Expanding the Backyard

One of the things that initially excited me about find beyondbt.com was that the website/community allows me to interact with fellow Jews who are growth-oriented and get advice from others. As a parent of a boy entering 6th grade, a daughter entering 4th grade, and a daughter entering kindergarten I am always looking for eitzos (advice) on parenting.

Growing up with parents who were both politically and religiously fairly Conservative/traditional I was, ironically, given pretty much free reign in terms of set rules in our home. Aside from the standard “let me know where you’ll be and who you’ll be with” my parents were not to strict when it came to what I read, watched on TV, style of clothing I wore, or what music I liked. Thus, growing up in the 1980s I ended up reading, watching, wearing, and listening to things that, for sure, would raise eyebrows within some Orthodox circles (and probably a red flag with the words “At-risk” printed on it).

We are blessed to live in a thriving frum community, with great chinuch options, and my children are surrounded by positive influences. So far, so good. However with the trend of those raised in observant homes keeping “half-Shabbos” (a term that describes teens and adults using their cell phones to text and go online with on Shabbos) and the constant danger of kids-at-risk rearing its’ not-so-attractive-head I, like most, am concerned about my own children.

Recently my wife had the opportunity to speak with a father of 7 who has, with much help from his wife, raised fairly “normal” frum kids. She asked him what their secret was, and he said simply that they let their kids have choices within defined parameters. When my wife told me this, I said that it’s sort of like making your backyard a little bigger so your kids feel that they have more room to play. For a few years, as I look back now, I’ve been doing this unconsciously.

There are always, in our family, issues like: the yarmulke vs the baseball cap (on top of the yarmulke), the skirt is “too long” vs “too short”, my friends watched parents rented this movie and why can’t we, etc. I think that most of us can make our own list. Now, my kids are far from perfect, but we have tried to raise them to know what’s expected of them. Overall, they are good kids. We attempt to be aware of what they watch, give them choices of what to wear (in the summer, when they are don’t have to wear school uniforms and follow dress codes), and let them think they have a little freedom about what they listen read and listen to (BH they don’t read beyondbt.com or all of our tricks would be for naught).

I think, based on what the conversation my wife had, that we are going to take on a much more active role in structuring the choices we give our own children. Hopefully (with a lot of davening) they will find enough leg and elbow room within Torah Judaism to stretch out and get comfortable.

I’d love to hear any advice or thoughts about what seems to work and not work with raising kids.

9 comments on “Expanding the Backyard

  1. Note to Yosh, it’s our belief that conversing with others in a respectful tone is not an externality.

    It’s part of the essence of becoming a better Jew.

    Send us an email if you wish to comment here.

    If you feel that your beyond the limits of respectful discourse then Beyond BT is not the place for you. We’ll miss your point of view.

  2. The menahel of our boys’ school used to constantly remind us, “Our rebbes tell your sons about Kivud Ov ve’Aym. You have to tell your sons to respect and honor Rebbe.”

    Neil, it sounds like you and your wife are doing a fantastic job at parenting. Keep up the good work!

    And, as we all know, it doesn’t hurt to have a little Siyata D’Shmaya….

  3. We are zoche that almost all of the boys from our day school wear kippahs when playing sports (outside of school, and in school too).
    With tzitzis we’ve seen some boys wear and some not on our shomer shabbos Little League team.

    Bob speaks with the voice of experience. The problem my generation faces is that the schools expect the parents to instill X,Y & Z, while the parents exepct the schools to teach X, Y & Z.

  4. It’s not so easy to match the expectations of parents, kids, and schools all at the same time.

  5. That’s where the davening comes in! Also having good friends…if the kid sees his friends would wear the mesh, he will too.

    It drives me crazy when I see boys running around in our school gym without their kipas. It’s obviously more practical to have them off, but it’s not right–buy clips, or supply the gym with extras.

    Since my boys are young and I see this is what some kids do later, I can prepare them in advance and drop a hint every once in a while about the importance of having a head cover…and throw in a good story or two from one of those books. Then, when the time comes and he’s playing sports with kids who remove kipas, hopefully something inside of him will make it not feel right.

  6. Ross, thanks.
    Giving choices only works sometimes. For example, if a kid doesn’t want to wear tzitzis b/c it’s “too hot outside” then it doesn’t make a difference if you offer him “mesh” or Neatzit. Then you enter the world of reward and punishment. If you wear tzitzis today, then later we’ll get a Slupree.

  7. Thanks, Ross. We’ll see if it works. If a kids doesn’t want to wear tzitzis (for example), then it doesn’t make a difference of you give them the option of mesh or NeatZit.

    Davening is key (for everything).

  8. “…we are going to take on a much more active role in structuring the choices we give our own children. Hopefully (with a lot of davening) they will find enough leg and elbow room within Torah Judaism to stretch out and get comfortable.”

    This is great! Sounds like you’ll giving lots of chizuk to others by just these few sentences!

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