First of all, thank you! I’ve received over 200 responses via e-mail to the question from last week. [(To refresh your memories, here’s a link to the original question](http://www.yidparenting.com/blog/a-special-contest) It’s amazing what a $250 Gourmet Glatt card can do! Seriously speaking, many of the answers were excellent, some of them were decent, and a few of them almost had me calling CPS (Child Protective Services).
Here’s the thing. There are many different types of “Torah observant Jews”. We’ve even created labels for many of them. Right, left, modern orthodox, black-hat, and many more. When I answer the many questions I receive, whether privately or publicly, I try to remain as neutral as possible. I’m not here to judge anyone’s level of observance.
That being said, many of the responses I received really worried me. Some were all annoyed that this mother was worried at all. One person wrote, “Who cares about how they dress! You need to stop being so dramatic!” Another person asked, “How can you even think this friendship is a viable option? If they are not dressed appropriately, your kids need to be far away!”
You do realize that when you are judgmental, your kids will very likely turn out the same way. (That’s not a good thing by the way.) A friend of mine recently told me that his son has been making racist comments. Not surprisingly, after some gentle prodding, he admitted that he makes racist jokes every once in a while.
Our children pick up on _a lot_ more than we realize. We need to genuinely love and understand all types of Jews. A black-hat family might think that a modern orthodox family is “too modern”, but a Chassidishe family views the black-hat family as “too modern”. We can’t start judging one another, as we’re all in this together.
In other words, if you weren’t able to understand the question, you didn’t win. So many of you were on target, and I don’t have much to add to the winning entry. I read and reread every response, and settled on one answer that I really felt epitomized my feelings as well. Congratulations to Leah Zanziper from Flatbush for her winning response and thank you to all those that participated!
Here’s her response:
You sound like a smart, caring, down-to-earth and practical mother. Like you said, you both come from non-religious backgrounds and took a tremendous step in your lives towards living a Torah lifestyle and all that that entails.
I think it's super important to share with your children both your struggles and accomplishments that brought you to who you are today. Be real, be honest, be vulnerable. Share with your kids why you chose to live this lifestyle, and why you chose to leave the lifestyle that you were raised in.
Obviously when you speak to them, it's in a respectful, non-judgmental way about your family and extended family. Share with them the love of yiddishkeit that you have. Share with them the passion and commitment you have to Torah. Share with them the dreams that you had when you decided to become religious. Your children will fall in love with yiddishkeit hearing from you - your love, your passion and your enthusiasm.
Teach them the beauty of Tznius. Teach them it's not all and only about covering up, but rather about expressing who you are, and allowing your true identity to shine. Don't be rough and harsh. Share with them the meaning behind all the wonderful Mitzvos that we have. Of course there are challenges, and peer pressure, etc. But the more you pump them up with positively, the more they will feel it.
It's actually such a beautiful opportunity that you have to share of your true inner self with your beautiful children . They are mature enough to understand all that you are sharing with them. It will build your relationship and create a closeness with your children to that much of a greater level.
With that being said, I think that's the most important thing a child should feel. A child should feel a close connection to HaShem. They should feel a purpose in why they are living, and they should feel special and unique that they are privileged to have the beautiful Mitzvos and Torah!
When they feel "full" spiritually, and feel close to their parents who love them unconditionally, they won't be looking elsewhere.
It's important to be open with your children about how you feel about their cousins and the concerns that you have. You don't have to delve into all the details, but enough for them to feel that you’re on the same page. Ask them how they feel, discuss it. Talk about it.
Invite the cousins over to your home to "chill". Make it a fabulous Torah exciting house to be in! Your love and enthusiasm will bounce off to the people surrounding you.
Lastly, you should speak to the cousins themselves. Talk to them in the kindest, loving, and thoughtful way. Be honest and truthful about your concerns that you have for your precious children.
Don't blame, don't criticize, don’t accuse, don't attack, just talk in the kindest way and share with them the way you feel. When a person speaks from their heart, and are truthful, they will get very positive responses!
One more thing I want to add. It's sometimes easier to "control " your kids and say "no" to them when you’re not comfortable with something they want to do. But the long-term effects of actually talking to them, giving them of your time, explaining to them about life, and why certain decisions you’re making for them and with them, etc... that will be the greatest investment you'll ever make. They'll be able to talk to you and discuss it with you, and that's what will give them the most satisfaction long term.
Wishing you tremendous Nachas from all your lovely children and may they always shower upon you overflowing Yiddishe Nachas!
Leah, thank you for a wonderful response!
Have a great 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.