Rabbi Ross. My boys have fallen prey to a game called fortnight. I’m not sure what the game is, but they are always playing, and they insist that all of their friends are also. Oddly enough, they’re kind of right. When I called other parents, they seemed helpless in the face of this game. I don’t want to be the bad mother, but I think my children need to stop playing. What should we do? Chaya - Flatbush
Yes, I’ve heard of Fortnite. It’s a video game that many people play, and it works on PlayStation, Xbox, Windows, Mac, iPhones and even Android phones. Before we discuss your issue, I want to explain something. The first mistake that many parents make, is not understanding the games their children play. Would you let your child hang out with a friend that you’ve never heard of? Would you send your child to a playgroup without vetting it properly? Of course not! I’m not sure how parents could just allow kids to play any game without checking into it.
One father told me, “If so many kids are playing, it’s probably ok.” That’s ridiculous! I know of a family that allowed their children unrestricted access to the game Clash of Clans. A few weeks later, they found out that their kids were talking with other players in a chat room of some sort. I saw a transcript of the conversation, and it’s the type of thing parents have nightmares about. Let this be a lesson to all parents. Before allowing your children to play any game, make sure that you understand it yourself. If you are incapable, ask someone who does understand the game.
Let’s get back to Fortnite. This is a game that pits players against other players. There are treasures, surprises, rewards, and many other concepts that appeal not only to children but even to many adults. It’s a game with a lot of violence, although it’s less gory than similar games, and it has more of a cartoonish vibe. Players can chat with strangers, although most boys play with friends. Most importantly, this game is extremely addictive.
Furthermore, when a player gets out, they can see how their opponent was doing. This motivates them to try again since they were “so close” to winning. A 6th-grade boy told me recently that the hardest part about Shabbos is that he can’t play Fortnite. It’s quite scary if you think about it. I can assure you that a lot of money went into developing this game, and boy, is it working. In March of 2018, the game made $296 million dollars! These developers will do whatever they can to keep the kids playing.
Now that you have a better understanding of the game, we can discuss how to wean children off of it. Obviously, some of the ideas listed here might work, and others won’t. If you have any other ideas, please comment below or send me an email. These ideas are designed to stop your child from playing Fortnite, not from using electronic devices. That’s an entirely different discussion.
Obviously, many people reading this are thinking, “What’s the big deal? Take away their phones or devices or just delete the game!” If only it were that easy. Some parents have a strong relationship with their children and can get away with this. If it’s a viable option, go for it! However, many parents cannot. When I used the word addiction to describe this game, I wasn’t using it lightly. There are many children that are completely enveloped in the game. Parents all around the world have thrown in the towel and are at wit's end. These suggestions are for the parents that don’t know what to do.
I remember being excited and nervous at the same time. Rabbi Moshe Shonek, a rebbe and a close friend, had set me up to be interviewed for an open rebbe position in the Yeshiva of South Shore. As I walked into the office of the menahel, I was in awe. There was an aura of power emanating from him, yet at the same time a smile was on his face. “Sit down,” he told me. I was sitting across from Rabbi Chanina Herzberg. He stared at me intently for a minute, searching my eyes. He was able to read anyone, and I was no exception.
“Why do you want to be a rebbe?” he asked gently as he leaned back in his chair. That was how the interview began. The next question he asked was, “Who is your role model?” When I told him that it was my neighbor, Rav Yechiel Perr, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, he seemed satisfied. A few days later, I signed a contract and began my career as a rebbe. I was now the seventh-grade rebbe in the Yeshiva of South Shore, working parallel to Rabbi Shmuel Judowitz.
The first day was terrifying. I was just turning twenty years old, and I was teaching boys who were 12 and 13 years old. The fact that I looked really young wasn’t helpful, and my stomach was on a roller-coaster ride. I sat in my chair, the rebbe’s chair, and looked at the clock. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet, and I was like a little kid waiting for school to start. I walked downstairs and strolled through the hallway. After a few minutes, I realized that the light was on inside Rabbi Herzberg’s office. I approached the office and saw the door was wide open. He looked up and motioned me inside.
It was my second time in the office, and I remember being scared. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but being in the menahel’s office was never a good thing for me. Rabbi Herzberg looked up at me and said, “You’re going to make a mistake today.” I froze. What mistake could I be making? I hadn’t started teaching yet!
“A good rebbe makes mistakes every day,” he continued. “A great rebbe makes new mistakes every day.” My mind was going a mile a minute. He continued, “Are you a good rebbe or a great rebbe?”
He went back to his sefer. His desk was an organized mess with sefarim, papers from Yeshiva, and pictures of his talmidim and family. Somehow, he knew where everything was. I left his office and walked back upstairs. He was 100 percent correct — I did make a mistake that day. However, I only made new mistakes.
A few days after Yeshiva began, I met Rav Mordechai Kamenetzky walking in the hallway. I decided to ask him if he had any advice for me, and he characteristically replied, “Listen to Rabbi Herzberg.”
So I did. I spent hours in his office every week after I finished teaching. I watched as rebbeim came and went, parents came and went, and, my favorite, the talmidim came and went. Unless the matter was private, he let me sit in, and I learned some amazing things. I saw a mother crying that her son wasn’t happy. He told me, “Any time a mother cries over her children, you need to take her seriously.”
A rebbe came in complaining that a boy in his class belonged in the other track. Rabbi Herzberg made the switch immediately. “Do you agree with me?” he asked afterwards. “Why not get the boy extra help before switching him?” I wondered. “The boy would have been fine in this class,” he replied. “However, the rebbe didn’t want him in the class, and it’s not good for a talmid to be in a class if the rebbe doesn’t want him.”
Monika’s notebook can bear witness to the sheer volume of calls and meetings he would have every day. However, if someone had a problem, he would always take the time to listen and discuss. His views were actually years ahead of his time. Twenty years ago, he would tell parents to focus on giving their children a love for Yiddishkeit and not worry about the grades. That wasn’t the going mentality back then.
He had tremendous respect for our rosh yeshiva, Rav Binyomin Kamenetzky, zt’l, and his son Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, shlita, our current rosh yeshiva. There was one time I was sitting with him and a rebbe walked in very frustrated. There was a new boy in his class who had a lot of issues, and the rebbe was really upset. The rebbe also complained about the fact that the rosh yeshiva accepted the boy in the first place. Rabbi Herzberg’s eyes narrowed, and he said to the rebbe, “Do you have a problem with how he runs the Yeshiva? What if this boy he accepted needs this yeshiva?” When the rebbe left, he tuned to me and said, “If they want to complain about me, that’s not a problem, but they’d better not complain about R’ Kamenetzky!”
On cold days, I would sometimes arrive in Yeshiva without a coat. He would walk over to me and loudly exclaim, “Where’s your coat?!” I tried explaining that I wasn’t cold, but he wouldn’t listen. “You’ll get sick without a coat!” He wasn’t joking. He didn’t want me to get sick. I remember that many years ago, the eighth grade was going on a graduation trip and the coach bus had arrived. The boys were all excited and lining up to get on the bus, and there was Rabbi Herzberg, examining the tires. When it came to the safety of others, there was no compromising.
I had the z’chus of being his chauffeur quite a few times. We drove to many bar mitzvahs together, to a graduation trip, and even to Yeshiva on some occasions. Our conversations consisted of stories about his rebbe, R’ Freifeld, sharing advice on chinuch, and explaining the proper way to treat people. I always enjoyed these drives, but after we got out of the car he would always turn and say, “Thank you.” It wasn’t a simple gesture; he wholeheartedly meant it.
Anyone who knew Rabbi Herzberg could tell you that his hakaras ha’tov was second to none. No matter what you did for him, he would always thank you. At the South Shore dinner many years ago, the bus that was taking the choir to the dinner didn’t show up. I arranged transportation with a different company and it all worked out. The next day I got a message to go to his office. Of course, I began thinking what I did wrong over the past week, but when I came in he simply said, “Thank you for last night.” I can’t remember doing any favor for him and not getting thanked. It wasn’t just words; it was genuine hakaras ha’tov. He understood and appreciated everything that was done for him.
