I seem to recall that you wrote an article before Pesach with some great Yom Tov tips. I am not very good at the internet (except for shopping) and I could not find it. The Bedtime solution won't matter much this week, since Yom Tov will throw off bedtimes anyway. Could you resend the Yom Tov tips article? - Baila Pittman
Baila, thank you for the compliment. I have received a few similar requests, and I agree that the bedtime hints can wait. However, instead of simply resending, I'm going to modify it a little for Rosh Hashana. I hope this helps you all have a wonderful and enjoyable Yom Tov.
1) Try and keep everything age appropriate, if possible. Five-year-old children will not sit through multiple Simanim, and fourteen-year olds may not want to sing “Dip the Apple”, (though I love that song).
2) Seating arguments? Who should clear the table? It’s not worth getting aggravated. Do your very best to keep all the kids happy – even if they’re not being reasonable. Remember, trying new fruits is not a Halacha – don’t force your children to eat them (like starfruit or carob!). Additionally, you can make it into a game or challenge by guessing what they’ll taste like before you pass it around.
3) Try and be as prepared as possible during the meals to make everything seem more exciting. Once they are waiting for the honey to be passed around, or the apples to be sliced, they start to lose interest.
4) If you have age discrepancies, for example a fourteen-year-old and a five-year-old, it might be hard to find common ground. In this case, try splitting the table up. You can talk about the Shofar to the younger one while your spouse listens to the Divrei Torah.
5) Davening is very long during the Yomim Noraim. Instead of bringing your kids for the whole Tefila, set up a time that you will drop them off. Remember, better for the mother to Daven at home with the kids, than to Daven in Shul, while letting them run around. It’s also a good idea for the mother to let the children know (if they are able to understand) when she is about to daven shemoneh esreh and that she won’t be able to talk until she’s done. Incidentally, The Artscroll Rosh Hashana Machzor is wonderful and helps children have an understanding of some of the important Tefillos. For example, it is a good idea to sit with age appropriate children (younger elementary) and read through Nesanah Tokef inside, while explaining it to them.
6) Although hearing the Shofar in Shul is preferable, bringing your little children and shushing them can be counter-productive. Most shuls have a later Shofar blowing for women.
7) Rewarding the kids for questions and answers is a fantastic idea. If you’re using food, try to stay away from candies, as it hypes up the kids. The end result will be a few overtired and extremely hyperactive kids, moving around their chairs at supersonic speeds, while asking, “Are we there yet?”
8) There’s a reason why children should not be drinking alcoholic beverages. It’s not safe. I don’t even think it’s a good idea to pretend to give them alcohol (putting grape juice in the wine bottle). If you want to give them, make sure it’s just a little bit and tell them that when you they’re older, they can have a bit more.
9) This one is for the dads. Most of the women I know are frantically preparing for Yom Tov by shopping, cooking, cleaning, shopping, cooking, watching kids and shopping. (When I say shopping, I’m not talking shoe shopping online. I’m talking going to a supermarket with ten thousand other people, parking a mile away, and fighting for the last container of tomato sauce, while simultaneously watching the three younger ones.) Rosh Hashana is their chance to sit back and enjoy. Yes, we want the kids to enjoy. However, we can impart a great lesson if we tell the kids, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s help clean the table or serve, so Mommy can also relax for a few minutes!”
10) This one is for the moms. I’ve heard from a few mothers, that they let each child choose a favorite dish to be served on Yom Tov. This allows them to be involved in the meals, and helps them look forward to the seudos.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful and meaningful Yom Tov, and a K’siva Vachasima Tova!
Dear Rabbi Ross. I have 3 children, and I’m having serious bedtime issues. My oldest is a 13-year-old girl, and she refuses to go to bed at night. The younger 2 are now following in her footsteps, and I feel like we’re losing control. I’m open to all ideas. Shira - Brooklyn
It was only a matter of time before I had to respond to the bedtime question. Bedtime is such a finicky subject. There are so many variables, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the issue without knowing details of each situation. This will be another 2-part article, as I’d love to hear your input and ideas before giving a full response.
