Dear Rabbi Ross. I cannot afford to give my children's Rebbeim a significant amount of money as a Chanukah gift. In your opinion, should I give a $10 check, or is it better to just write a Thank You card. Should I write, or should I let my kids write? Private - Inwood.
Regardless of the amount that a parent is able to give, a thoughtful card is appreciated and cherished by both Rebbeim and Teachers. If your children are mature enough to express why they appreciate their Rebbe, let them write it. If your child cannot express himself, or adequately express the level of gratitude that you are trying to share, it might be better if you write it. There are parents that write a beautiful note and then include a small letter or picture from their child, depending on their age.
If your son's Rebbe is an "OK" Rebbe, a simple card saying, “Thank you”, with a check, is fine. However, if your son's Rebbe is a dynamic Rebbe who gives his all, you might want to be more expressive with your note of thanks.
You can possibly even explain your situation, depending of course on your comfort level. You can write, "Although our current circumstances don't allow us to give much money, we are so grateful for your tremendous efforts on behalf of our children".
Lastly, the way a card/gift is presented to the Rebbe also makes an impact. If you are sending it with your child to school, teach them the proper way to give a gift to the Rebbe. Your child should walk over to the Rebbe before class starts, put the envelope on his desk, and say, "Thank you".
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos and a Freilichen Chanukah.
Occasionally, the article I write generates a lot of conversation (which is a polite way of saying controversy). The last article I wrote regarding young Rebbeim was one such article. Although many people agreed with and enjoyed what I wrote, I received quite a few interesting emails over the past few days. Therefore, I will respond to a few of them this week, and we’ll continue the regular article next week.
Rabbi Ross. Although I usually enjoy your emails, I was a little taken aback by this last one. I am what you might call a young Rebbe. I spend hours preparing and learning from other Rebbeim, and B”H I have really been having an amazing year. I felt that in your email, you were generalizing tremendously. There are many fantastic aspects that fresh blood brings to the table. – A local Rebbe
During an average week, I have one or two boys come to me, complaining that, “Someone called me stupid”. After reassuring him that I will deal with it, I indubitably ask, “If someone called you a three-legged mongoose, would that bother you?” When he says “No,” I continue, “That’s because you’re not a three-legged mongoose. Now, since you’re not stupid either, that shouldn’t bother you as well.”
The same applies here. The article was not focused only on young Rebbeim. It was directed at Yeshivas that allow parents to run the school, parents that are overprotective, and young Rebbeim that don’t yet have (or are attempting to acquire) classroom management skills. You seem to be an excellent Rebbe and are constantly improving yourself, and therefore the last topic doesn’t really apply to you.
Regarding the “Generalizing” point, this is an email that goes out to thousands of people B”H, and is read in newspapers weekly. I am discussing the general topic of parenting and Yiddishkeit, so yes, I will be generalizing. It’s not ever intended to insult or offend anyone, Chas Veshalom.
Hi. I’ve noticed that you seem to be defending older Rebbeim. My son had a Rebbe in yeshiva that turned him off to Yiddishkeit. These Rebbeim need to go if they can’t understand children and the importance of showing love. R.L.
You brought up a number of points in this email, and I’ll try to respond to each one.
I remember your son well. First of all, it was a very different generation 20 years ago. The parents were less involved, and the administration was more supportive of the Rebbeim. I spent my summers meeting with professional Mechanchim, and my afternoons sitting in on other classes. I worked on my curriculum continuously, always looking for ways to improve the lessons in a way that would most benefit the class.
In other words, being a Rebbe or teacher is not just a static job, it’s a lifelong commitment. It requires continuous preparation, effort and the ability to adapt to each new class (and generation). Additionally, while it’s always advisable to do what you love, it is an absolutely fundamental requirement in order to be a successful Rebbe or Morah. You must be enthusiastic about your role as a Mechanech and love teaching children in order to be able to do your job.
Rabbi Ross, I’m a bit confused. I’m a parent of 3 children in various Yeshivos. Are you suggesting that I not be involved in their education? Shayna B.
Great question! I did write that “Parents call and complain that their children are not coming home happy.” The problem is threefold.
I really am trying to stay away from these questions. However, it’s surprising how many questions I received that were similar to yours. The answer to your question is long, and I won’t go into detail in this article. I will, however, share my initial thoughts.
Part of being a Rebbe, is finding the beauty in every Talmid. While there are children that can act annoying, and even those that really drive you crazy (or their parents do), you need to search for their special talent or Middah. I can assure you, the child knows he’s not loved. You need to go out of your way to give him positive attention, and make him understand that you really care. If you just can’t do it, this may sound harsh, but there are a lot of jobs out there that may be more suitable. Being a Rebbe is a privilege.
