Sunday, October 12, 2008

What Causes Kids to Go Off the Derech - Interesting Op Ed

In this opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, forwarded to me by my wife's uncle, focuses on the pressing problem of too many frum kids going "off the derech," leaving the path of observance.

R' Boteach's main theory as to why so many kids go "off the derech" is the absentee parenting that he says is very prevelent in frum homes. He focuses mostly on Chabad Shluchim, but the same can be said about most frum homes in major metropolitan areas. Parents (especially fathers) are out of the house most nights of the week giving or attending shiurim, attending Smachos, learning or working late. Even on Shabbos, he points out that children don't sit with their parents in Shul, but rather go to youth groups instead.

My rebbe has also commented that it is deterimental to our homes that parents are busy going to simchas, parlor meetings, shiurim, etc. every night and aren't ever home with their children at night.

It is a difficult problem. Men must often work late even just to get by financially in major metro areas, which are expensive to live in. They are also obligated to learn Torah, and therefore can't spend all their evenings at home with the family as this would be bitul Torah. There are many challenges and it's difficult to know the right balance.

Right now, the only way we can balance this problem in my family is that although I am almost never home until after the kids go to sleep at night due to law school (and when I graduate, that will probably continue due to law firm hours), I am able to come home after learning in the mornings to spend 45 minutes or so with the kids helping them get ready for school, before I head out to daven Shacharis.

Any other ideas on how to balance family with communal/personal goals/responsibilities so as to avoid neglecting our families and Ch"VSh creating our own "kids at risk?"

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Soda Head)

Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox.


Alice said...

Atlanta, where we live, has a large and diverse Jewish community. It's not NY city, but everything an Orthodox person would need to live a nice religious life is here, in my opinion. The real estate here compared to that of other major cities is inexpensive. That might free up some time for the bread winners. LA, DC, San Fran, Chicago, Boston, Miami - all in a different league in terms of cost.

Just a thought.

yitz said...

Something is very wrong here:
Men must often work late even just to get by financially in major metro areas, which are expensive to live in.
So maybe we have to discover another way to lead a good Jewish life - must it be in the "major metro areas"? And at the "expense" of losing our children????
They are also obligated to learn Torah, and therefore can't spend all their evenings at home with the family as this would be bitul Torah.
I'm sorry, I don't buy this one. Ask your Rav, but if your only free time is a toss-up between learning & family, ahem, then FAMILY comes first! Come on!!!
Dix, there are no easy answers here. But perhaps consider Eretz Yisrael, where people learn, spend time with their families, and have a good Jewish life. Yup, the American lifestyle doesn't cut it...

Anonymous said...

"They are also obligated to learn Torah, and therefore can't spend all their evenings at home with the family as this would be bitul Torah."

I am sure you did not mean it this way , yet it seems a little dangerous to imply spending time with ones family is bitul Torah. It turns family time into something that is taking away from something I "should" be doing. I am sensitive to this for I work on developing a positive attitude around family time. I spend a lot of time at home and tend to judge it. I "should" be learning now, I'd rather being learning now. this becomes detrimental for my family. being a there for my family is also a mitzvah as it helps create emotional wellbeing and shalom which will better support children in living a Torah life. it is a challenging balance. how about learning at night after the kids are in bed? then the question is how much time do you actually intend to learn a day. if it is 2 hours, then you do it in the morning. if it is more than it becomes a little complicated. listening to tapes in the car or taking public transportation and learning can make use of the down time.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Alice and Yitz,

You're both bringing up good possibilities that people should consider. We don't necessarily have to live in major metropolitan areas in galus. We could live in smaller places in galus or back in E"Y, our home turf. I don't think Atlanta is *that* much better than New York (correct me if I'm wrong Alice but is Toco Hills or Dunwoody that much less expensive than Woodmere or neighboring Hewlett?). But I lived in Des Moines in a nice sized house with a two car garage (no garage here in NY) for about 1 fifth the price. And the corrilary was true that we needed *much* less money to live on and therefore more discretionary time.

The problem with an eitza like that is #1 a Jewish education for the kids that is very far from what we are looking for (there are exceptions to this, like in Woodbury, CT and South Bend, IN, according to what I've heard). And #2, the other problem is without a community like I have in Woodmere, or like I had in Kollel before that, I personally found it very difficult to stay motivated to keep growing or even maintain our family's level.

And aliya has it's own issues for many people and that's another story for another time. But suffice it to say, that neither idea is a pashuta eitza for many people. though either one would be very good for those with the right disposition.


Don't sound so shocked! I'm trying to set up the tension here. It's really hard for some people to balance. A Jew must learn. That's the tzuras HaYid. A Yid without learning is ois mentch! So if one is very limited in time, it can be very hard to accept that he cannot learn even at night after work, because he also legitimately wants and needs to be with his family. My whole point is that both parts of life are necessities and people are often torn between both sets of obligations.

Yitz & anon 10:58,

Personally, I do learn in the mornings before davening exactly for this reason. I want to be able to be with the family in the evenings. Unfortunately, after I started doing this (over 2 years ago) I started law school in the evenings which keeps me away in the evenings. Aside from the time I get to see the kids getting ready for school (between learning and davening), I wouldn't get to see them, sad as that is to say.

IY"H, sometime after law school, when I don't have to be in school in the evenings, I will, b'ezras Hashem, be able to be home with the kids (that can stay up a little later) on the nights I won't have to work very late.

