Rabbi Ross. This might seem like a silly question, but I can’t get my teenager out of bed in the morning. My husband leaves to work early, and I have to nag, yell and argue to get a 14-year-old off his bed. It doesn’t matter if it’s Shabbos or a school day, it’s always a battle. He consistently comes late to Shacharis, if at all, and I’m really annoyed. Any ideas? Sarah – 5 Towns
I don’t think this is a silly question at all. On the contrary, this highlights a very important issue – namely, the responsibilities of high schools. As we all know, parenting can be a difficult task at times, and we try to avoid as many battles as possible. I understand Shabbos being an issue, but why isn’t the Yeshiva making a bigger deal of it on school days?
That’s the job of a good Yeshiva – to fight the battles that parents shouldn’t have to. When your son comes in late, his Rebbe should make a big deal about it, and he should be given a serious consequence. The ultimate goal would be that your son should come to you for help. Something along the lines of, “Mommy, can you please make sure I’m up on time in the morning?”
If the Yeshiva isn’t taking the initiative, call up the Rebbe. Let him know that you need him to help with this battle. If he’s not up to the task, involve the administration. Your tuition dollars should be working for you here.
There are some other things to think about as well. Is your son getting enough sleep? In a previous article, we discussed the importance of a good night’s sleep. You need to figure out when he’s going to bed and if he’s actually going to sleep. He should be getting a minimum of eight hours a night, possibly more.
If he’s not going to sleep on time, you need to figure out why not. Is he playing on an electronic device? Take it away at night. Is he up late doing school work? (Yes, I put that second for a reason!) See if you can get his homework load reduced. If he’s just “Chillin”, (I’ve heard that from a few boys already), make it clear that in order to “Chill” he must be able to get up on time.
Another way to get a teenager up, is in stages. If he needs to be up at 6:30, go into his room at 6:00 and open the shades. Leave the door open. At 6:15, turn on the lights, and move some clothing off the floor. If there’s no clothing on the floor, congratulations – you won that part of the game! With this approach, he’ll already be out of a deep sleep when the alarm goes off. It’s also important that the alarm clock is loud enough to be irritating, and far enough away from his bed that he needs to get up to snooze it.
In any case, on Shabbos morning (and every other morning if necessary), you can engage the sleep rule. If you child gets up late, explain to him that it must mean that he needs more sleep. As a result, his bedtime must be earlier. Obviously this will only work until a certain age.
Ideally, though, teenagers should be expected to get themselves up and ready in the morning, without help. Try explaining it to them in the following manner. If your son wants to be treated as a mature adult and be given the freedom to choose when he goes to sleep, then he must be mature enough to be able to wake himself up in the morning. If he needs parental help with morning wake -up, then it would seem that he needs parental help with going to sleep as well.
Most importantly, remember to choose your battles. There’s no reason to destroy your relationship with your son over this. Many kids go through the phase of not getting out of bed on time. This too shall pass. Hatzlacha!
Rabbi Ross. First of all, my husband and I greatly enjoy your articles. We are writing in because of something that we are confused about in regards to our children. The only time they listen to us quickly, is when we raise our voice. When my husband yells, it’s terrifying even to me, and he says that when I scream it’s ear piercingly loud. I don’t feel that we have a choice; they just don’t listen when we speak calmly. We would love your input. Shayna & Dovy - Brooklyn
It’s apparent that you understand that screaming or yelling is not conducive to a healthy home. When parents shout at their children, they are in essence telling them, “I’m out of control.” As your children grow older, they, too, will use shouting as a method of dealing with stressful situations. Obviously, this is not a message you want to impart to them.
Off the bat, I would tell you both to stop. Don’t scream. It’s really not worth it. If you have the urge to make a point by shouting, remove yourself from the situation. Believe it or not, your kids will be more nervous if you abruptly walk out of the room instead of reacting.