Rav Dessler says in Michtav M’Eliyahu, the root of “Ahava” – love, derives from the word “Hav”, which means to give. The more you give, the more you come to love someone. That’s why Hashem created babies to be so dependent on their parents. The more we give them, the more feelings of love are created. At first, the giving might be “forced”, but the more you go out of your way to help this particular child (calling on them, extra smiles, a pat on the shoulder, etc…), the more you can learn to, and will, love them for who they are. You can be the one that will start him on the path to success!
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Ross. I’ve been reading your articles for quite a few months, and I am really impressed by how much you have to offer. I have noticed in a few of your articles, that you seem to imply that younger Rebbeim might not be as qualified as the older ones. I agree, and I’m actually one of the younger Rebbeim. I don’t feel super qualified and it worries me. What would you suggest younger Rebbeim do to improve their skillset? A local Rebbe.
I was quite hesitant to respond to your question. These emails/articles are supposed to be about parenting, not teaching. However, after some thought, I’ve decided to share a few tips that I think will be appreciated by Rebbeim and parents alike. Please understand, this email might come off a little strong to both Yeshivos and parents.
There is a word that’s constantly growing in the world of Chinuch. The word is “Happy”, and it’s changing the way we teach. Here’s how it works. If the kids are happy they’ll learn well and have a great year. Now, in theory, this makes a lot of sense. If the kids are smiling, they will learn better and come home happier.
Sadly, this concept of happiness is horribly misguided. It frequently comes at the expense of learning, classroom management, and overall discipline. What everyone needs to understand, is that children actually enjoy structure and learning. Furthermore, being strict is not mutually exclusive to children enjoying learning in the classroom!
One of the problems that arises is that Yeshivos are unable or unwilling to stand up to parents. When a parent calls and says that their child is not coming home happy, blame causation is immediately shifts to blamed on the Rebbe or teacher. Is he giving enough recess? Is he too tough? Writing assignments as punishments are certainly unacceptable.
The more experienced Rebbeim and Moros are feeling the pressure to conform. I recently spoke to a very experienced Rebbe, who told me the following. “I used to accomplish twice as much, but, nowadays, I need to go very slowly and make sure be careful not to hurt the delicate feelings of the 7th graders.” What’s next? Political correctness seminars and sensitivity training? I’m sorry, but this is insane!
Newer and younger Rebbeim are being brought in. Many have no experience in the classroom, and are getting little or no guidance. Their main responsibility is to ensure the happiness of the children. If they accomplish that, they’re good as gold. One Rebbe confided in me recently, “I’m more scared of my Talmidim than they are of me.” Rebbeim and teachers are expected to teach at the proper class level and give over a love for Yiddishkeit, but how can they accomplish this, given all of these expectations?
The answer is actually quite simple. Here are the steps.
Have a great Shabbos.
Many weeks ago, you sent an article about Davening in shul which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, going to Shul is not the issue in my house, it’s Davening. My children (boys and girls from 3 – 13) have no desire to Daven, and it really bugs me. I always Daven well, and make sure not to talk or disturb others during Davening. My wife does not Daven, since she is involved with the kids. What can I do to make my children Daven without forcing them? Yehoshua D. – Woodmere
Yehoshua, this is an excellent question. You made so many great points in the question, including that you Daven well (which is so important for your kids to see), and that you don’t want to force your children (which rarely works). There are many ingredients to achieving good Davening, and we’ll try to analyze which ones generate more success with children.
I’ve always believed that the best time to start teaching children about the importance of Davening is when they’re toddlers. Making a Bracha and Bentching are great ways to inculcate within them the importance of thanking and communicating with Hashem. It’s not just making the Brachos, it’s your attitude. As the Gemara in Brachos says, “we don’t want it to be a burden”. Therefore, instead of saying, “We need to Bentch now” or, “Did you Bentch yet?”, you could say, “Let’s Bentch to thank HaShem.”
It’s important to keep in mind that, even as children mature, it’s better not to ask them whether they have bentched. They might view this as a challenge or test. Instead, try handing them a bencher and saying “Here’s a bencher.”
The next component of teaching davening is the mother’s influence. It’s so interesting how non-Jews think that Yiddishkeit is male centric. It’s the exact opposite. A Jewish mother is not just a mother. She’s also a role model and a Morah. The love she displays as she does Mitzvos is ingrained within her children forever. The way she Davens and communicates with Hashem will become the foundation of their Davening as they grow older.
Although I’m sure that every mother wishes she had the time to Daven, we all know that free time is hard to come by for any mother. A Jewish mother has a lot more on her plate (pun intended). However, she can still instill within her children the importance of Davening. It’s an attitude. Sitting down with the kids to say Modeh Ani, making sure they all washed Negel Vasser, and even saying Brachos together with them, are all so very important.
Additionally, when a mother says Brachos, she can say them out loud and teach her young children to say Amein. One mother told me that during Birchos Hashachar, she verbalizes what she’s about to thank Hashem for in English, and then makes the Bracha. For example, “Now I’m going to thank Hashem for giving me eyes that are able to see”….for Pokeach Ivrim. This helps the children internalize that davening is not simply saying words. Rather, it’s about truly talking to and thanking Hashem, recognizing that everything is a gift.