We all know that kids don’t like going to bed. Once they’re past 11 years old, they also don’t like getting out of bed. (Same deal with showers). The key to bedtime is consistency. There needs to be a specific bedtime per age group, and you must be firm about it. Once you start slipping, it will be virtually impossible to get any of your kids to bed, and it can seriously undermine your parenting in other areas.
Let’s begin by discussing recommended bedtimes. According to many doctors, children from 3-5 need an average of 10-13 hours of sleep, children 6-13 need an average of 9-11 hours, ages 14-17 need 8-10 hours. Obviously, these times can differ for every child, however, it gives us an idea of where to start.
One of the biggest problems with bedtime is the “older child syndrome.” This occurs when you have older kids who have no set bedtime, or a much later one. It’s so much more difficult to get the little ones down while the older ones are still up.
Another issue is medication. Many children take different medications to help them focus. A common side effect of these medications is insomnia, which can also contribute to bedtime battles. Thinking of giving melatonin? According to some pediatricians, it can be helpful if used correctly and with the right child. Giving too much melatonin will backfire, and it is also important to encourage quiet, relaxing time after they take it. (Remember to always discuss giving any kinds of medicine or vitamins with your doctor before doing so).
The hardest part of bedtime is the sanity for the parents. I remember fondly when my little kinderlach went to bed at 6:30, and I had a few quiet hours to get stuff done. Once you have a child in middle school, and certainly high school, all bets are off. As parents, we have two choices. We can either wait till our kids go to sleep before going to bed ourselves, or we can wish our older kids a good night and hit the sack while they’re still up.
Let’s begin by reiterating what we discussed last week. The most important tools for bedtime are consistency and structure. Once your children understand that there is a schedule, it’ll be much easier to get them into bed. We’re talking all ages here, from toddlers through pre-teenagers.
Basically, you want to have a routine for bedtime that is rarely changed. For example, you could have your 1st grader take a shower at 6:45, be in bed with teeth brushed at 7:00, and lights out at 7:15. If you have younger kids, you might prefer to start their routine earlier, and older ones later. The goal is, your children should understand what they are expected to do, and when they need to do it.
However, I would like to share some tips with you. As always, some of these tips might work great, others, not so much.
Wishing you all a good Shabbos, and an easy fast.
Rabbi Ross. My children are begging me for a cellphone. They have reasons ranging from, “Everyone else has one” to, “It’s easier to keep you updated.” My husband and I are quite hesitant, but they are very persistent. We were wondering how you felt about this issue. Ahuva – Teaneck N.J.
Ahuva, thank you for your question. This is one of most common questions I receive, and I held off on responding until my own kids began to ask for one. When children want something these days, the word “no” is no longer an acceptable answer. When they hear “no” they translate it to, “Ask 4,000 more times and maybe I’ll get a better answer.”
Why do kids want a cell phone? (I apologize in advance for the sarcasm). First of all, as you pointed out, everyone has one. It's a form of child abuse to not give your children something that everyone else has. Second of all, what if there's an emergency? Or they need to contact the proper authorities! Most importantly, they need to be able to text their friends. How else are they supposed to communicate?
To us, it seems foolish. What do kids, even kids in high school, need a phone for? They get on the bus, they go to school, and come back home. It's not just any phone that they want. Try giving them an “old school” flip phone, and you’ll hear true cries of agony. “How can I text?”
Obviously, it is beyond the scope of this article to fully appreciate all the pros and cons, but these are the primary ones. Let's go through the pros of giving them a phone:
Let's review the cons:
To make this discussion more interesting, many schools don't even allow phones. As a result, if you allow your child to bring in a phone for emergencies even if it's off, you're teaching him to disobey rules. If you think that your son is handing in the phone to the administration every day, I've got a bridge to sell you. Even if your son would be willing to, after a few weeks, the school will stop collecting them.
Getting back to your question, I can't really answer it. There are so many variables involved, that each family has to works best for them. However, I will certainly share some ideas that might assist you in making your final decision.
Have a good Shabbos!
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:
Last week, we discussed the issue of children listening to non-Jewish music. I received a lot of emails over the past few days, many expressing a strong opinion one way or the other. Some people were shocked that I seemed to imply that it's ok to listen to women singing, while others didn't understand what the problem is.
As per the Halacha, it is forbidden for men to hear women singing. However, there are circumstances in which it might be permitted. I will not elaborate except to repeat what’s been written many times in these articles. In case of doubt, ask your Rav.
