillset when raising your children.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. My son is a diehard sports fan. It’s actually quite ironic since my husband and I both don’t really care that much, but my son is completely addicted. He always wants to watch a game, and no season is safe. He watches every Yankees game, every Giants game, every Rangers game, and every Knicks game. The saddest part is, even if one of his favorite teams isn’t playing, he still finds a game to watch.
If that was it, I would probably be ok with it. He gets extremely intense during these games and won’t be disturbed. If his team loses, the world is ending. Homework? Not during games. Learning? Not a chance. If Maariv and Yankees conflict, he davens at what he calls the “Kotel” in the room where the game is playing. It seems to me that a twelve-year-old boy should be taking Davening a lot more seriously. My husband says your response will be the same as his - “Choose your battles”. Is he correct? Private - Woodmere
You husband is correct that I’m a big fan of “Choosing your battles”. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight any battles! Part of the parenting challenge is being able to figure out what battles to fight and when to fight them.
Let’s discuss your question. Your issue isn’t the fact that your son is a sports fan. It’s that he’s obsessed with sports. From the way you’re describing him, it seems that professional sports has taken over his life. I know of many children like this, and quite a few adults as well. It’s certainly not healthy for him for a few reasons. It can have a negative affect socially, and as you’ve noticed, it can cause him to become extremely moody. It doesn’t matter whether he’s watching these games online, using an app or on TV, too much is unhealthy.
You didn’t mention how long he’s been having this issue, but for arguments sake, let’s say it’s been happening for a year. I consulted a psychologist who understands this issue very well, and he seemed to think it’s a phase that some kids go through. Not the watching of professional sports, but the obsessive part. According to him, this obsessiveness will tone down after a year or two. If that doesn’t happen, he suggested that you speak to a professional counselor.
I have to admit, I was taken aback that he’s not willing to interrupt the games for Davening. I’m not sure how it got to this point, but there are two issues that should be dealt with immediately. First of all, there’s the fact that he’s not serious about his davening. He needs to understand that Davening is something special and it should never be on the back-burner. You can click here for an article about davening.
The second issue is somewhat obvious. If a child is watching a game and a parent calls him, he must stop watching to respond. Responses like “It’s almost over” or “I’ll be done in a minute” are completely unacceptable. When a parent tells a child to turn a game off, it can’t become a discussion. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the following. There is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed if your twelve-year-old child is deciding what games he is watching. In any case, here are some ideas that you can try out.
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.