His advice on marriage was simple yet powerful. He would look at me and say, “Listen to your wife.” That was all. He followed the same rule. When his cellphone would ring (not a smartphone) while talking with someone, he would flip it open and say hello. Almost always, he would listen for a second, and then say, “I’m with someone; please call me back later.” However, if it was his wife, he would motion to whoever was there to wait a minute and he would listen to what she was saying.
Rabbi Herzberg loved the music from years back and would frequently stop by our classroom to join in as we sang after davening. Many of my talmidim will remember affectionately that he would join us for the high part of “Bi’l’vavi.” His powerful voice would take over and he would become completely engrossed in the song. The boys would just stare at him as he sang along.
When his youngest son Yudi was in my seventh-grade class, the class decided to join together to buy me a present. They ended up buying me a silver Kiddush cup. Rabbi Herzberg called me in and told me that he and his wife had been involved in choosing it for me, and he told me to use it on Friday night. “Using a gift from your class is a constant reminder of the effect you’ve had on your talmidim.” I still use that Kiddush cup every Friday night.
For years I would call Rabbi Herzberg whenever I had a chinuch question, and he would discuss it with me in detail. When I told him a few years ago that I was starting a parenting advice column, he was very excited for me. He did point out with a smile that the ones who truly need the advice are not the ones who would read it.
He also had a great sense of humor. Many years ago, there was a father who would come to the Yeshiva and complain about everything. Rabbi Herzberg would listen patiently and let him rant. One Sunday morning, when the man finished complaining, Rabbi Herzberg turned to me and asked with a chuckle, “Why do you think he keeps complaining?” I decided to play the psychologist and responded, “Perhaps his mother didn’t hug him enough?” He laughed for a very long time, and said to me, “Why don’t you give him a hug and see how that works out?”
There were a few things that really made him laugh. When boys were sent out of class years back, they were sent to his office. He loved talking with these boys and hearing their perspective on life. One time a third-grader came to his office, and Rabbi Herzberg asked him, “What did you do?” The boy responded, “Nothing yet — I just came to visit!” Rabbi Herzberg was laughing so hard there were tears running down his cheek. A little over a year ago I told him about a mother who was walking with her child on Central Avenue. She bumped into a telephone pole and said “excuse me” to the pole. He laughed for a minute but then told me, “Now I’m laughing. Tonight, I’ll be crying for these poor children.”
I cherished the years we spent together when I was younger, and I know that a large part of my philosophy on parenting and teaching is based on his methodology. I wish that all of the newer rebbeim in the Yeshiva could have seen him twenty years ago. If they only knew the power that radiated from him when he walked into a room! He would take one look at a situation and figure out what to do and when to do it. Over the last few years, he would stay “achorai ha’pargud,” behind the curtains, as he told me, letting others take the lead as he watched carefully.
When a rebbe once left the Yeshiva, I told him that this rebbe was irreplaceable. He turned to me and said, “Everyone who’s irreplaceable gets replaced. Remember that!” It made sense at the time, but we all know the truth. The position he held will be replaced, and the Yeshiva of South Shore will continue to be a makom Torah where thousands of kinderlach will develop a love of Torah and middos tovos. But Rabbi Herzberg will never be replaced.
Dear Rabbi Ross. My son’s Rebbe called me up regarding an issue with my 5th grade son. Apparently, the Rebbe believes that my son has been taking some prizes from his desk without permission, and although he has no proof, he’s “confident” it was my son. My son told me that the Rebbe yelled at the class while staring directly at him. I don’t think my son steals, and he’s adamant that he’s innocent. What do you think? Name Redacted.
What do I think? I don’t know your son. Here’s what I can tell you. While learning *L’chanech B’Simcha with R’ Meir Yaakov Ackerman, an exceptional Rebbe in the Yeshiva of South Shore, we came across a similar question. The response given was in the form of a story.
Many years ago, while officiating at a wedding, HaRav Avraham Pam zt”l saw that the Chosson was crying, and these tears didn’t seem to be tears of happiness. Rav Pam pulled him over and asked why he was crying. The following was his response:
“Many years ago, when I was a young boy, a boy in my class brought in a small toy that I really liked. When no one was looking, I took the toy for myself. A short while later, the boy noticed the toy was missing, and told the Rebbe. Immediately, the Rebbe called the boys in and asked if anyone took the toy. I wasn’t going to admit what I did in front of everyone, so I was quiet.
My Rebbe then told us he was going to search our knapsacks. While everyone was distracted, I took the toy and slipped it into a different boy’s knapsack. When the Rebbe found it, the boy insisted that he had not taken the toy, and he didn’t know how it got in his knapsack. The Rebbe called him a thief and a liar and sent him home. His parents were equally dismayed and told him that he was ruining the family name. One thing led to another, and this boy ended up developing serious issues. He ended up doing many things wrong (I will not list them in this article).”
The Chosson then turned to Rav Pam and said, “How can I start my married life knowing that I ruined someone else’s life?” Rav Pam replied, “What you did was wrong, but you’ve done Teshuva. However, the blame for this boy’s downfall lies solely on the Rebbe. He is the one who caused it to happen and he needs to rectify this situation.”
Rav Pam was one of the Gedolai Hador and was known to be an advocate for Rebbeim. Additionally, he believed that being a Rebbe required a certain sensitivity and he could not comprehend how a Rebbe could treat a Talmid like this.
I would like to take this a step further. I understand that, unfortunately, there are certain Rebbeim that should not be in a classroom. Baruch Hashem, in our generation, behaviors like this are not tolerated and the Yeshivos understand that Rebbeim need to teach with love. Years ago, the Rebbeim were a bit harsher. I personally had some Rebbeim that, to put it mildly, I was not very fond of.
What I can’t understand about the above story, is the reaction of this boy’s parents. Surely, they must have known their child’s personality. How could they not defend their son? Yes, the Rebbe was completely wrong, but he obviously did not love his Talmidim. What the parents did, however, was inexcusable.
Getting back to your question, there is no way I can offer an opinion. He’s your son. Children are fond of saying to their parents, “You don’t understand me!” It’s not true. Parents understand their children better than anyone else. If your son has never taken something that doesn’t belong to him, and is generally honest, you need to defend him. Tell the Rebbe, “Unless you have any proof, please don’t accuse our son. If you do have any proof, we would certainly be willing to give him a serious consequence.” On the other hand, if your son does have a history of saying things that aren’t true, you need to have a talk with your son. “The issue we have, is that you haven’t always been truthful. Therefore, we don’t really know what to believe.”
There are two other small points I would like to make.
*This Sefer has many questions that were submitted to HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein Shlita, with his responses. I highly recommend it for every Rebbe.
Dear Rabbi Ross. My son is currently in eighth grade and he’s dealing with something that my eleventh-grader dealt with. It’s called a yearbook. My older son was made fun of non-stop in his yearbook, and he’s so embarrassed that he won’t even read it. I’ll elaborate. There is a section in many yearbooks called the humor section. This is where the popular kids embarrass the quieter kids and put material in that can be very hurtful. Please read the quotes about my son and tell me if I’m being overly sensitive? Should the Yeshivas finally put a stop to this practice? Cheryl – Brooklyn
I was not aware that there were jokes that crossed the line in yearbooks. The above e-mail was sent with some pictures of the yearbook in question. I will not show the pictures online, but I’ll include some of the quotes that were written in the humor section. (I’ll use the name Eli instead of the real name.) “In the year 2040, Eli is most likely to be still whining”. Under the Quotable Quotes section for Eli was - “Can everyone just go away!”
I really don’t think these are that horrible. In my 8th grade yearbook, there were some jokes about me and some of the other boys that weren’t so nice. They weren’t intentionally mean, but some of the quotes were a little harsh. I know that my parents read it, and although I’m sure they weren’t pleased, they didn’t give it much thought.
I spoke with a few Menahalim, and it seems that there is a much more intense vetting process nowadays then there was years ago. One principal told me in confidence that the reason that the humor pages aren’t funny these days, is because parents can’t take a joke anymore. It’s interesting that he said parents, and not kids. I don’t think many children care, I think their parents make it a big issue.
It reminds me of a funny story that happened a few years ago. There is a local baseball league that I’m involved with that had a team who lost the first four games of the season. A mother came over to me crying. I want to reiterate that she wasn’t just sad, she was actually crying! There were other people standing around as she said to me, “My son has such a hard time when he loses! It really ruins his entire week!” While she was standing there, her ten-year-old child mumbled pretty loudly, “It doesn’t ruin my week, it ruins her week.”
