Friday, October 10, 2008

Perils and Opportunities During Your Kids Vacation

Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

One of the most challenging times for families with children is bain hazemanim and during the school break. Children out of school tend get bored easily and are constantly getting on each other’s (and their parents’) nerves.

Although there are no universal solutions to have a happy, enjoyable and smooth-running bein hazemanim, the following advice can help parents to overcome the many challenges during this hectic period.


Preparation is of utmost importance to a more pleasant bein hazemanim, and is no different than planning a vacation. Just as it is unthinkable to pack up a van with a week’s food and clothing and drive to a vacation resort area without knowing where you’re going to visit, sleep or spend your shabbos, you should not enter bein hazemanim without some kind of plan how you are going to keep your children occupied and out of trouble. After your plans are made, putting up a chart of the family’s daily activities and individual chores will help make things run smoother.

I know that this is almost like asking the impossible, but parents must realize that outbursts of anger are the quickest and most efficient way to ruin the bein hazemanim atmosphere and lose the many benefits it has to offer. Besides the issur of kaas, which also applies when parents rebuke their children (Rambam Hilchos Dayos 2:3), anger often results in transgressing other aveiros that are detrimental to the parent-child relationship. An angry parent often acts irrationally on impulse and is liable to:
a. Say words that will hurt his child’s feelings. – In the presence of two other people it’s an aveira of “malbin pnei chaveiro be’rabim” – causing public embarrassment; and in private, it’s an issur of ona’as devarim – hurting another person with words.

b. Criticize his child. – Critical remarks are very painful even if they are true. Besides causing ona’as devarim, these remarks are destructive to the kesher between child and parent. (Think, how many critical remarks can you handle from your spouse? Even one per week is too much!)

c. Unnecessarily hit his child. – Hitting a child unnecessarily is prohibited as Rav Moshe Feinstein writes, “Hitting a child without a reason is not chinuch, and one transgresses a lav for each slap.” (Igros Moshe Even Ha’ezer, 4:68, cf Chinuch, Mitzva 595)
Similarly parents who punish a child out of revenge (nekama) or to get even with him for not obeying them, transgress the prohibition of taking revenge on a fellow Jew, (Alei Shur, vol. 1, p. 260)

Critical remarks and outbursts of anger wear down the love bond and kesher between children and their parents. Moreover, Rav Wolbe writes that screaming is worse than even mildly hitting a child because it causes him to shudder; and, when a child shudders, who knows what damage was done to his emotions and to the relationship with his parents as a result of this “shock” (Zeriya uvinyan bechinuch, p. 25).
(A complete discussion of the subject of anger will IY”H appear in a future series of articles.)


The bein hazemanim of Sukos and Pesach are very hectic times. Besides the normal pressures of the numerous Yom Tov preparations, additional tensions are added when trying to get the children to assist their parents in these preparations. Rav Chaim Friedlander writes that included in the pasuk of chanoch lena'ar al pi darko, – educate a child according to his way – is assigning the proper household help that best suits their child’s ability. For example, children who are good organizers should assist in putting away groceries and helping to tidy up the home, girls usually make better babysitters and housecleaners, some children enjoy shopping while others enjoy helping their father in household repairs and building the sukah.
Much bein hazemanim tension would be relieved if children would be given household jobs that they enjoy doing.


During Bein hazemanim parents must especially be on guard to supervise who their children play with and be aware which of the hi-tech electronic games and other devices that they may come in contact with. Even if your child is in a “safe friend’s” home, nevertheless, that friend may have some undesirable friends that you don’t want your child to associate with.
Additionally, your child should be trained that he can never view or play with any electronic game or device (including the latest cell phones & MP 4 players) without your prior haskama. Parents should never take for granted that any of these devices are safe without personally checking them out.


One of the most important goals of the bein hazemanim period is to strengthen the kesher between parents and their children. The fact that children are not pressured with their schoolwork and the times spent together with their parents, whether it’s with helping them or going on a family outing, makes bein hazemanim a most opportune time to accomplish this. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that parents make this quality time that they spend with their children as pleasant as possible.

