Thursday, June 23, 2011

Parenting a Rebel

I'm teaching a class this Shabbos on "The Rebel", third in a six-part series on Parenting from the Torah.

My main philosophy on this is that Rebellion is not something to be addressed and solved head-on; once in swing, the only one who can stop it is the rebel himself. The parents' efforts should be toward avoiding rebellion in the first place. If that doesn't work, then it's time to make sure other approaches are more attractive for the child.

I've decided to go with a vignette format, presenting cases and asking how parents should approach them, presenting certain ideas from the Torah. Here the vignettes; I'd love feedback on them:

Vignette 1: Is it really rebellion?
Mrs. Schwartz, who teaches Jonathan in Grade 7, phones Jonathan's parents to let them know that their son has not handed in his last three homework assignments. When Jonathan's parents ask him why he hasn't been doing his homework, he replies, "I don't know." What should Jonathan's parents take into consideration before reacting?

Vignette 2: Providing options beyond rebellion
Lately, it seems that the parents of Sarah, Grade 10, can't do anything right. She refuses to help out around the house, she does schoolwork only under duress, and she has become demanding and insulting to her parents and siblings. The temperature in the house is always overheated. How can Sarah's parents calm things down?

Vignette 3: If it is rebellion, what can I do?
David, Grade 5, used to enjoy berachos and davening, but lately he cuts corners when he can get away with it, and he is sulky and resistant about issues like waiting between meat and milk. David's parents are nervous that this may be a harbinger of things to come. What can they do?


  1. The first two cases could easily be attributed to medical issues. Particularly, lack of sleep can prevent a child from concentrating enough to do homework. Lack of sleep can also cause people to lose their tempers faster.

    Even the third case could at least be attributable to issues beyond the control of the child (thought not necessarily beyond the control of the parents). All the musar and chassidus in the world aren't going to help someone who needs medical attention but is not getting it.

  2. Anonymous-
    All very true; indeed, one of the main points I want to discuss is how we identify rebellion, and distinguish it from so many other phenomena.

  3. Start ,cognitively with the book -How to listen so chilren will talk
    And how to talk so children will listen.

  4. Will these be recorded and made available online?

  5. Shmuel-
    Thanks for asking, I am honoured, but these are given on Shabbos. Perhaps a later iteration will take place during the week.

  6. I enjoyed the shiur. I was surprised why the model of the "ben sorer u'moreh" was not part of your presentation. If ever there was a a rebel(not withstanding the Gemara's idea that "lo haya v'lo nivra") I would think this is it.

    Thank you for your mekorot and wonderfully engaging style!

  7. A Witty Rabbi-
    Thank you very much.
    I definitely agree that the ben sorer umoreh has something to contribute, but I don't see him as a rebel in the way that word is used colloquially. I see him as an addict.