By Yitzie Ross
Baruch Hashem, it’s been almost three years since I began my blog, and we now have tens of thousands of subscribers. In an average week I receive over 25 emails, some with simple questions and some with very difficult ones. There are many amazing professionals I’ve contacted for advice during this time, ranging from psychologists to rabbanim to dieticians, and I am ever so grateful for their help.
Over the past few months, I’ve been getting many emails from kids. That’s right, your children. Emails from nine-year olds to 18-year olds. At first, I was hesitant to respond and possibly incur the wrath of their parents. However, after consulting with some experts, I’ve decided to respond these emails for the next few weeks.
I will not use real names, and if necessary I will modify other information. I just want everyone to appreciate the questions that children are asking. The answer to almost every question will end up including: “Try to communicate with your parents and let them know how you feel.” Nevertheless, I think it’s important that we try and understand something.
Many people agree that raising kids is more difficult these days, but the fact is that it’s also harder to be a kid. There is so much information being thrown at them, and some children don’t get to actually enjoy being, well, a child.
Kids, if you have any questions, please go to www.yidparenting.com and submit them. I’ll do my best to respond.
My parents read your column online every week and print the question and answer for a Shabbos-table discussion. Therefore, I would like to ask for your help in printing my question with an answer that will work in my favor. My father insists that I go with him to Shacharis every Shabbos at 8:30, and I want to daven at 9:30 in the teen minyan. I’m 13 years old, and I think I’ve earned the right to daven wherever I please. My father says I’ll daven better next to him, which I don’t because I’m always annoyed, and he says that 9:30 is too late. How can I convince my father he’s wrong?
Thank you for writing in. I’m so happy that these e-mails are part of your Shabbos table. I want to begin by assuring you that I will not take sides. My objective is to help you think this through, not to tell you who is wrong or right. In every instance, you need to weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. It also helps to keep thing in perspective. For example, it might be worth it to make an issue about a trip to Great Adventure, but probably not about taking out the garbage.
I think it’s nice that your father wants to have you next to him on Shabbos. Personally, it gives me such nachas to have my boys davening next to me, and I can appreciate what your father is thinking. On the other hand, you are a bar mitzvah and presumably deserve to daven at a minyan of your choice. Let’s go through each part of your question so you can make an educated decision. When we’re done, we’ll put it all together and come up with some ideas.
- The phrase “earned the right” is a very tricky one. You don’t earn any rights by getting older; rather, you need to prove that you’re maturing. Therefore, when you say that you’ve earned the right, I hope you mean because you’re mature. In other words, you don’t need to be reminded every day to go to shul, and you’re not standing outside during davening or using your phone as a siddur.
- Will you daven better next to your father? The truth is, you probably will be a bit more focused (sulking notwithstanding). As a side point, sulking during davening isn’t punishing your father.
- The later minyan gets you an hour of extra sleep. For some reason, kids like to stay up late and wake up late. It’s one of those mysteries in life. I don’t think that you’re missing z’man tefillah in most instances, although you probably do need to say Kriyas Shema before davening. Then again, so does your father on certain weeks.
- Your father is certainly not wrong. Not every disagreement has a wrong or right; the world is not black-and-white. Besides, in most cases, a child should not tell parents that they’re wrong.
I noticed in your email you didn’t explain your logic for wanting to daven later. I assumed it’s for the extra sleep. If you want to daven later to be with friends, that’s not a very good reason, since you don’t need your friends to daven. If your objective it to get some more “freedom,” there are other ways to accomplish that.
It seems that you need to think everything through and make some decisions. How much do you really care about davening at 9:30? It is worth making an issue out of this? Is it the davening venue that’s bothering you or is it the fact that your father is not giving you the ability to do your own thing? It’s hard to have a serious conversation with your parents if you aren’t clear about the objectives yourself.
Obviously, the next step is talking to your parents. I think it’s crucial to include your mother in this discussion. You can ask your parents to have a private discussion with them. If they ask you what it’s about, you can simply say, “Something that’s on my mind.” The reason I don’t think you should say what it’s about yet, is because your father might say, “there’s nothing to discuss,” which can make this more frustrating for you.
When talking to your parents, you must always remain calm. Getting upset easily or raising your voice won’t make this any easier. I can’t tell you exactly what to say since each situation is unique. However, I would incorporate some of the following ideas in the conversation.
- Explain that you have nothing against davening with your father; it’s just that you want to go out on your own a little.
- You can assure your parents that you will not be hanging outside the shul or schmoozing with your friends, and you’ll be taking the davening seriously.
- Perhaps you can alternate weeks. Alternatively, you can daven Kabbalas Shabbos and Minchah with your father.
- I wouldn’t bring up the extra hour of sleep. Parents don’t understand this very well. I certainly don’t. They’ll just tell you to go to bed earlier. (They’re probably right about that.)
- Don’t bring up the z’manim. If your father does, you can say in a very respectful way that there are many shuls in the area that daven at 9:30 on Shabbos morning. They would not be doing this if it’s not halachically permitted.
- Be prepared for them to say no. It’s not the end of the world. If your father is insistent, don’t fly off the handle.
- If your mother is silent during this conversation, but seems to be sympathetic, speak to her privately afterwards. Don’t say anything negative about your father. For example, “Boy, is Daddy stubborn” is not a great way to get on her good side (I hope). You can ask her if she can speak to your father on your behalf. Mothers are pretty good at this.
- If your father says no, respond, “Thank you for at least hearing me out. I would love to revisit this in a few weeks so I can prove myself.”
- Most importantly, smile and talk gently. Mentally prepare yourself for this discussion. Ultimately, your parents love you and want what’s best for you. I’m sure you disagree with some of their decisions, and that’s perfectly normal. You’ll have your chance in a few years, iy’H.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.