Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hello Mama, Hello Papa

Photo from Here

Guest Post - by Hirshel’s buddy

For anyone who has been following Jewish developments on internet blogs and Facebook pages, it should come as no surprise that there are numerous opportunities for one to gather first-person information and insight into the current realities facing the present and future of our communities. The number of individuals who have opted out of Yiddishkeit is ever-growing, and they have a viable support network and are vocal about their experiences, thoughts and feelings. For those who are interested, the personal experiences that they share are an excellent resource, a virtual text-book, for what not to do if you are a parent facing a son or daughter that has developed – as normal adolescents generally do – a desire to experiment and seek out their individuality and wish to find their own way. I’m not a Rabbi, family counselor or social worker, but I can observe developments as they happen. The fact is that we need to keep sight of our goals as parents, and, yes, that can be easier said than done. I can’t stress enough that our job description and goal is not to create robots or clones, rather, we should be trying to develop mentally and emotionally healthy, decent, productive members of society. Unfortunately, our yeshivos and communities often run counter to that effort, and this creates the other half of the problem. So, to state the problem simply: 1) Us as parents 2) Educators and communities.

Why do I say these are problems? Read or listen to what the no-longer-on-the-derech individuals say, and weep.

Here’s our scenario: A student feels stifled, unhappy, interested in other things than those which they are forced to be engaged in – this is normal behavior and I imagine that most of us have felt that at some point and maybe still do – and perhaps they question information that they have been given by us parents or their teachers. This simple and normal situation develops – sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly – and places the student in an adversarial relationship between themselves and those who seek to instruct them. The next move by the instructors is what will determine how this story will end, and, more often than not, it ends badly for the instructors: 1) Because they misplay their side of the chess match, and 2) Because they are at an inherent disadvantage that they refuse to recognize.

I’ll start with the second first because it’s the more interesting element. It is a simple fact of life that in any relationship, the side with less invested in the outcome has more power. If I have less to lose, I am freer to act as I wish, or as they say “I’m playing with the house’s money,” while if I need there to be a specific outcome, I am at an extreme disadvantage – thus, us dads, moms, teachers and rabbis, we must know that we are automatically “behind the eight ball.” Know this first before you act – you have been warned. Your son, daughter or student does not need a specific outcome – you do – and they are the ones who will determine what the outcome will be. They have the power; you had better act cautiously and thoughtfully.

Which brings us to the first element I mentioned before: your next move is crucial, don’t blow it – you might not get a chance to fix it later. When you said “Baruch Shepitarani” at your boy’s Bar-Mitzvah, it wasn’t just a nice ritual that occurs when you dump more responsibility and guilt trips on the kid – it’s a statement of fact: you are now less responsible. You must now begin to step away from the situation and mutate from instructor to his assistant and guidance counselor. Yes, that means you must begin to disinvest and allow the next generation to find their way. You love them (I would certainly hope), but they aren’t you, they are they. Help them, encourage them, advise them to the best of your ability, but we had better not fall into the lectures, the anger, the insults, the ultimatums and all those emotionally charged reactions to signs that they may be rejecting our beliefs. They are the ones in power here, not you and not me.

If you play it wrong, you are virtually guaranteed to lose. Period. If you play it right, there’s no telling what the final result will be, but it will be healthier and happier, and we elders will learn something in the process…and that’s more in-line with our job description.


Anonymous said...

Big Chochem
Please answer me the following,
Which society can you name that had 100% success and is dropout proof?
Public schools systems in the western world?
All are approved by all kind of Psychologists, psychiatrist what not.
Are the MO schools better then Charidiem do they have less OTD cases?
Is Bnie Akiva Hesder Yeshivahs better?
Did you read all the books, Opeds, Essays, regarding the Chinese/Japanese rigid educational system? It all happened when a Japanese American mom, Amy Chua wrote a book on her rigid Japanese parenting style.
She basically in the concept of Mishli , Cosech shivtoi sonai Bnoi, and Chazal concept of sofoi Lie Ketora,( stuff him like a ox).
She was very succesefull and he whole society are succesfull.
This diluting the whole yiddiskiet for these loser kids is wrong.
It is 1 percent for the last half a century, the pie is bigger and so his the 1 percent.
Amy Chua"s book has to be thought in all Bies Yakovs and Chadorim, Why? not because she has something more to say that we knew all the years,
For the only reason that when a shikse writes in English language, all schmucks tend to have hispalous.

Wonder Years said...

