Have You Dealt With Relatives Trying to Make Your Kids Less Observant?

A recent article in the new Torah oriented magazine, Ami had an article about a BT family, where the children we’re drawn off-the-derech by the wife’s parents.

Have you ever heard of similar situations?

Have you ever heard of or dealt with parents who try to influence their grandchildren to be less observant?

How would/did you handle either of the above scenarios?

12 comments on “Have You Dealt With Relatives Trying to Make Your Kids Less Observant?

  1. In my family, I had an incident where my brother in law and his wife (he is not frum at all, and she is not Jewish) have told my daughter to put on the radio so my mother in law can listen to opera on Shabbos afternoon, because it’s hard for her to get over to it, and they say it’s her only true pleasure in life. This is not what my mother in law is saying…it’s what my brother in law’s wife is saying…my mom in law, who does like opera, does not care if she hears it or not at that time…..but then again, that is their attitude towards Yiddish-keit…this attitude was prevalent with my father in law a’h, to some degrees, to get my kids to not be so observant (he once was mad at me for not calling on a Friday night when my daughter and I were at a Shabbos dinner together, and we got back late, and he came down here (we lived 6 floors below) and was very angry at me for not calling….we live our lives, and they live theirs….Sometimes, you can’t explain to others (even in the same family) how you want to live your life…

  2. For those of us whose relatives are in such communities as the NY metro area, their realization that food requires a reputable hashgacha is a relatively easy step. Situations such as family simchas of a heteroox nature or where there is a mixed marriage require help from a rav. OTOH, try to think of options to summer outings to a beach which entail mixed swimming, etc. Sooner or later, your relatives will appreciate and respect the fact that such issues are simply not negotiable.

  3. I agree in principle with what Ben David said (though my situation is not exactly as he describes since I am not in charedi society and don’t hide the fact that I am a BT from the society I am in). But I do look for opportunities to talk with my kids about things that they might see or hear about that don’t fit with the Torah value system I am trying to teach them. And I am glad that once my children and I passed a lady wearing a kippa getting into a car on yom tov and they asked me about it, they saw two men holding hands walking down the street and asked me about it, etc.

    As a parent, who better to inform my children of what it is like to be nonreligious and the differences in our way of thinking from the rest of the world’s way of thinking than me? I certainly don’t want them to learn it from someone with an outlook I don’t want my children to adopt (which is partly what the original post is about). Of course, how to do this, in what context, at what age, and molding the message to the particular child are what make this complex, but that is true for everything in parenting.

  4. “Sharing your path from that worldview to the Torah way is EXACTLY what your kids have to hear. The more such stories, the better.”

    Perhaps not all the morbid details and scandals etc, but I’ve heard from Roshei Yeshiva that when the kids get older, say teenage years, there is a tachlis to sharing with them your path, since it’s a part of you.

  5. … I’d like to point out to everyone that we have an obligation to know ourselves, and to teach our children, what to answer a nonbeliever (da ma l’hashiv l’apikoros).

    If your frumkeit involves attempts to hermetically seal your life off from the modern world – may I suggest that this approach itself contributes to the problem.

    If all your kids get in their haredi school is high-handed dismissal of other opinions, rather than intellectual engagement – they are being set up for conflict and left unprepared for the world they WILL eventually have to live in.

    I’ve seen BT parents strenuously downplay their own stories to “fit in” with haredi society – and that’s a tragic mistake. Sharing your path from that worldview to the Torah way is EXACTLY what your kids have to hear. The more such stories, the better.

  6. Both sets of grandparents are non-observant but the challenge comes from the one who has “s’micha” from a Reconstructionist seminary. He tries to get the kids (we have seven boys ranging from 5 to 21) alone on the phone or out for ice cream, at which point he introduces them, albeit sweetly and ignorantly, to his heretical ideas, e.g., Is there really a G-d and if so, does it matter as long as we behave? Are you a bad person if you don’t keep kosher? All good questions but when answered in a non-Torah context can devastate a naive child’s perception of the world. We deal with it pro-actively by letting our kids know in advance that Grandpa so and so has ideas about Judaism that don’t come from the Torah and so we love him but we don’t listen to what he has say when it comes to being Jewish – that’s what we have a Rabbi, a cheder and a yeshiva for!