The real question is, why are your children not listening when you talk? Here’s an email from a different mother I received on the same subject:
I told her, “Please hang up your coat,” and she didn’t even look at me. I said it again louder, and she gave me a blank stare and said, “What?” So I screamed, “HANG UP YOUR COAT! HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU NEED TO BE TOLD EVERY DAY?! I’M NOT YOUR PERSONAL SLAVE!”
You need to read the last few lines a few times. Was there a better way the mother could have reacted? The problem was that her daughter ignored her the first time. That’s unacceptable. By repeating her request the second time, she had already lost her credibility. Is it okay for a child to ignore a parent? Of course not! That is precisely the issue that requires addressing!
In this above case, the problem was the mother being ignored. It could also be that your kids leave their toys all over the place and don’t take the initiative to help out, and you are super frustrated. If this is the situation, the issue would be that your kids are not cleaning up, and once again the yelling is an indication of a larger problem.
Whatever the reason, yelling is a horrible idea. Here are some of the negative impacts it can have:
1) It teaches your kids that screaming is acceptable.
2) You are allowing your children see you lose control.
3) You are unintentionally approving of the fact that they don’t respond to a normal voice.
4) Your children will eventually yell back – which will only exacerbate the situations.
Obviously, the best way to resolve this issue is to find the triggers. Realistically speaking, that’s easier said than done. In most cases there are many triggers, and not very many people can psychoanalyze themselves while dealing with children. Additionally, certain triggers can’t be helped. No matter how amazing of a parent you are, something will eventually set you off.
Let’s play a game. Here’s a common scenario, and some choices in how to deal with it. Please choose one.
One of your sons left the toilet seat down while going to the bathroom, which you cleaned 10 minutes earlier. Apparently, his aim leaves much to be desired, as the floor (and the seat) are wet. Upon viewing the carnage, what would you do?
A) Call in all of your sons and show them the floor. Then, in a voice that could shatter glass, scream, “Which one of you did this after I slaved cleaning it up?! Why would you leave the seat up?!” Were you dancing while you were going to the bathroom…how else is this mess even possible?!”
B) Call your sons down and say in a calm voice, “This is what I found when I came into the bathroom. Surely you understand why this is unacceptable. I’m extremely disappointed. I’m not going to ask who did this, rather I’m going to let the culprit clean up the mess and we’ll hope this doesn’t happen again.
C) Clean it up yourself, while thanking Hashem that you are fortunate to have children.
Going with “C” might seem like a good idea, but your future daughters-in-law might not appreciate it. I would go with “B”. Here’s what you would succeed in doing.
1) You would have a conversation about the mess, not about yourself.
2) You earned your children’s respect.
3) You ended the conversation without empty threats.
Let’s try to keep this simple. You should not yell. By the way, this applies to moms and dads. Raising your voice isn’t what we’re talking about, it’s screaming out of control. Here are this week’s tips.
1) Prepare yourself before, during and after each situation. Remind yourself – even verbally, if necessary - that you are in control and you don’t need to yell.
2) Remember that your child is making his or her decisions. Your responsibility is to deal with these decisions in a mature way.
3) If you think you’re about to lose it, remove yourself from the situation.
4) If you are having a bad day, don’t vent on your children; that’s what your spouse is for (kidding)!
5) If your spouse is out of control, don’t contradict him (or her). It’ll only get him more upset. Besides, most times when parents lose control, they know they’re wrong. Telling them to calm down isn’t a smart move.
I will not be sending an email next week (Chol HaMoed). Wishing you all a wonderful Yom Tov.
Remember, the Yomim Tovim give you an opportunity to bond with your wonderful children, but they also allow you to appreciate how important school and structure are. Enjoy!
Last week we asked you for some input regarding the bedtime battle and Baruch Hashem, you really came through. I received over 50 emails and picked up some fantastic suggestions. (I also learned that there are some parents that need help in more ways than one). To those of you who shared your ideas, thank you!
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 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.