Rabbi Ross. My oldest son is in 5th grade, and he’s a good boy. The issue I’m having is with his Davening in Shul. He has no desire to go to Shul on Shabbos morning even thought his siblings come. My wife and I have tried begging, arguing, and even prizes, and he’s still resisting. I’ve always dreamed of having my sons standing beautifully next to me in Shul. What can I do? Anonymous – Woodmere
There are many fathers that share your dream. What could be more perfect than Davening in Shul next to your children and passing the torch of Yiddishkeit onto the next generation? Regarding your situation, I can tell you without even analyzing the situation, that begging and arguing won’t work. I’m not even a big fan of prizes. Although rewarding children occasionally is a great idea, I know some people that are constantly bombarding their children with gifts for everything they do. You washed Negel Vasser? Here’s a prize. You made a Bracha? Here’s a treat. Boy are these kids in for a shock when they get a job! (“I completed the TPS report…where’s my prize?”)
The love for Davening starts when the child is still in the mother’s womb. If the mother says Tehillim, Davens, (I know it’s hard to find time when there are other kids), and talks to HaShem, her children will already have it ingrained within them.
The next stage is when the child is from one to six. This is the age that he is a sponge. He’s soaking in the attitude that his parents are displaying. Does the father come home from Shul complaining every Shabbos? “The guy Davening Mussaf schlepped unbelievably, and it took forever!” How about, “The Rav kept going and going, he just likes to hear himself speak!” Your child hears this, and Shul becomes associated as a negative thing.
Another huge issue is punctuality. If Davening begins at 8:30, don’t start getting ready at 8:40! If you really care about something, you’re there on time or, dare I say it, even a little early. Announce that you’re leaving to Shul at 8:15, and tell your kids, “We don’t want be late!” It’ll sink in that Shul is a special place, and we can’t be late. My Zaidy, Alter Baruch A”H, used to walk over ½ mile (with bad knees) to be in Shul for the 8:30 Shacharis. We would arrive at 9:25, and my Zaidy was already there.
When are your kids are ready for Shul? When they’re in 1st or 2nd grade, I would suggest starting to take them on Friday night because it’s not a long davening and even more so, they can appreciate a beautiful Kabbolas Shabbos. You shouldn’t give them a snack (Snacks should be only for a long Davening), but they can bring along a few Jewish children’s books. Make sure they understand that they can’t talk at all – and obviously we’re assuming you’re not talking either. If they are bored or fidgety, they are not ready yet - try again in a few months.
Your goal is for your kids to see you loving and enjoying davening and looking inside your siddur. You should sing along, and get your child involved. If all goes well, you can then start Shabbos morning Davening. I would suggest that you bring along snacks, as well as books since Davening is much longer. Watch him closely to see if he is getting bored or antsy, and if so bring him home. You can compliment him on the way home. “Wow! You were amazing! I’m telling Mommy and your Rebbe what a beautiful job you did!” This will help him develop an even greater excitement and a desire for Shul.
When the Rav speaks, your son should not be allowed out to play outside. Once you start the “going out” concept, it’s very hard to re-acclimate. If he can’t manage the drasha yet, bring him home. If you want to play it smart, tell him, “When you’re a little older, I’ll let you stay in Shul longer.” If he complains that other boys are playing outside, tell him “A Shul is a place to talk to Hashem. and learn Torah. There are other people that are not fortunate enough to understand how special that is. IY”H they will eventually learn. But you can certainly stay home and play, if you would like.”
Before you read this next paragraph, please remember this is my personal opinion. I’m sure there will be many people that disagree.
Another thing I’m not fond of, is youth groups. In theory they sound great, but experience has taught me that they are very often just glorified babysitting. While there are exceptions, it seems that the transition from groups to Shul is much more difficult than people realize. They go from kiddie groups, to children’s groups, to mini-Minyamin and then Teen Minyanim. I don’t believe kids need this, and I get the feeling it’s just a convenience for the parents. I don’t want to elaborate, but unless your Shul is one that encourages the transition to the regular Minyan at a young age, I would stay away.
Another way to teach your children the importance of a Shul is by dressing appropriately. Understandably, not everyone has a minhag to wear a heat and jacket. However, it is of utmost importance to look clean and neat and wear special clothing for Shabbos, even at Mincha on Shabbos afternoon. When a person comes into a Shul all disheveled and untucked, it’s a very bad example for his children. Show your children at a young age that when you Daven, you dress the part.
Incidentally, this article is for boys and girls. It might be more difficult for mothers to take their daughters to Shul, but many Shuls have no problem with the girls Davening with their fathers until around the age of seven. At that time, they can go alone into the women’s section.
Now let’s analyze your original question. Your son does not want to Daven in Shul? That’s fine. Don’t allow him to come to Shul. Take control of the situation. Go to Shul with the younger or older ones, stay for the Kiddush, and come back with a huge smile talking about what a great morning you had. Take your other kids for ice cream the next day if possible, to celebrate their Davening in shul. The goal is not to reward them (certainly don’t tell them about it beforehand), it’s to make this child realize that he’s missing something amazing.
