Dear Rabbi Ross. Over the past few months, you have helped so many parents with all types of problems. We decided to add a fun one to the mix. Our oldest son (NAME REDACTED) is 14 years old, and he’s a sweet and well behaved mentsch. Recently, he has started listening to non-Jewish music, and it’s driving us crazy. The lyrics are inappropriate, the singers are disgusting role models, when the girls sing it’s Kol Isha, and the weirdest part is, it sounds horrible. We are worried, not only for our son, but for the younger ones as well. Should we stop this? If so, what’s the best way? Thanks in advance. A & C Lesser - Brooklyn
It was just a few years ago that I was relaxing and listening to the Beatles and Abba’s greatest hits. Non-Jewish music used to be much simpler and safer. I agree with your opinion that non-Jewish “music” these days is just horrible. As a musician, I try to be open minded about all types and genres of music, but every once in a while, there are times when I cringe even when I hear certain “Jewish songs.”
Then again, I’m sure many people felt the same way when the Beatles came out. Music is a funny subject, as it is constantly evolving. It seems that children have a way of developing tastes in music that drive parents crazy. In any case, it seems from your question that more than one thing is bothering you. Not only are you bothered by his choice of music, but the religious aspect concerns you as well.
It’s important to understand that every family is different when it comes to music. There are some very Yeshivish families that only listen to Jewish music, and there are modern families that couldn’t care less. There are even some families, that disapprove of the more “upbeat” Jewish songs which often sound like (or imitate) secular music! You son might come from a Yeshivish family, but if his friends listen to other types of music, it won’t be long until he gets hooked as well.
In any case, it’s much easier to figure things out if you separate the issues. Let’s start with the religious part. There are different opinions as to whether listening to women sing from a recording is prohibited. There are many variables involved, and as always, you should let your son ask the Rav of your shul. Telling your children, “You shouldn’t be listening to this type of music and it’s Halachically wrong”, is not a very good idea. It just causes resentment for Yiddishkeit.
Incidentally, the above holds true for many other things. If your children are doing something you don’t approve of, feel free to discuss it with them. Don’t make everything into a religious issue, otherwise your children might associate Yiddishkeit with negativity.
Instead of giving solutions or ideas this week, let’s try and fully understand the problem. There is a certain appeal that non-Jewish music holds over all children. It’s fun, original, and is in English. Yes, there are fun Jewish songs, and some are in English, but originality isn’t one of our stronger points these days. As one of my non-Jewish friends told me, “90% of Jewish music sounds the same.”
A very popular Jewish producer told me, “Every singer asks me to make their music different.” Our music is supposed to be Heartzig! It’s supposed to have a special “Ta’am” or flavor. We’re trying too hard to imitate non-Jewish music, and ironically, it’s causing more children to stop listening. End of rant.
Here are some things to think about:
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Dear Readers. Last week, we discussed how to decide which track your kids should be placed into in Yeshiva. This week, we’re going to IY”H focus on ways to motivate your children to learn better. This pertains to both Hebrew and English subjects.
Let me begin by being very clear about something. It’s the job of the Rebbe/teacher to motivate your child. The fact that we’re discussing pointers in no way should change that detail. If you feel that your child is not being motivated properly or has no desire to succeed, you need to have a serious discussion with the Rebbe or teacher in question.
Nonetheless, as parents, we understand that there are times that our children might occasionally need a bit of a jumpstart. Below are a few ideas that you can try - understanding of course, that some approaches may work better than others.
Wishing you continued Nachas from all of your your children.
Dear Rabbi Ross. My wife and I truly appreciate your articles, and we really value your opinions. Since you’re a Rebbe in a Yeshiva as well, we wanted your thoughts on an important Chinuch Issue; namely which track our child should be in. As you well know, there are usually multiple tracks in most Yeshivos. The higher track usually has the serious Rebbe, the lower track has the fun or younger Rebbe. Our son going into 6th grade wants to be in the lower track, but he really should be in the higher one. Does it matter? Should we ask the Yeshiva to change him over? Does he really need the extra hour of learning every day? Or should we let him have a fun year? Thanks in advance! Robert – 5 Towns
Robert, you are asking a very loaded question. There are so many variables involved in choosing a class for your children. In order to keep this answer organized, let’s break it down.
1) What’s best for your child? If he is capable of being in an advanced class, there are many additional skills he can gain. Typically, Yeshivos put a solid Rebbe with this top Shiur, and the goal is to learn on a stronger level. However, even if your son is academically capable, it does not mean he is on at the correct emotional level. If he spends the year dreaming about the “Fun” class, not only won’t he have a fun year, but he won’t be learning either.