You need to take a step back and ask yourself the following. Are your children the ones upset about the yearbook, or is it really you? I couldn’t tell from the email that you sent. It’s not OK for children to make fun of others, but there’s a difference between making fun and joking around. I’m sure that this isn’t the politically correct answer you want to hear, but it’s the truth. You can’t raise your children to be super sensitive, since it eventually backfires. They’ll be insulted all the time by silly comments and won’t be able to deal with opposing viewpoints.
There are two ways that children become super sensitive. The first is if parents keep coddling them and protecting them from any insult. Parents like this watch over their child’s every move to help them. I saw a mother holding her three-year-old’s hand as he went down the slide. By all accounts he seemed to be a typical child, but she refused to let him go himself. The term used to describe this is called “Helicopter Parenting”. The second way to have children become super sensitive, is to act super sensitive in front of them. If you are constantly complaining about what other people said or did and how it makes you feel, your kids might pick this up.
The fact is, children are much more resilient than we like to think. Although it’s never okay to make fun of someone, much less a child, it’s a yearbook we’re talking about. It’s not even a high-school yearbook, it’s an 8th grade yearbook. My opinion is that you should leave this alone. Tell your son in 8th grade, that it’s all OK, and there’s nothing wrong with yearbook jokes. Let the boys in the class enjoy their yearbooks and let the Menahel or principal do his job in editing.
I want to end with one interesting thought. Having a sensitive child isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The goal should be to focus those sensitivities towards others. In other words, if your child is worried that a different child might be offended, that's fantastic.
Have a wonderful week!
Is there a problem with my children coming into our bedroom? My wife feels that it’s inappropriate, and her parents never let that happen. My parents always let me and my siblings hang out in their room, and it was therapeutic. We considered it a safe area. Of course, we always knocked before entering, but once allowed permission we loved going in. We have 2 young children and want to resolve this before they get older. What do you think? Ephraim – Flatbush
I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to this question. Some families are very strict about this, and others don’t really care.
I’ve always felt that dealing with family customs in marriage is like going to a new shul for the Yomim Noraim. When the Chazzan starts Davening, some guests feel that he’s doing all the wrong tunes, and others that his Nussach is completely incorrect. The regular Mispalilim might love it, however, the guests and newcomers are frequently perturbed. Marriage works in a similar way. As the years progress, you’ll notice certain things that are completely foreign to you that your spouse finds 100% normal. It’s up to the two of you to work together to find common ground or be Mevater (concede).
There is a typical compromise for the situation that you brought up. There are families that don’t allow the kids to enter their bedroom unless they’re sick (or have had a nightmare etc). This way, the children understand that typically the room is off-limits, but it’s also a safe place.
You brought up a few other points in your email that I would like to discuss.
1) You mentioned knocking before entering your parent’s room. Actually, kids should be taught to always knock before entering any room that they walk into. Chazal discuss some reasons behind this, and amongst them is the fact that Hashem first asked Adam, “Where are you?” before He entered Gan Eden. This is a wonderful concept to teach your children. Before entering their bedrooms, give a soft knock, and you’ll quickly train them to do the same.
2) I especially enjoyed the fact that you want to resolve any questions before your children get older. Many couples make the mistake of confronting these issues as they come up. The Chofetz Chaim was once asked when to begin chinuch for children. He replied that it’s best to begin before the child is born. Obviously, it’s a little late for that in your case. Nonetheless, it’s admirable that you both want to be prepared for when they get older, and it’s a smart decision.
3) You and your wife should always strive to be on the “same page” when raising your children. Many of the emails I receive constantly use the word “I”, and you used “We” – which is as it should be. With all of the distractions that children deal with on a daily basis, a stable household is crucial. Parents should do their very best to ensure that they are in agreement in all areas of Chinuch. How much, and what kind of electronics the kids can use, how they’ll dress, and even issues as basic as bedtimes. As long as the two of you work together, it’ll be a lot easier.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,
Dear Rabbi Ross. Like many other people, I have been reading your column for a few years. There are times that I disagree with your thoughts, but by and large I like to think we’re on the same page. My question concerns my husband. He has a horrible temper, and frequently says or does things that are, to say the least, regrettable. We have four wonderful children, and although the oldest is only eleven, I worry about what will happen to them. Will they also develop his temper? Will they blame me for not intervening on their behalf? I really can’t stop him when he’s out of control. L. S. – Flatbush
I usually respond privately to these types of emails. Unfortunately, I have recently received a couple of similar questions and that is one of the criteria I use in selecting which e-mails to respond to in my weekly article. Therefore, somewhat against my better judgment, I’m going to reply to this question publicly.
Your email, like all the other ones on this topic, is missing a lot of crucial information. Nonetheless, I’m imagining that your spouse is a normal, fun person until something sets him off. I’m saying “him”, but it could also be the mother with the temper. However, in the interest of keeping this as simple as possible, let’s keep this about the husband.
First and foremost, you didn’t write what he does when he gets angry. If you ever feel that you’re in danger, you need to call Shalom Task Force at 888-883-2323. It’s completely confidential, and they can help you. There is no excuse for violence or abuse. This is the one time that I won’t suggest that you call your Rav. If you don’t get the help you need, you’re not only risking your own life, but the lives of your children!
As I’ve mentioned a few times over the years, I’m not a psychologist. I’m not sure how to deal with him or what to say to him. I would think that any discussion you have with him should be when he’s in a good mood and not feeling threatened. Then again, the real question is, does he want to change? The reason I ask, is because children are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. If he doesn’t really try working on himself, it won’t be very helpful. I have seen parents apologize for yelling, but then they yell again a day later. Your children see right through this.
You asked, “Will they also develop his temper?” Most children that have tempers begin to display them at a younger age. If your children are already anywhere from seven and up, maybe you got lucky and your children were not affected yet. However, I’m guessing that they will end up being affected one way or another. Here are my thoughts about what you can and cannot do.
Have a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. Thank you for all the work you put in to this blog. I’m having an issue, not with my children, but with other children. In Shul on Shabbos, there are many kids outside of the shul during davening or laining or the speech, and these kids range anywhere from 5 to 16 years old. They talk the whole time and it’s just wrong. What can I tell these children to convince them to daven inside the shul? Eliyahu – Location Redacted
The short answer is nothing. They are not your children, and therefore it’s not your job to get involved. If you really want to help, you can go to the Rav and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Maybe the Shul can hire someone to run a teen Minyan or youth groups if you don’t already have them. You can assist in making those arrangements by either securing the necessary finances or helping with the logistics.
I’m actually not a huge fan of youth groups, but if the kids are roaming the hallways, it’s certainly important to have structure. There are many Shuls that teach the children how to be “Chazzanim”, as well as the Halachos of Laining, Hagbah, Gelila and much more. Although children who Daven in Shul every Shabbos generally learn these skills, there are some children who can gain a great deal from these younger minyanim. To be brutally honest, there are also some children that should not be sitting (or fidgeting) next to their parents in Shul. In all these situations, a youth minyan is a great option.
The situation that you described, is unfortunately, a common one is certain communities. One of the reasons that I redacted the location that you provided, was that I felt it might constitute Lashon Hara. Most Shuls don’t have this issue, but there are a few in each community where this is, unfortunately, common. One father told me recently, “At least they’re in shul. It’s a step in the right direction.”
I respectfully disagree. It is certainly NOT a step in the right direction. You have your fourteen-year-old son spending most of the Shabbos davening outside in the hallway, loudly talking with his friends. There are those that would suggest it would be better if he stayed at home. I have mixed feelings about it, but parents should not be “OK” with the situation. I know I’m heading into dangerous territory here, but I don’t think the Rav of these shuls should ignore the situation either.
In order to deal with this serious issue, the community needs to approach it from three angles.
Hopefully, we can all work together to ensure that our children understand the importance of Davening in the Shul like the B’nai Torah they are.
