My kids really resent Shabbos...
Parshas Ki Sisa - 5777
The question coming up next week which has really stumped me, is regarding extracurricular activities on Shabbos. As an introduction, I would like to go back exactly one year, and resend the below question and answer regarding Shabbos.
We have what I like to consider a normal Jewish home. However, my kids really resent Shabbos, and it’s become a depressing day. My kids (7 through 14) want to “dress down” and hang out with friends. My oldest son is the worst of them all, I’m actually really worried about him. He hates the meals, and everything Shabbos related. Is there anything I can do? - Anonymous in Cedarhurst
Ouch. Just reading your question hurt me. The short answer is, yes, there is what you can do. However, it’s not a quick solution.
If you look at Shabbos from a kid’s perspective, it can be very overwhelming. They watch their parents using their phones and other devices day and night, and can’t understand why everything has to be turned off. It also means sitting with their siblings for a long meal (possibly with guests), a much longer Davening, and of course no electronics.
One of the hardest parts about your question, was the fact that your oldest son seems to be having a negative influence on the younger ones. That can be so frustrating. As one mother put it “I love my oldest son with all of my heart, but sometimes I just want to…” The good news is, there is what you can do to make Shabbos more exciting.
I heard from my Rav, that Shabbos is a mirror of your soul - it reflects back what you invest in it. The question I have for you is, do you and your husband enjoy Shabbos? It’ll be pretty hard for you to get your kids to love Shabbos, if you aren’t excited about it yourself. So, what’s amazing about Shabbos?
• You can spend time with family
• You can spend a day without your cell phone (although many of us have the phantom ring during which we grab our pockets as if we’re being attacked by an imaginary mosquito)
• You can spend a day getting closer to Hashem.
Incidentally, these are the very things that many children dislike about Shabbos. However, as they grow older, get married, and begin working, they will definitely appreciate Shabbos a whole lot more. Since you mentioned that your oldest child is 14, I’m guessing that getting him married now is really not an option. Let’s look at some things that might show him how awesome and special Shabbos really is.
Please understand that every family is different. What works well with you might not work with your friend and vice versa. I wouldn't follow all the items listed below in one week; it's trial and error.
• Get excited for Shabbos. A few hours before, make sure you’re ready and be very upbeat.
• Offer each of your kids to pick one dish that they want you to cook or buy.
• While guests are always nice – maybe some family time would be a better option.
• Keep the meals short and sweet.
• A Shabbos table is a great place to share good news or have a fun discussion. Here’s an example. “If you were stranded on an island with one type of food, what would it be?”
• Is your Minyan very long? Maybe take your boys to a quicker Minyan for a while. It’s not easy for many kids to sit through 3 hours of Davening.
• Enlist help from your child’s Rebbe or Teacher – they might be able to have a class discussion about it which can really be helpful.
• Does your child want to leave the table? Make a deal with him/her. If you participate for the first ½ hour, you can leave anytime afterwards.
• Singing Shabbos Zemiros shouldn’t be an argument – make sure to sing with a smile, and the kids will eventually join in.
• At our house we like to play a game during which the children pick a subject (Parsha, Music, Jewish History or Sports) and then they pick a level (1 being easy, 5 being super hard). Each child gets a few turns, and I make up the questions.
• Shabbos Mevorchim? Make a special dessert. It really adds something special to Shabbos.
• Shabbos is a great time for snacks, treats and kid-friendly foods. Introducing new fancy foods that you want your kids to try? Not such a great move.
• Don’t use the phrase “You can’t do that on Shabbos” or anything similar. Rather, make it a positive. It’s not “You can’t play your iPad on Shabbos.” Instead you can say “I’ll make sure you get plenty of time on your iPad tomorrow!”
• Letting your kids have friends over is fantastic – if they’re going to be good influences. Shabbos is not a great time to try out friends that might not enhance your special day. It might help to make your home a “Kosher Hangout” with ices, Shabbos snacks, etc...
• Buy your kids a new book once in a while (preferably a Jewish one). Put it under their pillows and tell them about it at the end of the meal.
• Try to include him in conversations. If your son brings up the Mets or Yankees, don’t say “We’re not discussing sports on Shabbos!” Engage him in the conversation, and then casually bring up Pepsi Meyers.
• If your oldest really is making things difficult, it’s OK to let him go elsewhere for Shabbos once in a while (a friends, grandparent) so you can focus on the other kids. You’re not getting rid of him – you’re each getting a much needed time out.