Who cares what the kids do as long as they don't kill ,steal or marry a Chinese lady "Tiger." As far as frumkeit is concerned let G-d take care of that. He is ,after all,a kol yochol,so it shouldn't be a problem for Him at all.Send the kids to your local "yesiva",pay the Rabbis 10-20,000 dollars a pop and be happy when you have no money.Isn't it fun to be frum?

Anonymous said...

this is the time of the year when u start signing all kind of forms the schools send u who ur chavrusa is ,how long is ur wifes sheitel etc the schools dont trust the parenthood body, parents view the schools as butting in the most private of their lives ,and the kids thumb their noses on both the parents and the school the mistrust in these times has never been bigger ,this friction will cause personal vendettas for years to come , a menahel without brains is a b"chiya l"doires

Anonymous said...

Wonder Years
are you better off being Frie?
with no money you are doomed, but you are in still better hands in a warm helping community, stop the bickering

Anonymous said...

"and the school the mistrust in these times has never been bigger"
you really believe that mosdois should be open to who ever walks in from the street?
you know what, you will never send your kids their,plus couples get married and do whatever their animal instincts provokes them, playing coolest couple on the block, don't give a hoot for no one,
Then they cry that society is not waiting for them with wide arms.
Every party ends and it has a price.

Neil Harris said...

For what it's worth, I thought this was great post.

your buddy said...

Hirshel, is it one of the ikkarim that everyone that posts anonymous comments has nothing intelligent to say, or does it just seem that way?

Hirshel's buddy said...

Thanks, Neil!

yehupitz said...

Thought-provoking post. But we need to admit that it's not poshut. I see many adequate parents whose kids already show from a very young age that gornisht vet helfn. It's hard to explain, but there is a dead look in the eyes, a disinterest in any yiddishe inyonim. A genetic quirk? Mazel? Vehr veist... Maybe back in Europe these kids had hope in going to apprentice for a carpenter or sweeper and become the poshute yid of a Baal Shem Tov story who whistles his tefillos at Neilah. But without that framework, it all connects to schooling, and not everybody can handle that. It's not that the yeshivos and Beis Yaakovs are doing anything wrong.

All we can do is love our children all the time, set an example, and daven.

Hirshel's buddy said...


First of all, I did not claim that every (or, for that matter, any) child will be what his parents always dreamed of (which is always an unrealistic expectation), nor do I claim that all children will be Frum (I don't think there's ever been a time what that happened either).

But, I do claim that if approached the right way there is a fair chance, and moreover, I think there are (perhaps more) important elements that are at stake than the level of observance of the child.

Anyway, my exact words were: "If you play it right, there’s no telling what the final result will be, but it will be healthier and happier, and we elders will learn something in the process…and that’s more in-line with our job description."

And I truly believe that.

Hirshel's buddy said...

(Oh, and as to what the Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs do wrong, if you don't already know, I don't want to get started on that list today -- let's leave that for another time.)

Anonymous said...

Hirshel's buddy: Yes, it is one of the ikkarim but occasionally one comes along that casts doubt on the firmest faith. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hirshel's buddy,

Great post! Short and succinct - straight to the point.

Anonymous said...

1. rav zelig epstein told me that the percentage of kids going off today (he told me this about 8 yrs. ago) is not large when compared to the rest of our history in golus.
2. someone who deals with at-risk kids told me that he estimates that about 5-7% of kids from ffb famillies go off and about 15-20% from bt famillies.

Menachem Mendel, Monsey said...

R' Hirshel.
What are your credentials to blog on this subject? Other than parenting your own children and stuffing your mind with blogs of Hefker Yingen and weak elements of klal Yisroel had you had any direct talks with enough parents/children to speak your expertise on this subject? Where has this world come to? Its for people like you and others like you with good penmanship who are killing us parents to know what we REALY need to be concerned about.

yehupitz said...

I think the main reason more BT's kids go OTD is because the kids see that Torah U'Mitzvos is a life choice. The FFB's don't realize that as much.

yankel said...

Is there any evidence based theory on the teens at risk phenomenom? Does anyone care to research it? We have been trying different things for the past 10-15 years and nothing seems to help. If anything it is getting worse. The people are slipping much faster. One month out of Yeshiva can be chillul shabos, drugs etc. It used to take much longer. This article is just someone else's opinion, with no evidence backing it. Maybe there is no national solution, and each case is individual. Of course, the askanim cannot accept that, because that renders them superfluous (maybe askanim at risk).

David said...


Dear Tzig,

Thank you for identifying the problems and the possible pitfalls. Now we are ready for the 'Assei Tov' -- what can/should parents do to increase the chances for their kids to remain in the fold? There surely isn't a cookie-cutter answer, but, there must be some things that have been tried and proven to work. What are your observations?