Have a good Shabbos,
This is the first time I’m writing in to a column so please bear with me. I have an issue with homework. My kids are coming home and have to immediately begin doing work and It’s ridiculous. I don’t remember getting this much work, and I can’t allow it to continue. My children are growing up in a generation that has a poor work ethic, and yet we expect children to attend nine hours of school, not even counting the 45 minutes on the bus each day. When he finally arrives home he gets a quick snack, and then begins working again, and It’s just not healthy. They also expect the kids to search information online which requires supervision and I can’t be with him. I did read your article about this subject, I just didn’t feel that it answered my issue. I want to tell the teacher that homework is wrong. I’m siding with my kids. How can I do that? R.K. – Far Rockaway
Homework has become an issue for many families, and I think you hit the nail on the head. Our generation is extremely lazy, and yet we demand non-stop work from the kids. I’ve been in houses where the father comes home after a long day at work, and he sits back and relaxes. In the meantime, his children are frantically doing their many homework assignments. They also had a long day. School is work.
My initial response is that I agree with you. As a Rebbe, I do the work in class, and if any boys do not complete the work, they finish at home while learning with their Chavrusah. I actually encourage parents not to help their children with the work. I’m fond of telling parents, “If your children don’t understand something, it’s my job as an educator to help them.” Once parents start helping their children with the homework, it’ll never end. Additionally, teachers should want to see where students had difficulty with the work, in order to review/explain the material in class the next day.
Let’s take a step back and try to understand the point of homework. In school the kids learn a lot over a relatively short amount of time. There may be nine hours of school, but your son can be learning Gemara, Chumash, Halacha, Navi, Math, Science, History, English and much more. That’s not including Davening, recess, lunch and breaks. The Rebbe or teacher wants to reinforce the material that was learned, so he gives a little work at home to review. At least that’s what’s supposed to happen.
Realistically speaking, many Rebbeim and teachers have a certain amount of material they need to cover. If they don’t have enough time, some simply assign it for home work. In these instances, the kids come home with a lot of work, and they usually require assistance – which can be tough on parents as well. When my 1st grade son came to me for some homework help, I quickly realized that I cannot do first grade math using Common Core.
I have spoken to many parents who feel that the constant strain of homework is destroying their relationship with their children. They put pressure on their children to finish up, and both the kids and parents become tense. As one mother wrote, “A foul mood descends on our house nightly because of the homework situation”. That’s not acceptable.
I cannot come up with a simple answer for the schools. This is definitely a serious issue, and they need to have some internal meetings to come up with a viable solution that fits their curricula. I can however, give you some advice for your home. I do suggest that people first read the homework email I wrote a few years ago, which gives solutions to help manage the workload. My suggestions below are more focused on coming up with viable solutions on a permanent basis.
Have a great Shabbos.
Dear Rabbi Ross. My name is (Redacted) and I feel like a bad kid. Here’s why. I love peanut butter. Chunky and plain. My parents used to always give it to me for lunch and snacks when I was a little boy. Now I’m in 7th grade and I still can’t have it in school since the school is nut free. What’s next not having meat? Why can’t the boys with allergies go into one class for their grade, and the other classes can have nuts? I know I sound mean, but I’m just frustrated. (Redacted)
I don’t think you’re a bad or mean person. I think you are a bit confused about what allergies are, but that’s understandable. We spend a lot of time educating adults about the dangers of certain foods, but children are just told they can’t have them. I’ll try and make it clearer for you.
Let’s start with the difference between allergies and dietary habits. You mentioned not having meat, and there are people who are vegetarians and therefore don’t eat meat. There are also people who are vegan which means that they don’t eat meat or animal products including eggs, milk and so on. Those people made a decision to change their dietary choices, and we respect their decision. We are not obligated to hide the fact that we eat meat, nor do we have to stop eating meat (or eggs) in front of them.
Allergies are a completely different ballgame. Nobody chooses to have an allergy, and it’s a life-changing event. I know some children who have such severe allergies that if they even smell peanuts, they can become seriously ill. These kids are unable to attend any events that might have nut products present and need to carry an EpiPen with them at all times.
An EpiPen is a special shot that can save the life of someone having an allergic reaction. This reaction can be from a bee sting, eating certain types of fish or even smelling a peanut, depending on what the person is allergic to. During this allergic reaction, the person’s throat can swell up so badly that they will be unable to breathe. The EpiPen reverses the allergic reaction, giving enough time for this person to get to a doctor or hospital.
The obvious question is, which children get allergies? Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer to that. Scientists and doctors have been testing theories for a long time, but as of now, it’s still unknown. In other words, it could be a neighbor, a relative or a close friend. It’s absolutely terrifying to have an allergic reaction, not only for the person having the reaction, but even for the people watching. There was one time that I had to inject a boy with an EpiPen, and it was not a pleasant experience.
What does this have to do with you? Well, there are even adults that have asked this question. “Why do I have to stop eating peanuts in front of the other people? Let them go somewhere else!”
The answer is, that allergies affect all of us. We’re one nation, and when we stick together we bring Moshiach closer, which is our ultimate goal. Sticking together means more than just wishing each other “Good Shabbos”, it means actually taking care of one another. If your best friend was unable to be in a room with peanuts, would you stop being his friend? Of course not! You would learn to adapt. Not only that, you would make sure that no one else is eating peanuts around him.
We have an obligation to be sensitive to the needs of other people. Instead of thinking about the fact that you are being inconvenienced by not being allowed a PB&J sandwich in Yeshiva, you should be focusing on the fact that these boys are never allowed to have one. You need to understand that when you want to go to a ballgame, you just go. Many of these children cannot go to a game. They can’t go to concerts or even some amusement parks. They have it much harder than you!
What if no one in your class is allergic, but the school has a “No nuts” policy? Can you bring in nuts? The answer is still, “No”! We don’t want to risk a different child’s health (or life C”V), so a different child can have a chocolate bar with nuts. I once had a parent ask me, “What are the odds that a child will get hurt if my son eats a PB&J sandwich?” I told him, “There are no acceptable odds when we’re talking about someone getting hurt.”
It’s completely normal for you to be frustrated that you can’t have the foods that you enjoy in Yeshiva. However, you need to keep things in perspective. You can go home and have these foods, the boys that are allergic can’t. Focusing on the feelings of your friends is a great way to improve your own Middos.
Have a great Shabbos!
Hi Rabbi Ross. I’m a ten-year-old girl writing this letter with help from my mother. My parents want me to dress in a way that they say is Tznius, and I’m unhappy with these rules. Some examples are the length of my socks or skirt or even the color of my sweatshirts. My friends all dress the way they want to, and I feel different than everyone else. My mother said if you agree with me, she’ll rethink her rules. Please agree with me. I’m not giving my real name because my mother won’t let me. Estie
Hi, “Estie.” You sound like a bright young woman, and I’m going to be very straight with you. There are two separate issues that are in your email, and I don’t want to confuse them. The first issue is the one regarding “Tznius.” You feel restricted and wish you could dress the way you want. Your friends seem to wear whatever they want, and you don’t want to be the odd one. The second issue is that you seem to feel that your parents are overly protective, or overly strict. That’s not something I can discuss in this article, but it will be discussed in a future issue.
Tznius is an overused word that I’m not so fond of. Many people have been using it to describe the way people dress, but it’s so much more than that. Tznius is a way of life for all Jews. It’s not about being restricted, it’s about living life as a Torah Jew. Limiting it to just a method of dress is wrong. It also describes the way people should speak and act, in public and in private. I know people who dress extremely conservatively and yet don’t act B’Tznius, and others that don’t dress as carefully but behave in a much more Tznius manner. In other words, you can’t judge people just by the way they dress, and it’s actually a dangerous thing to do.
That being said, there are times that people need to dress in a specific way. For example, you wouldn’t go to a water park in a suit and tie, and you probably wouldn’t go to school in a bathing suit. Why not? Because there are certain times that you need to dress in a suitable way. As a Yid, that holds true all the time. We need to dress appropriately all the time.
Getting back to your letter/question, how should you dress? That’s not a question I can answer. Using Halacha and/or Rabbonim to guide them, parents try to educate their children regarding the importance of being “Tznius.” Some people have certain customs that others don’t have. There are no specific guidelines that every person follows, rather we follow our family custom. I’m sure your parents understand and appreciate the importance of looking like a Bas Torah. Their job is not to tell all the girls in your class what to wear, rather, their only responsibility is to help you and your siblings. It’s unfair to compare the way your friends dress since they come from different families and backgrounds. Besides, let’s be fair. I’m sure there are girls that have parents that are even stricter than yours.