When he complains that he didn’t know you were going to reward the “shul goers”, you can tell him “Davening in Shul is a special treat. I’d love for you to join me and be a part of this special group. I hope you go with me this coming Shabbos!” On Shabbos morning, you can ask him one time if he wants to come, and that’s it. Don’t make a big deal about it, just privately convince the other kids to go with you. If he decides to stay home, your wife should not play any games with him, or keep him occupied. Let him be bored. She should not keep harping on the Shul issue, just let him help set the table, and prepare for the meal.
You have another excellent choice, and that’s to use your son’s Rebbe. Call him and tell him the issues you’re having. He should talk to the class about the importance of davening in the Shul, and maybe even ask the class “Who Davens in Shul?” You can also ask your Rav to get involved, if you believe he has a close relationship with your son. If so, he shouldn’t mention you (the parents), rather he should say something like, “I wish I saw you in Shul on Shabbos, it makes my day so much better!”
Here are a few tips to help your wonderful children develop a love for Davening in Shul. This list is not meant for kids that just don’t like or appreciate Davening as that’s a similar, but separate, issue.
Hashem should give you all much Nachas from your wonderful kinderlach and all of our Tefilos should be accepted. Have a good Shabbos!
Last week we heard from a frustrated father regarding his children and their addiction to electronics. I had asked everyone to share their opinions, and I received many blog posts, and over 150 e-mail replies. I compiled all of the ideas together as best as possible, and, Baruch Hashem, it seems there is hope if we play our cards right.
On Wednesday morning, I was sitting in Yeshiva when two boys walked in. The boy who came in first turned to his friend and said to him as follows: (please forgive the run-on sentence), “I am attacking with the baby dragon on the highest level combined with the prince, because the baby dragon has blast damage and the only thing that can stop the prince is blast damage, so unless he also has a fully upgraded baby dragon to counteract mine, I’m unstoppable!”
I told this boy, “I remember learning about a dragon in the Gemara, I think in Avoda Zara!” He looked and me and said “Rebbe, this is really serious stuff I’m discussing!” It just validated my concerns, namely that electronics have switched from a fun outlet to a destructive and/or obsessive habit.
In order to understand the issue better, I think we need to take a step back and see where it’s coming from. We all like to blame our society or our schools and communities. However, I asked over 30 boys during the week, and they all felt that their parents were also addicted to their cellphones. Here are five questions that can help you figure out if you’re one of them:
So, what is there to do about this? Obviously, you need to understand that if you’re constantly on your phone, holding your phone or checking your phone, your children will not view the phone as something negative, rather they will perceive it as a normal and acceptable way of life. In order to address our children’s addiction with the iPad, cellphone or electronics, it would be prudent to work on ourselves and try to limit the amount of time we use and check our phones. That being said, if your children are doing well in Yeshiva, have friends, and are easy going, you may not need to do anything. If, however, you feel that your kids are hooked on electronics, these next 18 ideas are for you. Thank you again to the many people who helped with this.
Remember, some of these ideas might work for your family, and some not. See which works best for you. Keep in mind that this will not be easy. However, if you’re consistent, you will be successful!
With the help of Hashem, we will continue to raise our children to be Mentchen.
Have a great Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. Thank you for your help, it’s been much appreciated. I’m sure you received many similar questions, but I’m really at a loss. My kids love to play their iPads and iPods. It could be 85 degrees outside, and they want to sit and play, and they always end up fighting with each other about who had the longer turn. I’m scared to take it away, since they complain everyone else plays all the time. I’m so confused. A.G. – Woodmere
This is a very common issue, and there is much to discuss. Therefore, I’m breaking this down into two parts. This week we’ll analyze the issue and its repercussions, and next week we’ll work on a solution. As an added benefit, this enables me to ask all of you to share your suggestions for next week in the comments section.
It’s a new generation, and with it some interesting problems have arrived. As a kid I used to play video games as well. Donkey Kong, Tetris, Pac Man and a few others. However, the games today are very different. Here’s how it works.
Most of the games for iPads use advertising as a primary source of revenue. Therefore, they want your kids to play as often as possible so they can show the advertisers that each online player is continuously logged in. How do they accomplish this? It’s pretty simple actually.
Many of these games are created to be addictive. They require logging in to stay updated, and earn points when they spend time online playing. It becomes an actual addiction. Whereas we look at the games and think, “How can they enjoy these games?”, these kids actually feel the need to play.
However, these games are actually different than typical addictions. With a normal addiction, you feel a sense of relief after you’ve “fed” the addiction. With these games, the kids just get moody or frustrated. Many parents get equally frustrated and end up saying “That’s it! No iPad for a week!” Two hours later your son is complaining, “I’m so bored.” It gets even more tricky if your kids have to *gasp* share a device. They begin to argue about the games, amount played, and more.
There are some additional issues with electronics. I’m fond of telling over a story that happened a few years ago. During a league game of baseball, a new boy joined our floundering team. He was certainly dressed for the part; he was wearing a Derek Jeter jersey, some fancy sneakers, and sunglasses worth more than my Shabbos suit. This boy told me that he was a pitcher and a power hitter, and I was thrilled to pick up additional talent.