Another huge ingredient is the Yeshiva. It’s the job of the Yeshiva to show your children how amazing it is to have a connection to Hashem. They should motivate your kids to Daven better at home, in Shul and obviously in Yeshiva. They shouldn’t be making it a battle either, rather they should make the kids excited about it Davening. On the Parsha sheets that are sent home, it should ask the parents to notate how many times he/she Davened and/or went to Shul.
The next step, is the father. Does he come to Shul on time? Let’s look at it this way. If there were a huge football game going on between the Jets and the Giants, would you turn on the TV a few minutes late? Of course not! There’s the pre-game, the Pre-pregame, and the interviews. Lehavdil, when you come to Shul, your kids are analyzing you. Do you come a few minutes early and take the Davening seriously? Or, C”V do you show up late and catch up with friends before opening a Siddur?
All of these components (the mother, father, Yeshiva and environment) must be consistent in order to successfully and positively influence our children. It goes without saying that regardless of our efforts, the most important ingredient is our Davening for Siyata Dishmaya in the raising of our children. We need to Daven that our children appreciate the importance and value of Tefilla.
Enjoy the tips below, and as always, use your judgment.
Last week, we discussed a question regarding children and money. Our two main topics were teaching children the value of money, as well as how to instill a sense of responsibility regarding work. This week, we will focus on the pros and cons of rewarding children and when/if to give an allowance. Thank you to all that shared their thoughts in the comments section.
A mother called me recently with an interesting issue. Whenever she asked her child to do anything, he would respond, “What will I get?” Her fear was that if she kept saying, “A Mitzvah”, he would think that a Mitzvah is associated with something negative – namely the task he was given.
It’s a problem that many of us face. Children expect a reward for almost anything. It’s a part of the broken mentality that we discussed last week. A mother told me the following story…you might want to sit for this. She wanted her son to stop using his iPod so much. Therefore, she offered him an iPhone 7 if he stopped for a week. You might think this woman is certifiably insane. I certainly do. As shocking as this might seem, she’s actually a great mother and an intelligent person.
Let’s face it, it’s not easy. Our society likes to reward with instant gratification. Imagine the following scenario. Your den is a mess and you want your 11-year-old and 9-year-old children to clean it. Do you...
I took a poll, and 100% of the people I asked, chose “2”. To be fair, I only asked one person, but I’m not a very good poll taker. (Then again, neither is the media). Choice “3” is not a good option. Threatening consequences is just not a great way to parent in most cases. Obviously, choice “1” is the best option. However, it’s just easier to go with “2”. Less arguing, and a seemingly happier environment. Everyone wins, right?
Unfortunately, no. All that’s happening is that we’re teaching our children that instant gratification is the norm, and that listening to parents is contingent upon rewards. Sure, it’s the easy way out, but long term it backfires. The next time you want the den cleaned, you’ll have to offer a reward once again! I know a father who rewards his son for getting out of bed. That’s insane!
At the end of this email, I will share a few ideas to help deal with this frustrating but common issue.
The last part of this topic was allowance. A close friend of mine shared with me an interesting story. His 10-year-old daughter asked for an allowance. He replied, “I allow you to sleep in my house, eat my food, and wear clothing that I paid for!”
That’s a bit extreme for me. However, I agree in principle. I did some research and found that, years ago, allowance was usually tied performing chores. Nowadays, I think that an allowance isn’t as important.
This doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t get spending money. On the contrary, it’s not a bad idea for your children to have a little spending money of their own. Not only does it help teach them the value of money, it gives them a sense of independence. If children are not allowed to have a little money, it can cause them to resent you, and Chas V’shalom take money without permission.
However, I don’t think an allowance is the way to go. Money as a birthday present? Great. Lost a tooth or two? A few dollars is fine. Is it Rosh Chodesh? Perhaps a dollar to spend in school is one way to show them what a special day it is! The goal should be that your children are responsible with money, but don’t obsess over it. You can reiterate that money doesn’t buy happiness, “Who is happy? – the one who is satisfied!”
What’s my main issue with an allowance? It strengthens the feeling of entitlement, which is a large reason that the world is having all these issues. Additionally, why do kids even need a constant stream of money coming in? What are they buying? If there is a snack machine in school, you can give them a dollar or two occasionally.
If your child really wants an allowance, tie it into his responsibilities around the house. I’m not talking about keeping his room clean. If he wants to earn extra money, let him oversee something special. Mowing the grass, shoveling the snow, polishing the silverware. Although he shouldn’t necessarily be compensated for basic jobs (making his bed, picking up toys, etc.), there’s nothing wrong with having him earn a little extra on the side.
Below you will find some tips regarding both topics we discussed today and last week. As always, please use your judgment when following any of these ideas. When in doubt, always ask your Rav.
Have a good 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.