When girls complain about dressing appropriately, I tell them to look at pictures of the Queen of England. Why does she always seem to be dressed in a dignified way? It’s because she’s royalty! She understands that she is different, and how important it is to be more modest. Well, you are also royalty – you’re a Bas Yisrael!
Here’s what I suggest. If there is one aspect that is really frustrating to you, ask your parents if you can ask your Rav or Menahel their opinion. It can’t be a general, “I don’t like to dress this way”, but you can focus on one aspect that is difficult for you. For example, there is a family I know whose daughter wanted to wear pink sneakers, and her parents felt it was inappropriate. The parents agreed to ask their Rav who said that it wasn’t a problem, and this girl is now the proud owner of a neon-pink pair of sneakers.
I understand that you want me to agree with you, but unfortunately, I can’t agree or disagree with you. What I can tell you, is that your parents are not trying to make you miserable, rather they’re trying to guide you. It’ll make more sense when you’re a mother IY”H. Interestingly enough, I received a similar question from a mother’s perspective a few months ago. I think you’ll enjoy reading that answer as well.
May you have the strength to grow into a true Bas Yisroel in all aspects of your life and be Zoche to fulfill the mitzvah of “Hatznea Leches Im Elokecha” wherever you go.
Have a great Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. I’m a 14-year-old boy with a bad secret. I’ve betrayed my parent’s trust over the past year, and they don’t know about it. Yom Kippur is fast approaching and I’m wondering what I should do. If I apologize to them, they’re going to want to know what I did wrong. I don’t want to tell them. Should I just Daven that they should forgive me? Name Redacted – Baysawater
You are bringing up an interesting question. I heard a story about a man who approached a certain Gadol asking forgiveness. When the Gadol asked what for, he said he was too embarrassed to say. The Gadol replied, “Without knowing what you did, I can’t forgive you.
True Teshuva has four main parts according to the Rambam. Understanding what you did wrong, having genuine regret, apologizing sincerely, and not doing the sin again. You mentioned that you betrayed their trust, which means you understand what you did was wrong and you regret doing it. I’m hoping that you won’t do this Aveira again. The only part you’re missing is the apology.
You might be correct in assuming your parents would want to know what you did wrong. It might even be important that they should know, since they can help you make sure that you don’t do it again. I know it seems to kids that parents are always telling them what they shouldn’t do, but that’s because they love you and want to protect you.
In your case, I agree that you have a difficult decision to make. I would suggest that you speak to either your Rav or any other adult that you and your parents trust. Tell them what you did and ask them if they think you need to tell your parents or not. It sounds like you are worried about this, and it’s not good for a boy your age to shoulder this burden alone.
Another thing I would suggest, is to really be on your best behavior for the next few weeks. Help out at home as much as possible, and make sure you’re doing your school work properly. I’m sure that after a few weeks of this, your parents will be very impressed with you. If you haven’t discussed it with them yet, this would be a great time to unburden yourself.
You can tell them that you made a mistake a while back and you’re not comfortable discussing it. Tell them you regret what you did and won’t make this mistake again. At this time, you can ask forgiveness for betraying their trust. And remember, although Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, you can ask forgiveness any day of the year.
Wishing you Hatzlacha and the strength to make the right decisions.
Have an easy fast.
Baruch Hashem, this blog/advice column has been growing tremendously. I want to wish all of you a wonderful year of Bracha and Hatzlacha – and most importantly, Nachas from your children. Although we’re in middle of a “Kids writing in” campaign, I wanted to take a break for the Yomim Tovim. Here are some updated Rosh Hashana tips. Enjoy!
Many of us have wonderful memories from when we were children. Try to give your kids some amazing memories as well. Even if the chazzan doesn’t know the correct Niggun or the Rav speaks a bit longer than you would like, keep an upbeat attitude so your children can have a positive experience.
Try and keep everything age appropriate, whenever possible. Five-year-old children might not sit through multiple Simanim, and Fourteen-year olds may not want to sing “Dip the Apple”. Another example is Divrei Torah. If your older child is sharing a two-page Dvar Torah, it might not be a bad idea to excuse the younger kids for a few minutes.
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. One mother shared that she dices up many different fruits and has the kids guess which one they’re eating.
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.
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. I have always believed that it’s better for a 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 Esrai and that she won’t be able to talk until she’s done.
The Artscroll Rosh Hashana Machzor is wonderful and helps children gain an understanding of some of the important Tefillos. Reading through Nesanah Tokef with your children is a wonderful way to make the Davening more meaningful.
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.
There’s a reason why children should not be drinking alcoholic beverages. It’s not safe. I’m not talking about some wine with Kiddush, I’m talking about the social drinking during the meal. I don’t even think it’s a good idea to pretend to give them alcohol (putting grape juice in the wine bottle).
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 Rosh Hashana finally arrives, it’s their chance to sit back and relax a little. We can tell our children, “Hey, I have an idea! Let’s help clean the table or serve, so Mommy can also relax for a few minutes!” What a great way to begin the year!
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!
Hi Rebbe. My parents told me that kids are writing in to your column, and I have a unique problem, something that’s on my mind. There’s a huge Mitzvah to be happy, but I’m finding it very hard. I have two close friends and they both have better lives than me. Not only do their parents have more money, but they also let their kids get away with anything. My parents are super strict about everything, and it just seems very unfair. Please help. J.D. – Cedarhurst
This isn’t a unique problem, its actually a common one. In layman’s terms, it’s called “jealousy”. Your feelings are completely normal, and there are many children… and adults… who have the same issue. There are two things that we can discuss to help you out. The first is using a religious perspective, and the second is more of a logical reasoning.
There are ten commandments, as I’m sure you know. The last one seems to be a bit different from the others. Instead of telling us what we should do or not do, it tells us not to be jealous. That’s an emotion. Out of all the commandments, this seems to be the most difficult one to obey. Keeping Shabbos, not being a false witness, not killing or kidnapping, - well, those are pretty simple. But, how can we control our emotions?
The Ibn Ezra explains this by way of a parable. A simple man in the olden days was looking for a woman to marry. Being a common person, he considers his neighbor’s daughter, or the peasant girl down the road. This simple man would never yearn to marry the royal princess. Even if she is the most beautiful and desirable woman, he still wouldn’t invest any emotional energy in longing for her. Why not? He doesn’t consider the princess to be a realistic option. Royalty doesn’t marry commoners like him.
The Torah is teaching us that we need to appreciate that whatever we have in life, is perfect for us. It’s similar to a person desiring someone else’s glasses. The prescription would be of no use to him, so what would he do with it? Hashem gave each of us the tools we need to succeed. Desiring what your friends have just means that you’re not utilizing your own tools.
Typically, I try to stay away from responses like the one above. However, since you were perceptive enough to pinpoint the reason for your unhappiness, I wanted to give you the response I would share with an older teenager. As it says in Pirkei Avos, “Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion.” If happiness is what you really want, try your hardest not to focus on the other kids.
The following is more of a typical response I would give. The emotions you are feeling are happening all over the world. There’s a famous expression, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” While you think that the other kids are so happy and having the best life, you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives.
Approximately twenty years ago when I was a seventh-grade Rebbe, I had a boy in my class who we’ll call Simmy, with a similar issue. He was so jealous of a boy who seemed to have it all. This other boy, who we’ll call Donny, was a “cool” kid, his parents had money, and he was athletic. I wished then that I could tell Simmy the truth, that Donny was not happy. His parents didn’t give him very much attention, and he felt neglected.
One morning after Donny had a particularly hard morning, he came to me feeling very down. I told him that there were other boys that were jealous of him and he thought it was quite funny. He wrote a letter to share with Simmy in confidence. In this letter he wrote comments like, “I dream at night that I could switch places with anyone…. ANYONE in the class. My happiest moments are when I get to Yeshiva and I’m safe from everything. I’m not sure how you could possibly be jealous of me.”
After Simmy read the letter, he gave it back to me and I promptly tore it up, as per Donny’s request. Simmy never complained again and ended off the year doing wonderfully. Donny had a bit of a rougher time, but Baruch Hashem is doing well now.
I don’t know what is going on with the boys you are jealous of. I don’t know how happy they are, or what’s going on in their lives. I do know that you have wonderful parents who care about you. You are a bright boy with a wonderful future, and you need to focus on what you have and not what everyone else has.
