Thursday, May 1, 2008

How to Keep One's Children on the Derech

I have one Briach Hatichon, one unifying factor, behind virtually every detail of every decision involved in raising my children, from the "big decisions" to the "little decisions" like how to speak or how to discipline in dozens of situations each day. This is that live with the reality there is no guarantee that my children, like many other children in the frum community, will decide to remain frum in their teenage or adult years. Therefore, I am always mindful, when deciding how to do anything involved in parenting, of the ever-present question, "Will doing this make my children more or less likely to stay on the derech?"

You may be screaming at your monitor: Dixie Yid! I am surprised at you! Shouldn't there be a little bit more to the Meleches Hashem, G-d's work, of parenting, than doing so based on merely trying keep your kids frum?! Isn't that setting the bar kind of low? What about shooting for something higher? For instance, shouldn't you be trying to raise your kids to big ovdei Hashem, Talmidei Chachamim, Bnos Torah and Bnos aliya?! Raise your kids to be big ba'alei Avodah! Why settle for constantly focusing on just avoiding something bad? Explain yourself Dixie Yid!

Dixie Yid responds: Dear reader, your assumptions are wrong! If you think there's any other way to keep your kids frum at all other than shooting for the stars in Avodas Hashem, then you're making a big mistake. As I see it, the only way my children will stay on the Derech is if they see that living Yiddishkeit is, by far, the best way to live. If you think that there even exists a way to ensure that one's children will just stay "regular frum," then you're in for a big surprise. If you shoot for the starts, with Hashem's help, your children will choose to continue being frum and hopefully much more than "just frum."

From my daily interactions with my kids, I want them to see that I love them and that there's nothing I'd rather do more than things in Yiddishkeit. As the Aish Kodesh says in Chovas Hatalmidim, the soul of a human being craves excitement. And that desire will be fulfilled. The soul cannot tolerate a vacuum, so that desire for excitement will be satisfied. If I can create an environment for my children whereby they have the greatest chance of seeing that the excitement and fulfillment their souls desire through Yiddishkeit, then IY"H, they'll seek it there.

However, if my children see that excitement is to be found at ball games, in front of a TV screen, at concerts, theaters, shopping malls or furniture stores, then even if I'm frum, they will seek their soul's excitement through things other than Yiddishkeit. And then, frumkeit will seem like an afterthought at best, only observed out of guilt, at best, or an unwanted burden to be cast off as soon as feasible, at worst.

This plays its self out not only in "big" ways, like I've been talking about in the last two paragraphs, but also in small things. If I have a choice between taking away a snack, or taking away a child's participation in kiddush, or the Shabbos seuda, as a consequence for some infraction, I choose the snack. Or if I'm considering whether or not to force, by threat of punishment, some mitzvah, like davening, on one of my children, I'd rather choose to let my child forgo the davening for the time being (even a long time being) rather than have such unpleasant feelings become associated with davening.

There are no guarantees with one's children. Raising them to Torah requires great care and a lot of davening.

May Hashem help that my, and all of Klal Yisroel's children, will find their excitement in Avodas Hashem and stay on and grow in Avoad Hashem ad bias Goel Tzedek Bimeheira Biyameinu.

-Dixie Yid

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A Simple Jew said...

Excellent posting my friend! By the way, perhaps you might be interested to see this. [if you haven't already]

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Well then I guess I better start learning Degel Machaneh Ephraim! Is there a reason given, by the way, or a sevorah for the connection between raising good children and learning the Degel?

-Dixie Yid

A Simple Jew said...

I don't know of any particular reason other than the fact that Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin said so. He certainly must have had his reasons and A Simple Jew is certainly not going to argue with him.

While many seforim are noted to be segulos for things like yiras shamayim, it is indeed interesting that Degel Machaneh Ephaim is connected to raising good children.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, even if one has in mind that the tachlis is to keep one's children on the derech, there is still a trade-off of risk versus reward that requires some careful consideration.

For example, let's say you see your teenage son eating a food with a questionable hechsher, because he saw some of his friends eating it. On the one hand, if you tell him to not eat that food, you risk encouraging him to rebel in the future. On the other hand, if you don't say anything, he may become lax in kashrus.

I don't know if I explained my point so clearly. But, the bottom line is that even when the goal is to encourage yiras shomayim in ones children, one still has to choose one's battles.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Ageed. I agree with your bottom line because that was the purpose of my post as well. You can't just be short-sighted and look only to the short-term halacha observance. But you also have to look at how enforcement in the short-term will affect long-term attitudes towards Yiddishkeit. That was the purpose of my example about whether or not to make a child daven. You have to see whether that's something that your chilid will do when told with a critical mass of tzu-freiden-keit (happiness), or CV"Sh the opposite. Right now, B"H, even when my children don't daven in the morning on their own, if I ask them too, it's no big deal. But I'm prepared for the possibility that if it would come down to it, I would rather she not daven fora period of time than develop a resentment toward davening by being forced to do so.

A Rav I know, who wishes to remain anonymous, has a son who recently made a siyum on all of Shas at eighteen years of age. He told me privately that this boy didn't even go to Shul at all until he was 13, and he never forced him too. He gave him the space to step up to that plate when he (the son) was ready for it.

You're right that there's a "risk/reward analysis" that has to go into each minute decision, and that was what I was getting at as well. Tizku l'mitzvos!

-Dixie Yid

yitz said...


question: you mentioned punishing a child with a snack rather than with absenting them from kiddush, perhaps i misunderstood?

If you take away the mitzwah from them, acting like the snack isn't of any real value, doesn't that more enforce the value and precious nature of mitzwoth?

I'm not asking from a place of knowing the answer, i'm curious, and since i'm only starting out on the road of parenthood, i've got a lot to learn (including apparently the Degel Mahaneh Ephraim:))

On the one hand, using not doing the mitzwoth as a means of punishment can undermine itself if they choose to stubbornly not care about the mitzwoth.. on the other hand, if everyone else gets to be involved in the mitzwah, they will want to be involved and learn not to exclude themselves again...

it seems like the decision is entirely dependent on the personality of the child in question.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


In regard to what you said about these decisions being dependant on the personality of the the children, that was exactly my point. Like I said in the comment right before yours, "there's a "risk/reward analysis" that has to go into each minute decision, and that was what I was getting at as well."

I'm focusing on children who currently view having kiddush or doing other mitzvos as a treat. In general, I want to take advantage of every opportunity to allow my children to have joy in doing mitzvos and I don't like to take away such opportunities as a punishment, if it can be helped. I see it as showing the chashivus of mitzvos even more because I'm making the choice that I do since I vew "snacks" as more expendable, and I'd rather use them as leverage and have the child lose the snack if necessary. Whereas, mitzvos are so precious so I would rather not make the child lose that unless it's REALLY necessary.

But you're right that it depends on the effect the particular choice would have on the particular child.

-Dixie Yid