From time to time, I hear from self-described baalei teshuvah - people who grew up in non-observant homes, and then came to observance of halachah in adulthood - that their children have left that path. Indeed, it seems to me that I hear it more from that demographic than from people who grew up observant.
The sample I have been dealing with is not statistically significant, and I have not been keeping score, so my observations are irrelevant. Still, the conversations have made me wonder: Might it be easier or harder for baalei teshuvah to raise children in observance?
[Just to note something I have written on other occasions: All parents, regardless of background, must recognize that their influence on their children's chosen paths is limited.]
On one hand, I could contend that baalei teshuvah would have an easier time -
* Baalei teshuvah have thought through a broad range of religious options, and chosen observance. Their religious practice could be more heartfelt and authentic than that of someone who is motivated by peers and family;
* Baalei teshuvah can speak with their children from the experience of a range of lifestyles (although really, who accepts the word of a parent who says 'I've been there'...?);
* Self-aware baalei teshuvah can understand their children's need to chart their own path, and address it in a way that does not drive those children further away.
On the other hand, I can think of several reasons why it might be more difficult for them:
* Not having been raised in such a home, the baalei teshuvah might have greater difficulty finding a good balance between openness and restriction, which is necessary to encourage healthy observance;
* Baalei teshuvah may be psychologically disposed toward breaking with the previous generation, and their children might absorb that - consciously or subconsciously - from their attitudes and behaviour;
* The absence of observant grandparents for the children may be a factor;
* The next generation might feel that just as their parents had the opportunity to sample different lifestyles, they should be able to do the same (and the baalei teshuvah themselves may think likewise);
* Baalei teshuvah, having come to Torah and learning late, may not have the knowledge to properly address their children's questions;
* The religious catalysts of baalei teshuvah may not inspire their children. Baalei teshuvah may be motivated by specific personal experiences they had as teens and adults, while others may be motivated by the more transmittable motivations of family tradition, community, role models and years of religious instruction.
I don't know; what do you think?