L'ma'asah though, spending time with kids in the evenings is a strong desire but very difficult by many people. For those who can move out of town or to E"Y (though this won't address the problem for many people either), that should be pursued as a great mechaya in this area. For those who can't move out of town, or to E"Y, or to whom a move to E"Y would not help in this area or would be harmful because they have older kids, any other thoughts on the work/learning/life/kids balance?

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

This opinion of absentee parents is just one of the many many reason why kids "go off." Any reason you can pinpoint is still missing the basic basic problem with our generation which is the heel of the heel of the heel of "ikvasa d'meschiacha." OUR ENTIRE GENERATION IS "OFF THE DERECH." We do not emphacize "kirvas Hashem." Any frum kid who goes off is really the purest higest neshama crying out to us and showing us- that we do not put Hashem at the center of our lives. Kids are sensitive and we should learn from them.

Akiva said...

First a general comment - time lost with the children is lost forever. The time you didn't hold them, sooth the booboo, go to the park, push the swing, teach them to ride a bike, be there for the easy questions (where does it come from) or the hard questions (where did the baby come from), is lost forever. Even more so in the Jewish world where if things go well sons will be off to perhaps an away yeshiva at 14, and only be guests in your home by 15. Meaning you've got till about 13 to finish instilling your parental influence for a lifetime.

While your bitul Torah statement is obviously provocative, it's also a very dangerous way of thinking. Frankly, being with your wife could be construed as bitul Torah (certainly actually talking to her could be, as per Pirke Avos). If you're a solid learning, learning with your children is Torah! Teaching the 5 year old Alef-Beis is just as much Torah as learning a daf of Gemora - and in the long run probably more important.

Make time for your children while they are young, what you install in them now will last a lifetime (and trust me, you'll see it in as soon as 10 years).

On the parnosa standpoint, lets be fair, we don't really believe that parnosa is from Hashem. Yes we must work, but whether we work hard or less so, our mazel, bracha, and shefa allocation from shamayim determine what we actually receive. I have had years where I worked incredibly hard (and yes ignored the children for a full year), received a huge bonus for all my hard work, then had a main pipe break ($6,000), a car hit from behind and totaled ($5,000), a medical incident ($3,500), and it continued until the bonus was gone. And I didn't get the promotion.

And I've had years where I specifically didn't work as hard, spent more time with the family, more learning, more mitzvot, and still got the bonus and was told how great I'd done!

Spent time with your children, they need you now. Later is too late.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


I totally agree with you that the underlying problem that undergirds all of the other problems is a failure of Jewish people to really feel that Kirvas Hashem is the purpose of life. If that was in place, then all of the other issues would fall into place as well.

But nevertheless, it is kedai to talk about and try to improve the specific sub-problems as well. They shouldn't be ignored completely when we focus on the underlying problem of a lack of leibigidg Yiddishkeit in our lives.


I must say that I agree with everything that you're saying. I guess you and others are basically saying that if a person has a very very limited amount of "discretionary" time in his day, it should be with the wife and children and not learning. I hear that.

-Dixie Yid

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I don't buy this one. Ask your Rav, but if your only free time is a toss-up between learning & family, ahem, then FAMILY comes first! Come on!!!

I don't know any Rav that will tell you family comes first against learning Torah. The first question we're asked in Shmayaim after 120 is "DID YOU SET UP TIMES FOR LEARNING"? and you don't get a pass by saying you have a family. That doesn't mean that you don't spend time with your family- it's all a balance but to think "I don't have to learn because I have to spend time with my kids is riduculous. Do you shmooze with your friends after shul? Do you play ball? Read the newspaper? Watch the football Game? Once you stop doing all those things, then we'll discuss family vs. Torah. And the last time I checked- there are very few people that spend 3-4 hours with their kids every night and therefore don't have time to learn.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

Anon 11:58,

In defense of those who were speaking above, I think they were only talking about a situation where you really are working very long hours and there's literally just an hour or two a day free and you have to decide how to spend that, learning or with the family.

L'ma'aseh, I think in that situation a person should try to learn in the mornings before davening, when he wouldn't be able to spend time with family anyway.

-Dixie Yid

Alice said...

Certainly there are places even less expensive than Atlanta. But are they as interesting? : ) My point was that if you want the big city life with a large community- something that has a lot of benefits- then Atlanta is much less expensive in my experience. There are also many job opportunities here that pay well.

How much is a four bedroom house in Woodmere or Hewlett? The people I've spoken with have said it's significantly less here. I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Don't mean to be a troll here but in Hovot HaLevavot Rabbeni Bachya
(Sha'ar HaBitachon) tells the story of some men who lived in a separate city from their wives and children in order to draw closer to HaShem without distractions. Yes, they spent time with their wives and children, but this in no way interfered with their determination to deepen their relationship with HaShem.

Anonymous said...

I think a main solution is the following:

If you can't be with your kids 100 percent of the time then that's understandable

But what's important to know is that when you are with them you should be with them 100 percent.

even if it's only a few minutes a day. Make those few minutes completely and utterly devoted to that child.

DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...

anon 10:21:

I definitely hear hwat you're saying. IY"H, I try to do this and I think and hope that my children see that even though I am not able to spend that much time with them quantitatively, but that there is nothing I would rather be doing than be with them.

-Dixie Yid