Question of the Week: Is Different Always Better?

Rivka writes:

I have, thank G-d, children of varying ages. I often find that I’m placed in a situation where I have to approve/disapprove or allow/permit certain activities that my children’s friends are engaging in. For example, we do not permit our children to attend movies. From time to time, my 11 year old will ask if he can go to a movie with his friends. This, despite, the fact that he knows that we will not allow it. My question is not how to deal with this issue or when to say yes or no. My question is how to explain things to a smart kid in a manner that doesn’t put down others who engage in an activity which we don’t permit. When I try to explain to him the differences in hashkafa, he asks things like “does that mean our hashkafa is better” or “if their hashkafa is legitimate, why isn’t it good for us?” Now, I understand that a kid will often say anything when frustrated or trying to get his way but how do I explain these matters in a way that doesn’t denigrate others? Thanks.

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10 comments on “Question of the Week: Is Different Always Better?

  1. Look at it this way. We used to have Super Bowl and World Series gatherings which were attended by some of our friends kids-some of whom are attending some of the premier Charedi yeshivos in the world.

  2. This issue probably gets even more complicated in a more yeshivish/chassidic community. How do I put pride in my children for keeping certain chumros that others do not, while avoiding a feeling of smug superiority? And if I do not ingrain them with that pride, they will surely grow to resent those chumros and minhagim that help us to stay at a certain level. (I find that out of town rabbanim mange to do a great job of this. I wish they could give me some tips.)

  3. Interesting story: We did not have a TV for many reasons, not all involving frumkeit. However, I admit that years ago when my sons went over the house of a friend who did have TV, they sat there glued to the set. The friend even complained about my sons’ rudeness. He had expected that my boys would go outside and toss a football around with him on the lawn, and instead they just wanted to watch TV. Turning something into forbidden fruit just makes it more desirable.

    Movies are a big problem nowadays even for non-Jews, that’s why ratings have become more detailed so that parents can consider what is appropriate for their children. It is very difficult to keep pre-teen boys away from the big summer blockbuster movie, whether it is Spiderman 3 or Pirates of the Caribbean 4 or whatever. A lot depends on your child’s own peer group, whether he/she belongs to a group that finds a big thrill in attending movies or whether he/she belongs to a group that enjoys other activities. Parents have to use a lot of innate wisdom in deciding which battles to fight.

  4. FWIW, we always hosted friends of our children who did not have TVs in their house and they had no problems in hosting our childen, both before and afer the TV ceased being a primary or even secondary means of entertainment and knowledge in our home.

  5. It’s important for kids to know what their parents’ mesorah is. For most of us, we can say “Our Rebbe/ Shul’s Rav says this…”
    Of course, I tried the “this is our minhag” line once on my son and he said, very respectfully, that my own minhag when I was younger was to “not keep eat kosher.” :)

    We need to be solid with our hashkafa and pick our battles with our own kids (easier to type, harder to do).

    Some people like chocolate chip cookies, others like oatmeal or sugar. Is one better? No. Things like tv, radio, movies tend to be social issues, hashkafa is not always halacha.

  6. Have you considered leaving out explanations about your and others’ “hashkafa” and instead explaining to your child the real heart of the matter –you as parents don’t want your children to go to movies because of X (you fill in the X with whatever your reason or reasons are) and those are the kinds of decisions that parents make for their children. Other children’s parents might make other decisions and why they made any particular decision is none of our business.

  7. If would say I didn’t believe my hashkafah about something was better than an alternative would that imply:

    1. That the alternative is equally acceptable, but I’ve already made my choice?

    2. That I should consider adopting the alternative myself?

    3. That I’m fudging the truth as I see it to avoid sounding unpleasant or biased?

  8. An excellent question and one that is often a problem.
    In the community where we live we have all types of people from a whole spectrum of religious observance, and often kids will ask questions like “How come …’s father davens at home every morning, but you are always in shul”, or how come … wears a hat and we don’t, etc.

    I try to educate my kids that we all are working towards achieving what’s right. Some people emphasize some minhagim or halachot, others emphasize others. The friend whose father doesn’t go to shul may have a heter as he has to leave for work very early, or he may not. I don’t know and it’s not my job to police other people’s actions, rather I should concentrate on my own quest to improve myself.

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