  7. Kashrus can be a very big problem. My parents of blessed memory, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Rhoda, loved the kids and the kids loved them. But it was the biggest challenge to tell Mom and Dad, politely and respectfully, to watch out what “nosh” they brought for the grandkids. Getting them to look out for the “O-U” or the “O-K” wasn’t easy. One day Grandma fed the kids a well known nonkosher snack product. When I pointed out that it wasn’t kosher, my mother exclaimed, “But it has an ‘O-R’ (the symbol for a registered trademark, an R in a circle, which has nothing to do with Kashrus). Doesn’t the ‘R’ stand for ‘Religious'”? However, this was only an honest mistake and not a deliberate attempt to “brainwash” the kids.

    There was another relative whose efforts were far more malicious. We had to limit contact with that other relative due to his antireligious attitude. When he brought nonkosher candy for the kids, it was definitely not an innocent mistake.

    The main thing is that everybody should have love and respect for each other. Let’s face it, family members can be unpleasant and unwelcome to your kids even when it isn’t a frumkeit BT issue. Think of a toxic MIL always criticizing her DIL the kids’ mom (sorry to bash mothers-in-law as I am one, hopefully totally unlike the stereotype).

    One more story. How about the Erev Pesach when my mom came to spend the Seders and Yom Tov with us, and pulled out of her bag a toy for the children….Play-Doh!

    Grandpa Joe OB”M has been gone since 1985, and Grandma Rhoda OB”M has been gone since 1994. I and the grandchildren miss them both terribly. Let the great-grandchildren named in their memory be a consolation.

  8. I am blessed with a great and supportive family and extended family so this is not something I have had to really deal with. One thing that I am curious about is if you asked most relatives of BT’s the same question (e.g. do you find your Frum relatives keep trying to “convert” your kids to their Orthodox beliefes?) how would they answer it?

  9. If it’s done straight out, like the grandparents challenging the kids, like with Belle, then at least you know what you’re dealing with.

    But when you’re dealing with things that are subtle, like nonverbal winks or slight rolling of the eyes, and it only happens once in a while, then its real trouble. First, the kids subconsciously pick up on it, the parents don’t always notice, and it builds up in the mind of the child. Little by little it becomes an influence.

    I once saw that when it says in Avos not to live next to an “evil neighbor”, it’s not talking about someone who is outwardly mean or abusive. It’s talking about a very nice guy, who is very friendly, and gently makes conversation with subtle remarks or passing gestures…and it continues over time, until gradually you become influenced to his ways almost without even realizing. But he knows very well what he’s doing. Beware of people like this!

  10. how about relatives who are orthodox but either unknowledgeable about halacha or cynical about it (or both)? I have experienced this. Such as relatives who love spending a shabbos or yom tov with their grandchildren, but smirk or make a derisive comment when those of age in the family decline a snack before kiddush. The theme seems to be that observing almost anything of a “technical” nature in halacha is presumptuous and sanctimonious.

    I am always worried about this when it happens, although b”h looking back on the incidents and comments I don’t think they have had any influence on my children.

    I just explain to the kids afterward that bubbi and zaidy are wonderful people who mean well but don’t happen to know those details, and if we ever have any question about whether we are doing the right thing we can ask our Rabbi. I try to stay away from arguing or trying to prove that we’re not being extra strict, although their attitude privately drives me nuts.

  11. Besides arguing with us non-stop about being religious, as the children got older my parents started having “intellectual” discussions with the children about evolution and other religious topics, actually arguing with them about belief during one evening when they were babysitting. The children were really upset.

    We had to put our foot down. I actually got on the phone with my father and told him that we wouldn’t allow them to visit the children again if they continued on that path. I told them religious discussions were off limits.

    They took the threat seriously and refrained, which was good, because we would have surely followed through.

    I would not ever leave my children alone with them again, though. If a relative is not thoroughly supportive, it is a risk.

  12. My wife’s sister is not frum. She lives in France and want us to send her our girls (11 and 14) for the summer vacation (we’re living in Israel). I fear a lot of her influence on my daughters, despite the girls being really straights and serious…

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