There is one more thing you should know. Jealousy is not something that goes away. When you’re older there will always be people that have things that you might want. Conquering this at your age will make life much easier when you’re older.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Hi Rabbi Ross. I was wondering if you can advise me on something. My parents are struggling financially. They try to hide this from me and my two younger sisters, but I can tell something is up. I’m a fourteen-year-old boy by the way. My question is, should I get a job tutoring so I can help my parents out. I don’t want to insult them but on the other hand, I really want to help them out. I figured out that I can make almost $200 a week. Should I take the job? Private – Woodmere
This is one of the more impressive emails that I’ve received over the past few weeks. You sound like a very mature young man, and I’m sure your parents get a lot of Nachas from you.
Your parents are very smart people. In most cases, it’s much better NOT to tell your children when you’re going through any financial difficulties. Stress can be very overwhelming, and children have a lot on their heads without having to worry about money. I’ve heard many adults comment, “Kids have it so simple”, but it’s really not true. School, tests, social issues and more can all be stressful parts of childhood. Adding financial worries to the mix can really cause serious issues.
When parents DO need to tell their children, it should be done in a simple non-stressful way. For example, a friend of mine lost his job a few years ago. He called in his older kids and told them as follows: “I’m not sure if you’ve realized, but I’ve been home the past few days. I’m no longer working for ABC, and I’m in the middle of finding a new job. Therefore, for the next couple of weeks we’re going to be a little more careful about what we buy. We’ll be okay, and I’ll have a new job IY”H very soon.”
You mentioned that you could get a job tutoring. If you can pull it off without overdoing it, I think it’s a great idea. However, I don’t think you should be using the money to help your parents, rather, you should be saving your income. You can use your own money if you’re purchasing something for yourself.
It is very responsible that you want to help out and having a strong work ethic is a great way to succeed in life. There are a few people I know that feel it’s important for teenagers to chip in, since it helps them understand and appreciate the value of money. There is a family in Monsey that has all their children over thirteen pay 10% of the electric bill. This way they understand the consequence of leaving the lights on, or the AC running.
Personally, I would think most parents would want you to save your money. Ask them to help you open a junior savings account and start depositing your earnings.
Wishing your family Nachas and Parnassa,
Have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. I want to ask you a question. Why do my parents and I’m guessing other parents also, care so much when we waste time? If I even chill out on my phone for a second, my parents get all annoyed and upset with me saying I need to be more social. When they were kids, didn’t they also hang out or waste time? Why was it ok for them to be kids, but nowadays I need to be always doing something constructive? If I start playing fortnight for a minute, my father is all up in my face telling me I’m wasting my life, but when he was a kid, I heard from his friends he used to play space invaders and pinball all day and night. I guess what I want to know, is how can I tell my parents they are hypocrites? Name Redacted – Far Rockaway
Your last question was how you can tell you parents that they are hypocrites. You can’t. Even if they were being hypocritical, you couldn’t tell them something like that. Besides, I don’t agree that they’re hypocrites anyway. If your parents were playing these games nowadays, then it would be hypocritical.
I’ll give you an example. Imagine that a friend of yours sat down on a bench which was covered in wet paint. If he tells you, “Don’t sit down, it’s wet paint!”, is that hypocritical? According to your logic, since he sat down he can’t tell you not to. The fact is, he just doesn’t want you making the same mistake. The same holds true with your parents. In their eyes they made the mistake of “wasting time” when they were younger, and they want to protect you from making that mistake. It’s not hypocritical that they want what’s best for their children.
However, I actually agree with your first point. Kids need to be kids, and wasting time is a part of that process. There are many times that parents become over-protective and don’t let their children have enough freedom. As one girl wrote in a similar e-mail, “My parents are trying to live vicariously through me, and it’s making me miserable. I want to be able to learn from my own mistakes!”
The response many parents would have to this is actually a pretty good one. You’re correct that they spent time playing Space Invaders and pinball, but they also spent time outside playing ball or interacting with real people. Most kids these days haven’t played Space Invaders or pinball. I played both of those games, and while they were certainly fun, they got boring pretty quickly. The games that are being played these days, are designed to keep you occupied for hours. For example, you mentioned a game everyone is playing called Fortnight. It’s designed to be addictive, and kids (and adults) play for hours on end.
What this all boils comes down to is not if it’s okay to waste time. The question really is, how much time is it okay to waste. Your parents, and many other parents out there, are worried that because you’re spending so much time on electronic devices, you’re not maturing socially. There have been many studies about this over the past few years, and there is no doubt that kids these days are having social issues.
Here’s a simple test I’ve developed to see how social kids are. This isn’t necessarily scientifically accurate, and you might not understand why certain questions are relevant. Don’t think too much into it. Choose the answer to each question that you feel is the closest match to what you would do.
In any case, most parents these days are worried that their children aren’t developing socially. When parents were younger people interacted more, there were no cell phones and if you wanted to speak to someone you called or went to their house. It’s not anyone’s fault that kids have phones and communicate via texting. This is a new generation and with it comes new challenges.
These challenges affect you and your parents. You need to be aware how often you’re using electronics and understand that you can’t let it control you. That could mean limiting the amount of time you use electronics, and/or increasing the amount of time you spend with your friends (and, yes, even with your family).
So, what can you do if your parents are annoyed every time you “chill out?” I think you should be proactive. Before playing electronics, tell your parents that you need a little downtime. Make sure that you aren’t on your phone for too long, and when you’re finished let your parents know. For example, if you are playing a game for 20 minutes, and then stop and read a book for 15 minutes, your mom will think you’ve been playing for 35 minutes.
Another idea is to prove to your parents how social you can be. Be involved at dinner time, hang out with your siblings once in a while, and try to be upbeat whenever possible. This will show your parents that the downtime isn’t affecting you negatively.
Thanks for writing in and have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Ross. My parents agreed that I can e-mail you regarding a fight we’re having. My friends have bedtimes of 10:00 and later, and my parents make me go into bed at 9:00. I’m twelve-years -old and I should be able to stay up later. Basically, every night we argue and I go upstairs and stay up until 10:00 or later anyway. How can I convince my parents to let me stay up later? Michael – Brooklyn
Michael, thanks so much for your email. First and foremost, I’d like to bring attention to the first sentence you wrote “regarding a fight” you and your parents are having. Parents and children do not have fights. They might have discussions, or disagree regarding an issue, but ultimately, the parents have the final say.
Your letter includes two different issues.
The second issue I have with lack of sleep, is that it’s not healthy. Growing children, and yes, you’re still growing, require sleep. There’s a huge debate regarding how much sleep someone your age needs. Some say as little as 9 hours, other say 12 hours. It seems that that smart solution is to take this case by case.
If you would like to ask your parents for a later bedtime, the first thing you need to do is demonstrate that you are both capable and responsible. Here is what I would suggest.
The second topic you mentioned in your question is regarding your friends. I’ve heard this complaint from hundreds of kids. “All of my friends have phones” or, “Everyone in my class is going”, and so many more.
It’s a tough argument to make. On the one hand, your parents put you in an environment in which all of your friends have something. Telling you that you can’t have it seems unfair. An example is, if every child, and I mean every child in the class, has a cell phone, it’s pretty unfair to tell one boy he can’t have one. In other words, there are times saying “all of my friends have one” is a valid argument.
What you’re forgetting, is that these friends of yours have different parents. Sure, they might have the newest iPod or go to a specific camp. However, they might also have to deal with things that you might not want to be involved with. The grass is always greener on the other side. You might think that they have the “good life”, but you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives.
Additionally, if you want to use your friends as proof, then your parents can turn and use that same argument. You want to go to basketball camp? Your friends aren’t going, why should you go? It’s a slippery slope you’re on. Besides, many boys that have tried this argument have found out that they’re actually wrong. One boy told me that everyone in his class had a smart watch. His proof? They told him. Not that I’m doubting an eight-year-old boy who doesn’t know that he’s wearing his undershirt inside out, but I have a gut feeling that most of these boys don’t really have a smart watch.
In other words, many times this is a pretty weak argument. You’re not necessarily entitled to something because other people have it. That’s not the way life works. Again, there are instances when you can use this approach; but bedtime is not one of them. If you want a later bedtime, do what we spoke about earlier. Prove to your parents that you are mature, responsible and ready for it.