If you have no problem with your children listening to all types of music, no one is forcing you to read this article. However, many people understand the amazing strength of music and the power and influence it can have. When your children listen to certain songs, it can have a very negative effect on their behavior or attitude.
Music is an integral part of Yiddishkeit. We sing beautiful songs throughout Tanach, we have a Sefer Tehillim, and music was a daily feature in the Beis Hamikdash. Yes, music can inspire us and raise us to great heights, if used properly. The reason we’re not supposed to listen to music at certain somber times of the year is because it makes us happy.
On the other hand, like many other things, there can be a serious downside. Listening to music that was composed with hate, jealousy, or any other inappropriate thoughts, can have a detrimental effect on you and your children. This doesn’t mean that all non-Jewish music is evil – it just means that you need to be very careful with that to which your children are exposed.
I have incorporated several of the suggestions and comments I received from you, and as always, some of these ideas might work for you better than others.
1) Try to expose your children to different kinds of Jewish music, starting from when they are young. You might enjoy a specific genre of music, but your children have their own preferences and should be given the opportunity to develop their own taste.
2) Let your kids have an MP3 player, once they show an interest in music. Help them load on songs from your computer. Obviously, this should be done with adult supervision and guidance.
3) They might choose their selections based on the way the first five seconds of a song sound. That's their prerogative. You can offer suggestions, but let them develop their own playlist.
4) Play music in your house frequently. Record players might be gone, (my kids used to call them giant CD’s), but you can easily set up a Bluetooth system. Having music playing when children are young helps them in many ways. They develop better rhythm, and have a more upbeat attitude (pun intended).
5) Children’s CD’s and music, such as the Marvelous Middos Machine, 613 Torah Avenue and Uncle Moishy, are fantastic, educational and entertaining. Especially in a car ride, there are some fantastic story tapes/music which children really enjoy. My kids’ personal favorite is the Golden Crown. However, I have also found that having music playing in the background while kids are playing, relaxes them and enhances the general atmosphere.
6) As they grow older and their (Jewish) music choices irritate you (“What’s wrong with the Rabbi’s Sons?”), try to be open minded. Making faces will just make whatever they’re listening to seem more appealing. However, it is okay to casually mention that it’s not your taste, or the kind of music that you find enjoyable.
7) If your older kids begin to listen to non-Jewish music which is inappropriate - perhaps glorifying violence, hatred, or immodesty - you can explain why it's a problem. One father told me he had the following conversation with his 15-year-old, and it worked. “Ari, I appreciate that you enjoy this song. However, here are the comments he made about Jews last year. Do you feel comfortable listening to his music, knowing he hates us?”
8) There is definitely an appeal to non-Jewish music. If your child really wants to listen to a certain popular song, it might not be worth the battle. Every case is different and you should ask your Rav for guidance.
9) If your child insists on listening to non-Jewish music, give him some choices. Pick some of the songs that you might have listened to growing up, and let him listen with you. At the very least, it will narrow the amount he's exposed to. Keep in mind this might not work if his mind is set on a specific singer or song.
10) Gershon Veroba has a few CD’s out called “Variations”. It's similar to Shlock Rock, but a little more “New age.” It might help get the itch out of the kids.
11) The best time to start your kids on a good, wholesome musical path, is on Shabbos. Sing Zemiros with excitement, and let them sing along. It doesn’t only have to be Shabbos songs. It can be any song which you think they might enjoy and get them involved. You can even take this one step further and try playing a game at the Shabbos table called, “Guess the song.” We enjoy playing this very often. I hum the intro to any Jewish song and the kids challenge each other to see who can name the song as quickly as possible.
Remember, many of us listened to what our parents considered horrible music, and we turned out OK. If you have no control over what your older child is listening to, don't turn it into an ongoing battle, or make it a public issue in your home in front of the younger children. You can insist that he respect your wishes and not play it loudly, or introduce such music to his siblings.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I appreciate that my weekly advice columns have been picked up and printed in several newspapers and other publications. If you are reading this article in a print media, that’s wonderful. However, you can subscribe to the emails by visiting www.yidparenting.com – this way you can comment on the blog and be a part of the discussion.
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.