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Friendship with less religious family


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#1 mamash

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 01:24 PM

In our 'out of town' community it is very common for even the more 'heimish' families to be lacking in observance of tznius. Should we, as parents of young children, refrain from inviting such families into our home for a shabbos meal? Furthermore, to what extent should we discourage (if at all) friendships between our children and children from the less observant families?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 29 June 2011 - 09:42 PM


In our 'out of town' community it is very common for even the more 'heimish' families to be lacking in observance of tznius. Should we, as parents of young children, refrain from inviting such families into our home for a shabbos meal? Furthermore, to what extent should we discourage (if at all) friendships between our children and children from the less observant families?

Sounds like your choice is either find a way to do it or make your children into hermits. That's a tough choice, and I hope you considered it before you decided to live wherever you live.

But once you're already in that situation, the answer is, you can do it - if.

If you are able to convince your children that they live in a place where the vast majority of their peers are lacking in observance of the Mitzvos and that they are 100% wrong. Your question is a subset of a more general question - if the frum people in my neighborhood collectively are doing the wrong thing, how can I get my children to be willing to be the only "correct" ones?

It can be done, though as I said, putting yourself in that position in the first place was the time t ask this question. Rebbes who go and open out-of-town shteiblach are particularly good at this - they need to be, since they want to bring up their children Chasidish and everyone else is like on the other side of the planet. But the kids of these Rebbes all know that they are different. They respect their peers, they are nice to them, but they know they are not on the same page, frumeit-wise.

And that's what you need to be willing to instill in your children. What will not work is the "we feir zach like this and they feir zach like that, it's like nusahc ashkenaz and nusach sefard" approach, which many parents in your position take, but it does not work, because you cannot expect children to be willing to be so different than their peers simply because "this is what we do." Besides, you're not really teaching them the truth that way. Parents in your position are often reluctant to teach their children that their neighbors are doing something wrong because they are afraid their children will become arrogant or look down on others. But it is no big deal to teach children not to be arrogant and look down on others who are NOT doing anything wrong. You need to teach them not to be arrogant or look down at others even though those others are doing something wrong.

So the answer to your question is, IF you can instill in your children the knowledge that what they are doing is the correct way to do it and what their peers are doing is not, then it is not necessary to isolate them, which is your only other choice, other than moving. Instilling that knowledge within them is your goal here.

#3 achdus

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 12:31 AM

what if its chasidish vs.litvish families where the differences are not wrong or right, for example, wearing t-shirts and shorts, or play ball, or girls driving, or shaving beards, etc.

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 07:13 AM

what if its chasidish vs.litvish families where the differences are not wrong or right, for example, wearing t-shirts and shorts, or play ball, or girls driving, or shaving beards, etc.

The formula is this: Whatever your reason for requiring your children to act a certain way, it must be explained to them truthfully. If a parent doesn't know the reason for certain things, then he will have a very difficult time explaining to his children that only they are required to do this and not their peers. In such a case, it is advisable to live in a more monolithic community. But if you are going to bring up your children in a place where they are expected to be different than the other frum Jews around them, you need to explain to them why this is being expected of them.

Whatever the reason - and surely (i.e. hopefully) there is one - you need to leverage that reason not only in your mind but in your childrens' as well. It is not easy for people - adults or children - to be more frum than their peers. it takes a commitment and much effort. Resisting peer pressure is a tough thing. The very least you must do is communicate to them why. And by that I mean the true reason why. AND you need to teach him to appreciate the value of those reasons.

In other words, the kid has to understand that he has something to gain by his action that is making him different from everyone else. He needs to understand that there is a benefit for him that makes it worth doing this, not just that "this is how my family does it."

So if you don't want your children to wear t-shirts and you live in Lakewood, where there is no peer pressure issue, you can reasonably expect that your son will not want to wear t-shirts, simply because there is no reason for him to do so. But in a community where the boys do wear t-shirts, then if you do not want your children to do so, you are fighting against peer pressure and you need to explain to them what the reason is that they are expected to be different than their peers. Whatever the reason is, it should be communicated. If there is no reason that the parent knows of, he should not be surprised if his children are not willing to be different than everyone else.