Have a great Shabbos!
Baruch Hashem, it’s been almost 3 years since I began this blog, and we now have tens of thousands of subscribers. In an average week I receive over 25 emails, some with simple questions and some with very difficult ones. There are many amazing professionals that I’ve contacted for advice during this time, ranging from psychologists to Rabbonim to dieticians, and I am ever so grateful for their help.
Over the past few months, I’ve been getting many emails from kids. That’s right, your children. E-mails from nine-year olds all the way to eighteen-year olds. At first, I was hesitant to respond and possibly incur the wrath of the parents. However, after consulting with some experts, I’ve decided to respond for the next few weeks to just these e-mails.
I will not use real names, and if necessary I will modify other information. I just want everyone to appreciate the questions that children are asking. The answer to almost every question will end up including, “try to communicate with your parents and let them know how you feel.” Nevertheless, I think it’s important that we try and understand something. Many people agree that raising kids is more difficult these day, but the fact is, it’s also harder to be a kid. There is so much information being thrown at them, and some children don’t get to actually enjoy being, well, a child.
Kids, if you have any questions, please go to www.yidparenting.com and submit them. I’ll do my best to respond.
Dear Rabbi Ross. My parents read your column online every week and print the question and answer for a Shabbos table discussion. Therefore, I would like to ask for your help in printing my question with an answer that will work in my favor. My father insists that I go with him to Shacharis every Shabbos at 8:30, and I want to Daven at 9:30 in the Teen Minyan. I’m 13 years old, and I think I’ve earned the right to Daven wherever I please. My father says I’ll Daven better next to him which I don’t because I’m always annoyed, and he says that 9:30 is too late. How can I convince my father he’s wrong? Thirteen in Woodmere.
Thank you for writing in. I’m so happy that these emails are part of your Shabbos table. I want to begin by assuring you that I will not take sides. My objective is to help you think this through, not to tell you who’s wrong or right. In every instance, you need to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. It also helps to keep thing in perspective. For example, it might be worth it to make an issue about a trip to Great Adventures, but probably not about taking out the garbage.
I think it’s nice that your father wants to have you next to him on Shabbos. Personally, it gives me such Nachas to have my boys Davening next to me, and I can appreciate what your father is thinking. On the other hand, you are a “Bar Mitzvah”, and presumably deserve to daven at a different Minyan of your choice. Let’s start going through each part of your question so you can make an educated decision. When we’re done, we’ll put it all together and come up with some ideas.
It seems that you need to think everything through and make some decisions. How much do you really care about Davening at 9:30? It is worth making an issue out of this? Is it the Davening that’s bothering you, or is it the fact that your father’s not giving you the ability to do your own thing? It’s hard to have a serious conversation with your parents if you aren’t clear about the objectives yourself.
Obviously, the next step is talking to your parents. I think it’s crucial to include your mother in this discussion, since a woman’s perspective is very important. You can ask your parents to have a private discussion with them. If they ask you what it’s about, you can simply say, “Something that’s on my mind.” The reason I don’t think you should say what it’s about yet, is because your father might say, “There’s nothing to discuss”, which can make this more frustrating for you.
When talking to your parents, you must always remain calm. Getting upset easily or raising your voice won’t make this any easier. I can’t tell you exactly what to say, since each situation is unique. However, I would incorporate some of the following ideas in the conversation.
Thank you for your articles, we enjoy reading them every Shabbos. My questions revolve around my teenage son. As a single mother, I do my best to keep the family together. Over the past year or so, there is one threat to our stability, and it’s his iPhone. I know you’re written on this topic in the past, but I can’t help wondering if I’m doing something wrong. He spends every waking moment looking at, checking, or even touching the phone. It’s like a security blanket for him, and I’m terrified. Do you think it’s possible for me to have him cut back his dependency without him getting upset at me? Private – Flatbush.
This is a topic that’s being discussed in so many forums, and there is no definitive answer to it. You brought up many great points, and I’d like to take a moment to focus on four of them.
Stability. A phone does threaten the stability of many families, and it’s not only because of the kids. It’s funny how we’re so quick to ask our children to put away their phones, but when we get an e-mail or text, we jump. I recently saw a video of a person who played the sound of a phone vibrating in a crowded train and watched as all the adults simultaneously grabbed their phones. While it’s certainly an issue with the kids, the adults are just as bad, if not worse. Granted, we conduct some of our work on cellphones, but to a child, their game is just as important as our e-mails.
Waking Moment. This is so important. As attached as we are to our phones during the day, using phones at night can be catastrophic. I say “we”, not “they”, because, again, it’s not only an issue with children. A great rule is “no phones in any bedrooms.” There are many reasons for this. The information overload is harmful, the blue light can cause issues, and our brains are getting zero downtime. A great idea is to set up a centralized charging station in the house - if you trust that your kids won’t take their phones in the middle of the night. Alternatively, you can have them charge in your bedroom. As an added bonus, your teenagers will get out of bed faster in the morning, to get to their phones.
Security Blanket. What is a security blanket? It’s an object (usually a blanket or doll of some sort) that gives a child comfort. As children mature, they tend to reduce the amount of time spent with this object. Whereas a two-year-old child might hold onto his blanket all day, when he’s three it might only be for napping or bedtime. The issue here, is that older children are developing an odd dependency on their phones. I witnessed a Bar Mitzvah-age boy suffering actual withdrawal symptoms during a three-day Yom Tov. He was irritable, nervous and kept telling the people around him that he couldn’t wait for Yom Tov to end. The words he told me were, “I need to feel my phone in my pocket. Until Yom Tov is over, I’m keeping a bar of chocolate instead, since it feels kind of the same.” While he might have been a bit over the top, many kids these days have become overly-dependent on their phones.
We can combat this by insisting that they leave their devices elsewhere when involved in any family-related activities. Suppertime? Phones go away. Going bowling as a family? No phones. Just remember, that if you pull your phone out, it will seem hypocritical to your child. This is also a great time to begin the “No phones while driving” rules. Personally, I think that WAZE took us backwards. It’s apparently okay for people to drive with their phone out, because they’re following directions. I almost got run over by a person at a crosswalk on Central Avenue, because she was checking Waze. She apologized, swore she would put her phone down, and promptly picked it up as she drove away.
Cut Back. This is tough. As we just mentioned, reducing dependence on any devices is difficult. The best method is usually distraction. Water sports are great, since most phones aren’t waterproof, but anything outdoors is fantastic. Music lessons, karate, or anything that keeps them moving will work. The goal is to provide other options. You don’t want to keep saying, “Put your phone away”, since you’re actually having the reverse effect. You’re basically saying, “You always use your phone and it’s a part of you.” It would be better to ignore it (yes, even though it’s annoying). You should be very strict about him looking at you and making eye contact when you’re communicating. Just don’t mention the phone. It’s not about the phone, it’s about common decency. When you’re having a conversation, you maintain eye contact. If he keeps looking at his phone, you can walk away and say, “We’ll continue this conversation when you are able to be a part of it.”
The last point I would like to discuss, is him getting upset at you. He’s a teenager. He’s going to get upset at you quite often, and that’s completely normal. Just make sure that when he’s upset at you, you don’t get upset back. Give him his space. Don’t act all calm and relaxed while he’s upset too, as that can also be irritating. Let him know that you care about him and walk away. While it’s not fun having your son upset at you, it’s going to happen. Just make sure to choose your battles.
Have a Good Shabbos and an easy fast.
Rabbi Ross. I’ve been reading your emails for a few years, and most of them apply to younger children. Let’s expand your repertoire. My married son has come to me for the fifth time in two years to borrow money. At what time do we cut the cord? My parents never supported me and that gave me the impetus I needed to become self-reliant. Can I tell him “No”? Sam - Monsey
Thanks for helping me “Expand my repertoire.” I actually do receive questions regarding married children, but many of them don’t apply to the general population. Your question is actually pretty common, so we’ll try to answer it.
Many years ago, a fellow that I’m friendly with decided to do something unique. He saved up very large sum of money and gave it to his son right after he (the son) got married. He was awfully confused when his son came to him 6 months later to borrow money.
