Rabbi Ross. My 12-year-old son is a sports fanatic. He spends hours listening to the radio, reading stats, and memorizing useless information. Although I don’t think it’s really affecting his grades in school, I can’t help but become frustrated that he is wasting brainpower on such stupidities. I’m also worried that he’ll become overly involved and it will start affecting his grades. Besides, some of the sporting events have inappropriate things (dancers). What are your thoughts?
All children need outlets. Whether it’s playing ball, building with Legos, karate, or anything else - having an outlet is a good thing. I read your email a few times, and it seems to me that what you’re describing is perfectly normal behavior. I taught a student years ago that was the same way, and he currently works with some sort of sports publication.
I fail to see what you are worried about. His grades are not being affected, he’s happy, and he’s doing something that’s healthy, and yes, even challenging. The way I see it, one of three things will happen:
The worst thing you can do is make fun of what he’s doing, or even give him disparaging or disapproving looks. You don’t want to alienate him; you want to show that you’re involved and you care about the things he cares about. Although you may not understand what he’s talking about. If it’s something he cares about, it’s important.
In other words, my thoughts are that not only should you not make it an issue, you should tell him you’re proud of him. Remind him that it’s important that he continues to shine academically, but you are impressed with his ability to master all of this information.
Regarding the immodest dancers, or inappropriate language, that really depends on how you’re raising your children. If you are raising them in a very sheltered environment (which I seriously doubt, being that he’s so involved in professional sports), you have a point. Otherwise, this can be a wonderful learning experience.
When you take your children to any sporting event, you should preface it with the following: “There are people that don’t understand the importance of tznius or using proper language. We need to make sure that we look away from something that is not good for us, and we should not listen to things that we aren’t supposed to hear.”
Once you’re at the game, be a good role model. If there are dancers, talk to him while they’re dancing. If there is someone speaking inappropriately, turn his attention elsewhere. This is a great way to turn this into a learning experience, as well as a bonding opportunity.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.