Thursday, December 26, 2013

What's Your Red Line in Parenting?

This past weekend, our educational organization, JFX, offered a little experiment: an "outreach" Shabbaton for Orthodox Jews.  A Shabbaton is a weekend retreat, often at a hotel, where Jewish folks celebrate Shabbat together, usually with workshops or other inspirational and motivational sessions.  In an Orthodox-led retreat, there is observance of Shabbat in public spaces (no photos, microphones, electronic media).

JFX is an organization that mostly services families whose kids are in public school (although we have a nice minority of day school families), so this "Orthodox-only" Shabbaton was new for us.  Our thought process: often, people need to zoom out in their Judaism and seem to really appreciate a back-to-basics approach that organizations like ours offer, since we don't assume that anyone knows or believes anything.  We have found that Orthodox people, whether they've been so their whole lives, and thus never experienced this "outreach" approach to education, or whether they are "BTs" - people who have become religious as adults or teens - and have moved through and past the "outreach" approach, and miss it, very often crave the kind of positive, panoramic style of teaching we offer.

(Sidebar: in no way am I suggesting that "our" style of education is superior to "classic" Orthodox education.  Different models are appropriate for different situations.)

So, the Shabbaton.

A lot of really interesting things came to light, in contrasting this particular Shabbaton with the others we run.  Maybe another post one day.  But for now, I wanted to focus on one thing.  We had a panel discussion on Shabbat afternoon, which covered topics such as "Balance in Family - Kids and Marriage," "Love and Discipline in Parenting," "Making Judaism Real for your Kids," and "Happiness."  One of the questions was:

We all know that in order to raise emotionally and spiritually healthy children, we need both unconditional love and clear boundaries.  What is your red line in parenting?  Which battles do you pick? 

Every single one of our panelists gave the same response (which didn't happen with other questions).  I am really curious if this is an "Orthodox thing" or a "universal thing," so I am turning it over to you guys.

How would you answer this question, and do you affiliate Orthodox?  At the end, I'll tell you what they said!
26 comments

26 comments:

  1. Well, I don't let Becca play with knives or matches. She's only going to be three next month so I'm not sure I have any other red lines. Or I'm just not thinking about them that way.

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  2. Ruchi, I'm so curious to hear what everyone answered, I can't seem to pinpoint one thing.

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  3. the battle I pick is safety. When one twin is biting, hitting, kicking the other, I have to physically separate. Not always so simple if I'm alone with them in public which is why I always have a stroller with me for that moment when I have to strap and roll the twin who refuses to walk when I say walk. If she's kicking the glass panes in my office door and breaking them, I remove her shoes, and lock her in her room until she calms. If he's running over to bite a stranger, I yell and grab. Other than safety I think I'm fairly lax. And I know you know, but for the masses--- yep, I'm a frummie (affiliate Orthodox).

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  4. One if my kids has to take medication for a chronic condition, and often resists. It's nonnegotiable - we make him take it no matter how much he argues. For other things, I give in much more than I would like.

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  5. I don't know about red lines, but as a Jewish (Orthodox) parent we focus in the part our parenting that is uniquely Jewish on leading by example (not speaking lashon hara, saying brachos, etc. more than by telling kids, "Say the bracho!" and also trying to really infuse them with the idea that the Jewish things that we do and don't do are 1) good for us and 2) bring us joy. Maybe I'm not understanding the question. It seems too wide-ranging for people to come up with one answer.

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    1. Amy, so if the kids don't want to say the blessing you don't insist? Surely at different stages the kids must resist doing different things--how do you (or general Os) get them to do all these things? All that hand washing, food blessing, general praying?

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    2. No, I don't insist. It's counterproductive. I don't know how other parents deal with it. We ask them, we remind them, we model it for them, but we don't force or punish.

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  6. Safety and not hitting parents (that being said we have a 5 year old girl and baby so it's probably a little easier for us than people with 8 kids)

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  7. Hmm, well if it's only ONE answer then of course safety. Second is kindness (at least as a goal, not that it always happens). I would consider gratitude really high up there as well (not much God talk at our house, but still one can be grateful without being grateful TO anyone).

    I want to hear the universal (at your meeting) O answer! And then I want to hear what Os feel like they are too lax on--chores? tattling? backtalk? lights-out-time? girls wearing makeup too early/too much (I guess you don't have the same trouble with fighting trashy clothes)?

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  8. Given that our children are older (11-23), and that we're not practicing at an Orthodox level, sadly, inter-dating and intermarriage is all around us. Intermarriage is my absolute red line.

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    1. I can see how you can prohibit interdating, but when your kids are of marriageable age, they'd be adults and as a parent you're no longer in a position to "prohibit" an intermarriage. I understand that you can impress the importance of Jewish marriage upon children, and I know that in some rare cases people might threaten to cut off disinherit their children if they intermarry in an attempt to force them to conform, but I don't view an adult child's marriage as something a person can attempt to manage through "parenting".