An additional benefit gained by spending quality time with one’s children is preventing jealousy. There are times when parents cannot afford to send their children to a sleep away camp or take them on an expensive outing or vacation. This can cause their children to be envious of other families who can afford to have more luxurious vacations. However, parents can compensate for this by giving their child quality time. Moreover, under normal circumstances, if given the choice, many children would rather have a close and healthy relationship with their parents than materialistic pleasures.

A sad child once complained “I have all the luxuries a child would dream for – the latest toys, games and electronic devices, I go to a good school, have private tutors, and attend all kinds of after-school groups and clubs. However, he continues with teary eyes and a broken voice, there are two things that I don’t have – a father and mother. My father is always either on the phone, e-mail or on business trips and my mother is constantly busy with social events or at the beauty parlor.

Parents buy their children with themselves. Toys and games are cheap substitutes.
To prove this point, let’s say a family was awarded one seat in the business class on a trip to Eretz Yisrael. The parents turn to one of their children and offer him the seat explaining all the benefits and luxuries of the business class. However there’s one catch – being in business section means being separated from his parents for the entire trip. What will the child choose? I’m sure that he would rather be together with his parents than being alone in luxury.
Parents who claim that they don’t have the time to spend with their children, need only to look at their own daily schedule to see how much extra time they really have. They should realize that if they have time for all of their personal matters but can’t seem to find the time to spend with their children, it is a clear indication that their children’s needs do not rank high on their priority of values. Can you imagine how the child feels when he observes a parent chatting non-stop on the phone for a half hour, and doesn’t even have five minutes to focus on his child’s needs?

Rav Y. Yaakovson, one of the foremost advisors on problematic teenagers in Eretz Yisrael, once said, “If you don’t spend time with your child when he’s young, you’ll have to spend 10 times the amount of time when he’s older with child psychologists, therapists, and social workers – not to make up for lost time, but to get the child back on the right track.”
At the end of the day parents should ask themselves, “Have I made time for my child today?”

Since children favor a close relationship and kesher with their parents, even if parents can’t afford to send their children away to expensive sleep away camps or a lavish vacation, they have something more precious and valuable to offer – themselves.


If parents would realize the tremendous benefits gained by spending quality time with their children they would spare no effort in finding time for them the entire year. However, if this is too difficult, then they should at least utilize the golden opportunity of bein hazemanim to devote time for their children.

Spending quality time with children is one of the key chinuch tools to create a strong kesher with them. This strong kesher can create a parent’s dream – foster more obedient children and eliminate many of the difficulties in discipline.

The following ideas can help foster the kesher:

• Do things together with your children, such as shopping, purchasing a lulav and esrog, organizing the home, preparing a meal, putting away groceries, caring for an infant.

· At the end of the day, take leisurely walks with your children. Hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder and let them feel free to discuss their feelings. Most important – be a good listener and empathize with them.

· Plan a family outing or trip that suits your budget.

· Learn with your son. Make a regular learning seder with him even if it’s only 15 minutes a day after shacharis or between mincha and maariv. It’s vital that the learning should be a pleasant experience and something that your son should be looking forward to, therefore, choose something interesting and easy to study together. (Not all children are interested in Chazara and something new may be more appealing to him.)
Additionally, it is very important is to end the learning session with some encouraging words such how much you enjoyed learning with him, how well he knew the material, how proud you are of him etc.

· Whenever possible, take your child to davan together with you in shule. Hold his/her hand and put your arm around his/her shoulder during the walk. (Needless to say, a child should always be sitting next to his father in shule. As Rav Chaim Friedlander writes, children learn from their parents how to properly daven and how to behave in shule.

· Take some time out to play games with them.

· AND, MOST IMPORTANT – QUALITY TIME MEANS NO CELL PHONE OR PAGER. Leave them home or close them entirely including the vibrator.

By implementing the above ideas, bein hazemanim can be transformed into a more pleasurable time for both parents and children.

NOTE: The above advice is not only limited to bein hazemanim. Successful parenting depends on applying these principles the entire year. Hopefully, by giving a start bein hazemanim, parents will be able to start a pattern for the entire year.

Have a chag samayach and a meaningful bein hazemanim.

UPDATE (8:52 AM): CLICK HERE for another great article at Beyond BT by David Linn about Chol Hamoed opportunities with the family!

(Picture courtesy of

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