• Lastly, you need to remember that Shabbos is not supposed to be a battle. Basically, it’s all about making Shabbos great again. With love, a big smile and loads of patience, you will IY”H begin to see results.
Hatzlacha - and have a Great Shabbos! YR
2/25/2016 06:13:40 pm
Such a great article. It's time for parents to show their kids that Shabbos is a special day, not a depressing one. We actually have special cereals Friday morning since it's Erev Shabbos. Yasher Koach Rabbi Ross for another amazing article.
2/25/2016 07:18:17 pm
I'm not much of a poster, but I couldn't pass this one up. I have been having this issue for a long time with my kids. My husband used to be the same way, and we're sure that it affected the kids; now the battle is to get them back. I will certainly try your ideas - thank you so much for this email idea.
2/25/2016 07:40:53 pm
Great points. It is crucial that parents understand that Shabbos is a special day, and it should never become a negative day. Well written. Keep up the great work.
2/25/2016 08:05:15 pm
Another week, and another fantastic article. I'm not sure where you find the time. I'm curious where your Rav heard the quote about the mirror from, or if it's original.
2/25/2016 08:09:08 pm
Thank you for your kind words. My Rav quoted "A great Talmid Chacham." I will Bli Neder ask him over Shabbos.
2/25/2016 08:48:45 pm
I'm crying as I read this email. Shabbos is so special, and my kids also were frustrated. Baruch Hashem, most of them grew out of the issues, but I still have 2 kids that I catch playing on their phones on Shabbos - and it's hard to fight with teenagers.
2/25/2016 09:22:57 pm
There's a difference between not enjoying Shabbos and Chillul Shabbos. If your children are C"V being Mechalel Shabbos, you should probably speak with your Rav as that it beyond the scope of this site. You can contact me for some great names. Hatzlacha!
2/25/2016 09:01:40 pm
This is amazing advice. Thank you.
2/25/2016 09:04:17 pm
We reserve shabbos as the time, for both my husband and myself, to sit and play board games with my son. We give him our undivided attention while engaging him in conversation without the interruption of any electronic devices. Involving the family in a fun game of taboo, headbanz, apples to apples.....can be fun - even for a 14 year old.
2/25/2016 09:44:44 pm
That's fantastic! Family time is one of the best parts of Shabbos. I'm not sure that a 14 year old would be willing to participate in these games, especially with younger siblings. However, you sound like amazing parents, so I wouldn't put it past you. Thanks for posting!
2/25/2016 09:43:39 pm
Rabbi Ross. Thank you for bringing to light a huge issue that affect Klal Yisrael. I think this EMail should be forwarded to all parents to read. If we want out kinderlach to love Shabbos, we need to put in the effort.
2/25/2016 09:56:32 pm
I read this article and felt like it was directed at me. I am so grateful that you are doing this project. Out of curiosity, do you have this approved or checked by anyone? I could help.
2/25/2016 09:59:51 pm
Thank you. After I write each article, my wife and I review it. If there is any information that might be an issue, I send it to my Rav who looks it over. When I am unsure if the information is helpful, I have a group of amazing parents who review and share their thoughts.
2/26/2016 07:12:36 am
This is a great read! One other idea I would propose, is to read a book at the table, something that can span all ages. Our kids love it.
2/26/2016 07:26:57 am
That's a super idea as well! In our house, we like the Sefer "What if" which is great for all ages.
2/26/2016 07:28:42 am
Rabbi Ross - can I suggest something? Maybe send these emails out on Wednesday night, so we have time to read before Shabbos. When we get it Thursday night, it's already very hectic. Thank you for your hard work.
2/26/2016 08:50:31 am
Well written and thought provoking article. I truly enjoyed. Is this site/email just for Jewish Parenting questions?
2/26/2016 10:50:58 am
Thank you. This site was created for any parenting questions, although mane of them will be geared towards raising Jewish children.
2/26/2016 03:24:58 pm
I know it's right before Shabbos, but I wanted to thank you for these weekly e-mails. This past one really hit home. Parents need to understand that treating Shabbos as a burden really can have long term effects.
2/27/2016 09:49:32 pm
The beauty of this article, was that it holds true to all types of Jews. We are a lot more modern than many our neighbors, yet I still want my kids to love Shabbos and treat her with respect. Thank you for this. I will be sharing with the other parents in HAFTR.
2/27/2016 11:40:41 pm
Powerful article. I had a similar problem, and my Rabbi gave me some ideas, all of which were incorporated in your e-mail. made for a great read.
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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.