2) Who are his friends? The “Chevra” that your son hangs out with will have a tremendous impact on his growth. This doesn’t mean that one track has a better group than the other ones. It just means that you have to know who your son’s friends are. You’re not necessarily looking for the strongest students, rather you’re looking for the kids that will be good influences or have stable homes.
3) Who should he NOT be hanging out with? There’s always that one kid who is just not a good match for your son. This isn’t a “bad” kid, but one that either has a personality conflict with your son, is a negative influence, or bullies him (whether physically or emotionally). Although there are ways to deal with these issues, better to avoid them in the first place.
4) What is the yeshiva’s policy? Every Yeshiva is different. However, there is one thing they all agree on. When parents get overly involved, it almost always backfires. Although you mean well, when you start requesting specific classes or Rebbeim, the Yeshiva will be quite unhappy. If the Yeshiva does give in to you, you should understand they won’t switch your son back if you decide it was a mistake. It’s almost always a one-time deal.
Now that we’ve gone over the main points, let’s take a step back. If your son has been with the same group of boys for a while, switching him isn’t a great idea. If there are extenuating circumstances it’s understandable, but otherwise, leave him where he is.
If your son is asking to switch, you have your work cut out for you. If he’s asking to switch because the other Rebbe is more fun, you need to tell him something like this: “Some Rebbeim are more fun, some are less. We can’t switch around to get specific Rebbeim every year; that’s not the way it works. However, we’re very proud that you want to enjoy your learning, and we will work with you to make this a great year!”
Whatever the reason, keep in mind the following. Under no circumstances should you ever speak badly regarding a Rebbe to other parents. Additionally, if you think that a boy is not a good match for your son, don’t discuss this with other people. You can ask a previous Rebbe or Menahel for their opinion, but leave it at that. Speaking Lashon Hara is not a good start to raising a Ben Torah.
Lastly, I wanted to point out that I strongly disagree with your implication that a younger Rebbe is more suited to teaching Torah. I’ve been a Rebbe for over 20 years, and I know of many excellent Rebbeim that are young and old. Just because a Rebbe is younger does not mean he understands children better or will communicate better with them.
With age comes wisdom. Obviously there are certain Rebbeim that could use a nice retirement party (the kids would be happy to set it up), but to base your opinion of a Rebbe based on his age seems arbitrary. To quote Ronald Reagan when his opponent mentioned how old he was, “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience!”
In next week’s article, we’ll discuss approaches for how to motivate your kids if they are not enjoying the class. (If your child is having issues with his Rebbe/teacher, you can click here to read a previous article discussing it.)
Wishing you all much Hatzlacha with your children!
Rabbi Ross. I have six children ranging in ages from 17 through 5. Frequently, I need to ask the older ones to watch the younger ones since my husband and I both work. My older kids constantly complain that they should not have to watch their siblings. Since they’re living in my house, and they are my kids, I don’t agree. We decided to ask and follow your opinion since we read your articles every week. Thank you in advance. Esther - Flatbush
Thank you for your vote of confidence. However, I’m not that comfortable being a decision maker; these articles are designed to assist, not replace, your parenting. Nonetheless, I have seen this question many times over the past few months, so we’ll try to figure out a solution.
There are many parents who believe that the older children should certainly be expected to help out with watching the younger siblings. Many parents feel that it is only fair for them to help out as a way of returning the favor to their parents for having raised them. Additionally, helping out with watching younger siblings is a simple matter of Kibbud Av V’aim. I have a few concerns with those parents who rely on those rationales:
Additionally, it is okay and certainly a good idea to let your children know that a family is like a team, where everyone pitches in. Being part of a family means that we are all responsible to help out and be there for one another. However, the parents should be acting as the “Captains”, so to speak, in which they are the ones to most often take charge and show responsibility for all.
Remember, the phrase “Mom knows best”, is kind of true. If you get the feeling that your kids don’t want to help with the siblings, never force it. It’s cheaper to hire a babysitter than to spend thousands of dollars on family counseling.
Something else to think about, is that your second-to-oldest might be better than your oldest at watching the younger ones. This is somewhat typical, and it’s what I like to call the “Firstborn Mentality.” It would not be a good idea to even verbalize this. You can simply compliment the one helping out, and mention “Everyone has different talents, you are really great with your siblings!”
Additionally, it’s important to give special time to the older kids. Remind them that the reason that they are being treated as adults is because they have proven that they are mature, amazing, older siblings. It is also so important that you express to your children how much you appreciate their help. Don’t assume that they know how much they are appreciated and valued.
B”eH ,may we continue to Shep Nachas from all of our children.
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.