It turns out that the young couple had rented an apartment for $5,500 a month and furnished it with many high-end items. They also leased two expensive cars and went on a few vacations. This fellow’s reaction was to involve himself in his son’s finances. He got him out of the apartment and downgraded the leases to affordable cars. After a few weeks, the budget went from $13,000 a month to under $3,500.
Although his son resented this intrusion, years later he admitted that it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Learning the value of money is very important and being able to mantain a budget is crucial. His son now has a few children and is, Baruch Hashem, self-sufficient.
Without knowing the particulars, it’s obviously difficult to answer your question. It doesn’t sound like your son is borrowing money, it sounds like he’s taking money. The simple solution would be to do what this father did. Tell your son, “If I’m giving you money, I would like to be involved in your financials.” If he says yes, help him get his act together. If he says no, it’s time to stop helping.
It’s not helping out that’s the issue, it’s enabling him. Young couples need to understand the importance of a budget and the value of money. Obviously, if they need help buying food you should help out, but it sounds like it’s more than basic necessities.
If you’re worried that it will cause your son to be upset with you, you’re correct. It’s going to happen no matter what. At some point in time, you’re going to stop helping out, and that’s when he’s going to say you’re not being a good father.
The fact is, teaching children the value of money is something that needs to be done when they’re much younger. I did publish a two-part article a while back that discussed some cool tips parents can use. You can click here to read it. It’s important to recognize that although every child is different, money smarts are typically a learned behavior.
There is a twelve-year-old boy in the Five Towns that wanted a newer phone. His father gave him a few lemons, some sugar, ice and cups, and told him to sell lemonade on the side of the road. The boy spent eight hours in the sun and made over $190 dollars. He came home exhausted and told his father, “Forget the phone. I want to save the money I earned.”
If your son is insistent that he desperately needs help and refuses to allow you to get involved, with the exception of taking your money, there is one more option. You can agree to have his Rav mediate. As parents, you need to show some empathy whenever possible. Additionally, having his Rav involved will remove some of the pressure from you to help with the necessities. If he refuses this offer, I think it’s time to cut the cord.
Have a good Shabbos.
My children are spoiled. I have no problem admitting it, although my husband disagrees. They think that if we don’t give them something they want, we’re being unfair to them. My husband feels that we should give in since they’ll mature as they get older. We decided to follow your advice on this.
Karen – Flatbush
I have some news for you. Many adults also feel that if they don’t get what they want, life is unfair. We live in a society where many people feel a sense of entitlement, and it’s absolutely nauseating. However, there is a difference between spoiling children and creating a sense of entitlement.
Spoiling children is giving them things that they don’t need but enjoy. Usually grandparents do this, and I’ve received many emails from frustrated parents that seem to have forgotten how much fun grandparents can be. Many children that are “spoiled” end up living normal and healthy lives. Obviously, there are those parents that give in to their children more easily than others. Parents that spoil their children don’t like to say “no” but will come down on their children at times. A spoiled child can be very well-mannered and easygoing at a friend’s house. So, a little bit of spoiling won’t necessarily be harmful.
Entitlement is a lot worse. Children that are entitled won’t help out around the house even when asked. They never accept blame and require a bribe for almost any act. They feel that they are above rules, and don’t deal well with disappointment. Entitled children aren’t usually good playdates and tend to require a lot of attention. Children like this very often have issues as they get older. They refuse to get a job and insist on receiving support. Parents of entitled children rarely tell their children “no”.
You need to ask yourselves if you’re spoiling or entitling your children. If you’re just spoiling them, it’s not hard to stop. All you need to do is begin treating your children as if they’re children. Tell them what to do, don’t ask their opinion. Show them love but be firm. Don’t buy them everything that they desire. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with spoiling children a little bit, however, becoming too strict can have pretty serious consequences. Especially if you were easy-going and you decided to become tougher. The key to striking a balance is to always show your children how much you care.
Children that are entitled are usually a bit older. There’s no definitive age but becoming tougher won’t necessarily work. They might overreact, and this can quickly spiral out of control. If you really believe your children feel entitled, it would be wise to seek the advice of a mental health professional. It usually does not resolve itself if left alone – on the contrary it gets worse as they get older.
I would like to address the point your husband made about them maturing as they get older. Approximately ten years ago, I was in a shul in Florida. I was one of the first ones there and ended up sitting behind two men who looked to be in their late eighties. They were having a loud discussion about who showers more often, but I figured they were joking around. A few minutes later, a third man walked in. The first two looked at him and began accusing him of, (I’m embarrassed to write this), passing gas. They were using an immature term, one used frequently by children in the fourth grade. They didn’t let up. What took the cake was when the third man told them, “I’m telling the Rabbi on you!”
At that time, I had an epiphany. People do not necessarily mature with age. These men were just as immature as fourth graders and were not embarrassed. Maturing is a process that comes from socializing and observing others, amongst other factors. Happy moments, sad occasions and even frustrating circumstances all are opportunities for growth and maturation.
The key factor here is how the parents deal with a situation. There are always opportunities for parents to help children mature, by being aware and sensitive to what is going on around them. For example, let’s say your daughter witnessed her friend being embarrassed. If you tell her, “Poor kid” and walk away, you’re missing out on a maturing opportunity. Rather you can say, “I wonder how she felt? Is there anything that could have been done to prevent this from happening?” In this way you’re helping your child mature, by giving her the opportunity to think about what happened and grow from the experience.
Have a good Shabbos
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 Ross. As parents of 4 wonderful children Bli Ayin Hara, there are many challenges that we face. The most difficult of all for us is the bussing situation. My kids have been learning new things on the bus, and I’m not talking about Hebrew subjects. On the days that they don’t get an education, they come home taking about horrible arguments or fights. I’ve tried talking to the school, but either they aren’t taking me seriously or they can’t do anything about it. We’re at the point that we are thinking of just driving the kids every day. Why can’t they just hire someone to be a bus monitor like they have in camps? Please share any advice you think may help. Thank you. D&L – Cedarhurst
I don’t think that anyone enjoys sending their children on the bus. There are actually two parts to the bus ride. The morning ride, and the afternoon ride. In my experience, the bus in the morning is a lot more easy-going. Most of the kids are still sleepy and therefore just sit quietly in their respective seats, waiting for the bus to arrive at school.
The problem many parents have with the morning bus is more of a timing issue. On those mornings that you’re behind schedule by one minute, the bus comes exactly on time. When you are on schedule, the bus seems to come late. Timing notwithstanding, there aren’t a lot of issues with the morning bus. Occasionally the drivers will say that some of the boys were acting up, but it’s nothing crazy.
The afternoon ride is, unfortunately, a different story. The kids are extremely hyper after sitting through a day of classes, and they are not being supervised in most cases. You asked about a bus counselor, but I’m not sure who would pay for that. In camps, the counselors will frequently monitor the younger kids, so they can get extra tips. During the school year, who is going to spend two hours a day sitting on a bus with the kids? You would need an older person, and I can’t envision the district or the bus company agreeing to pay for it.
I am aware that some buses have video cameras set up now. That’s somewhat helpful in figuring out what happened after an incident, but it’s not that helpful as a preventative measure. The bus drivers themselves are ill equipped to deal with most situations. Driving a bus isn’t as simple as one would think, and they need to follow certain protocols while the bus is in motion. They are unable, and probably not even allowed, to really intervene when there is a problem. Basically, it seems that your child is on his own on the bus.
Let’s switch gears for a second (pun certainly intended) and discuss what is happening on the busses. A few years back, one of my children came off a bus and told my wife that a boy kept saying the “S” word on the bus. Naturally my wife and I were quite upset and called the appropriate administration members immediately. We were also debating calling this boy’s parents. When I sat my son down to get the exact details, it came to light that the “S” word he was talking about was “Stupid.”
Whereas that sounds cute, it highlights the worst part of the bus ride. The education that the kids get. No matter the age, children learn new things on the bus. It could be something as innocent as the latest game that’s being downloaded. It could also be somewhat worse. Before you start blaming other families for not raising their children properly, remember that their children probably learned things on the bus or from older siblings (who may have learned it on the bus.) In other words, it’s not time to play the blame game.
Below are some ideas I can share regarding this issue. As always, some of these might work better than others. Feel free to share additional ideas in the comment section.
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.