      That's all semantics, though, and I understand what you are trying to say.

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  9. When my kids were little I always had my motto, "safety first!" as I refused to even put my car in gear pulling out of the garage without all seatbelts on and other myriad circumstances. When my son became a teen I had him make me three promises: no tattoos, no motorcycle riding and when he gets to college he will immediately join Chabad and Hillel. He said, "What about drugs?" and I told him I'd leave something for his dad to get out of him! We are Conservative.

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  10. Although the orthodox may not have to worry as much about "inter-dating" as you call it, still and all, we all have to deal with dilemmas between their level of practice and our own [as evidenced in Ruchi’s previous blog post]. And no – unfortunately, forcing to do mitzvahs [or punishing for their lack] will only have the opposite effect.
    At a certain age, you have to hope that you managed to instill your own values deeply enough that they matter to the growing child as well and continue to pray for his/her physical and spiritual welfare.
    [re: fighting trashy clothes - my motto was modesty first; the rest was up to them. One must always choose your battles. :( ]

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  11. I think one of my biggest redlines [and many of our most serious battles] was respecting their teachers and educational framework.

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  12. Ruchi, you don't have to post this if you don't want to give anything away yet. I just feel like "safety" as an answer should sort of be taken off the table. I mean, what mentally stable parent would "allow" their child to do something dangerous??? I feel like that's sort of a given. Of course there is some disparity in what each parent considers safe at what age (I.e. Crossing the street, using a sharp knife, etc.), but safety as a general rule is non-negotiable to any parent (again, any "sane" parent).

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    1. Yeah, I thought the same thing. Ok, reaching harder then. Kindness, but maybe that's too broad as well, what parent is ok with an unkind child? Then it would have to be manners. I am uptight about manners--thank-you notes, table manners, eating with silverware and not fingers, all that. And yes we do fight on that, I'm willing to have the fight over a "please".

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  13. my red lines:

    1. honesty
    2. kindness
    3. respect

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  14. I think it shifts as your children grow. Plus each child presents different challenges. Lines I've had to draw with one child (such as treating me with respect) came naturally to another child. With one kid it might be respect, while with another it is personal responsibility.

    And now that my eldest is pretty much on her own, in college, I have had to accept choices she's made that I strongly disagree with and disapprove of. Drawing a "red line" would serve no good and only destroy our relationship. She knows her choices don't match my values, but it is her life now. I would rather maintain my role in her life than take a stand just to make a point. However, she knows that I will not let my money be used to support or facilitate these choices and that certain things are not allowed in my home.

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  15. So??? When do we find out "the" answer?!? I keep checking back to see if it has been revealed. (I guess that's one way to increase site traffic.) :-)

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  16. So..dadada... the red line for all of our panelists was... (taking safety off the table, as was mentioned above):

    "Chutzpah" - in the sense of rude disrespect to parents/teachers/elders.

    Thoughts? From the responses above, I can't say there's really a pattern.

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    1. I am 100% against rudeness to teachers and outsiders, but I don't mind if my kids are rude to me in certain circumstances. Sometimes I know they have to get things off their chest and do it in a way which is chutzpadik. (I often find them apologizing later). And what about passive aggression? One of my older kids is sweet as sugar and never talks back, but she doesn't exactly listen or obey, either, just does her own thing which might be the opposite of what I want.

      All in all, I think not tolerating "chutzpah" is a big value in Orthodox Judaism and ties in directly to the Biblical commandment of honoring parents. I'm wondering if this is a case in which the respondents might have been influenced by other respondents (assuming it wasn't a secret ballot, so to speak). I think most parents like to think they don't tolerate chutzpah, but do so more than they would like to.

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    2. I don't think that was the case. We were given the questions in advance and had prepared beforehand

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  17. I'll take passive aggression over chutzpah. It came up here once that when non-Orthodox people say "chutzpah," it's often a compliment (someone who has the guts to be an achiever/assertive) whereas in the Orthodox world, it's nearly always a negative.

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  18. I think the sad truth is that, while what tesyaa said is true, that Respect is an important value in Orthodox Judaism, it is not always demanded as universally in the Orthodox world as it has been in the past. We have been very influenced by Western parenting theories that are all about empathy and praise and acknowledgement and all those other feel-good things. There is of course a need for all of those things, but they must be balanced out by a strong demand for respect of elders. Warmth and love and humor are crucial (and we spoke a lot about that on the panel), but the line always has to be drawn at chutzpah.

    Agree with Ruchi on the passive-aggressive bit. It may need to be dealt with, but not with the same firm hand as chutzpah.

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  19. I think I would have answered chutzpah as well.

    I don't know whether I would have used the word "chutzpah" though.
    More the idea of "there are certain things you need to do solely because i am your parent. if i tell you no, it's no."

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