To make a long story short, he walked the first 4 batters he faced. He also struck out badly each time out at the plate. I went over to him after the game and said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s a new environment.” He replied, “I don’t know what happened, I’m so good at the Wii!” It seems he had never actually played the physical game in his life!
To make matters even worse, these electronics exacerbate a serious condition that is affecting the entire world, namely lack of social skills and the ability to communicate verbally. Playdates are becoming a thing of the past, and when they do occur kids expect their parents to set them up. Shadchanim have pointed out that this is negatively affecting the dating scene as well. Awkward silences have become the norm as these young men and women try to navigate through the tricky waters of dating without looking at a screen or sending a text.
If this isn’t scary enough, there are doctors that believe that this constant visual stimulation causes a plethora of problems in our children. There is insomnia, ADHD, obesity and a whole bunch more. One mother told me her kids can’t even watch a video or sports game anymore without a break to play on their respective devices. Apparently, whenever there is a talking scene, her kids quickly glance down on their iPods to update or whatever it is they are doing. Granted, this is not a problem only affecting our communities and societies, but it is definitely affecting our children.
Not convinced we have a problem? Think about car rides now versus when you were a kid. It used to be that we played games in the car, fought with our siblings, listened to music, read and so on. Now? Watching a video or playing an iPad is the norm, at times even on a short car ride. Yes, there are definitely good parts to this as well. Some games are educational, can keep the kids quiet on a rainy day, and these devices can even have a Siddur. I still think we have a huge problem.
I think the eight main questions we need to answer are:
Although I’ll be answering these questions and many more next week, I would love to hear from you all.
What are your thoughts and ideas? Please leave your comment below. We would love to read it!
Dear Rabbi Ross,
My son is a big baby. I love him to pieces, but whenever he does not win a game, he gets all teary eyed and starts blaming his teammates and accusing everyone of cheating. I understand this can be normal behavior for a 5-year-old, but he’s turning 12 soon, it’s still happening, and I’m getting a tad nervous. Do you have any suggestions? David – Woodmere
David, I have received many emails with similar questions over the past few months. Coaches and teachers would call this behavior “poor sportsmanship”, while kids refer to it as being a sore loser. Whatever the name, it’s not fun dealing with a 9-year-old sobbing uncontrollably because he’s 100% sure that he was safe at first base. It’s also difficult explaining to your neighbor why your 12-year-old is crying during a fun game of football with younger kids.
There is some good news though. IY”H in a bunch of years, your son will get married and you won’t have to deal with this as much. I’m kidding of course... you’ll still have to deal with it.
Although this is a difficult personality trait to handle, it does have its positive points as well. Significantly, it shows us that your son thrives on competition and has a tremendous drive to succeed. These are trait that can be used to great effect as he grows older and matures.
Before we try and discuss some ideas to deal with this issue, let’s be super proactive. There is nothing wrong with him losing a game as a young child. If you’re playing a game with your toddler, don’t always let him win. Losing properly is a learned behavior, and you need to begin working on this when your children are very young.
Here are some tips to help you through these exasperating moments. Remember that there are no quick fixes to this. It’ll take patience, time, and some more patience.
Here are the proactive tips – what you can do before he gets into a situation.
1) Practice losing with him. Act out scenarios that get him riled up so he can work on correct responses. When he’s in a good mood, give him a scenario that would get him upset. “You’re losing by one run, bases loaded, and you hit a ball and they call it foul, but it wasn’t!”
2) Before he starts playing, remind him that certain things can get him upset and he needs to stay calm no matter what. Preparation is key.
3) Don’t avoid situations because you’re scared he’ll overreact. This is a growing experience, and it’s important that he has the chance to mature.
4) Be a good role model. Getting upset when the Yankees are losing sends him mixed messages. This can be a great way to communicate to him how to react. “That umpire really blew the call, but it’s just a game. You win some and you lose some.”
Here are some situational tips – what you can do during the incidents.
1) Identify any triggers. It could be a sibling, being overtired, or even just having a hard day.
2) Don’t wait until it’s too late. When you see him starting to lose it, get out there and remove him from the situation.
3) Focus on positive behaviors that he exhibits when he’s playing. Comments like “You seemed very upbeat and I was super impressed!”, are excellent.
4) Empathize with his frustrations when he stays in control. It’s OK if he slips a little, but if he’s still in control, you can validate his frustrations. If you see that he’s getting annoyed because he’s losing, you can tell him “Losing can be so frustrating. I’m sure you’ll win a different game.”
Here are some tips when dealing with the aftermath.
1) Make sure that there are immediate consequences to his actions whenever applicable. If he shoves a player or throws the ball away, he must be removed from the game. No explanations.
2) If he quits a game in middle, he should not be able to play the next time the game is set up.
3) Try and change the subject if he’s really upset. This can quickly calm him down.
4) You can certainly compliment or reward him if he stays in control in a difficult situation. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.
It’s important to remember two things. First of all, a lot of this personality is built into specific children. Some children are easy-going and some are not. Having a child who’s a sore loser doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Second of all, a great trick is to Daven. It’s that simple. Ask Hashem for help.
Wishing you all continued Nachas from your wonderful children.
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.