Forcing a high school boy to go to shul on shabbos
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Post Sun, Oct 03 2021, 9:25 pm
My son had a stage like this and I found when I took an easier approach, me and dh started totally not mixing in he started going again . Forcing will never make the situation better . Leave it between son and husband and between son and hashem . I started staying out of the picture all the way . It made it so much easier for me when I came to accept it and that made the huge difference and changed the whole thing. My son saw were not making a fuss , and it made himself realize that it's not the way . I wouldn't force, and I'd say it's a stage that he will iyh outgrow and start liking to go again hopefully. All thats left for us parents to do is pray. That's the only solution I found being helpful!
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Post Sun, Oct 03 2021, 10:19 pm
Best parenting teen advice I ever got was ‘sometimes when you put your foot down too hard , you stomp on your other foot!’ Don’t force .
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Post Sun, Oct 03 2021, 10:25 pm
amother [ OP ] wrote:
Thanks for the responses everyone. Seems to be a consensus not to force. I think I agree. It might get him there that day but he is more miserable and hates davening and shul even more.

Honestly? Not sure I agree. We didn't force our teen age son and we figured it's a stage he'll grow out of. He didn't.

There are so many variables here and every boy/family is different, but I think I would aim for a middle ground. Maybe try to convince him, bribing...

Also, I think many times we get advice here on this forum that is practical for women (definitely NEVER force a girl to do anything!!!!) but I'm not sure if boys and girls are exactly the same and react the same way.

I wonder if reaching out to a mechanech that you trust IRL would be helpful.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 12:33 am
My DH was forced to go by his parents throughout his teenage years, and the second he left home he stopped. Now he’s almost 30 and still won’t go to shul on Shabbos, ever.

Forcing your son, who is old enough to decide this for himself, will only create resentment. He will associate shul with these negative feelings and it will turn him off from it even further. It should be something he does because he wants to and enjoys it, not because his parents force him to. This is how kids end up steering away from the things we want for them, and it’s just a recipe for disaster. My husbands situation is really not that uncommon, most of his friends he grew up with had similar experiences (some with shul, some with other things)

Please give your son the space to figure out what he wants right now. Try making it a positive experience for him, see if there’s ways he can go where he’ll enjoy it or see what he isn’t interested in specifically to see if you can make compromises that would make him happy enough to continue going (like maybe it’s too long and draining for him, so talk to him about going for a certain amount of time instead that he’d be comfortable with). Either way I suggest letting him take the lead on this. It’s his decision at this age and forcing him can push him further away
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 1:06 am
I took a Rebetsen Spetner parenting course, albeit the age group discussed was for younger children, and learnt that shul is a place that children go to when they are fully ready to go, evwn if it means they start very late. Not even coming to shul late or finishing early, as it teaches the child that shul is ' choosable' - ill go to whichever parts I fancy. It goes without saying, sending them there to play outside etc is also not ok, shul is for davening when the child is ready for it. By the time they are Barmitsva they will be happy to go.
We possibly take it for granted to send young boys to shul and they get burnt out going too young. The boys do need time off for themselves especially if they have a long school day, and it possibly can catch up later when they protest when they really are of an age theyre expected to want to attend.

Some boys enjoy shul more than others , especialy the socialy oriented ones, others dont realy get it , they are too young to connect with the Tefilla in a real way. Forcing them achieves opposite results in so many ways.
Having said that, touching base and compassionately asking about it after some weeks off,or a simple 'would you like to join Ta in shul this week' encouraging to go occasionally, is ok, and eventualy they willingly come.
My son happily played with his lego in his pyjamas till age 12 , with the rare appearances in shul...yes most boys his age went and it was 'embarrasing' that he didnt...eventually he started going, it did need prodding and encouraging but found that he needed that with most things...he is the type to need and enjoy his own quiet time. it wasent forcing or begging at all.
While I was home with him though I did invite him to join me when I davened abit. Even if he declined he got the message that davening is happening in the home. It is good for a child to see that davening is a constant in our lives , and is a privilege not a chore.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 1:51 am
This is something that I feel very strongly about. My son is who is now religious and married was forced to go by my husband. He says that's the reason that he went off the derech for a number of years was because he was forced to wake up to go to daven. Obviously there are other reasons but he said this was the main trigger. So my husband has learned from that mistake and now does not force our son who is Bar Mitzvah to go. He's a really great boy but he really doesn't enjoy waking up early. He goes to the other tefilot without any problem. So I really don't see any good coming out of forcing a kid to go. I feel like they'll have a lifetime of not wanting to go. Even my son who is religious does not go except for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. So I feel like you may be winning the battle by forcing him to go but the chances of winning the war are very slim.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 2:57 am
Agree that force is the way to make the problem worse. But doing nothing is also not helpful. I try to walk a very thin line in my house, being "helpful" but not making it negative. After covid, it really just got much worse of a problem. I wish an expert would speak with advice to parents of teen boys on this.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 3:09 am
Rav Moshe Feinstein said that the best way to keep your kids from going OTD, was to make yiddishkeit fun and meaningful. There has to be simcha, or it won't stick.

Even if your child goes OTD, they need to have happy memories, or they won't want to ever come back to observance. Why would they? Make Judaism all about holidays and good food, and don't ever force anything.

My old shul had a teen minyan, and it was always packed. Kids stayed for the whole service, and didn't loiter in the hallways. There was a really "cool" and dynamic rabbi from the local kiruv that was in charge, and they had a really nice kiddush every week as well. You need someone to run it who is engaging and energetic, who can draw a crowd and keep it.*

Did you ever have a teacher who taught a subject you loved, but had a soft, monotone voice? You can't help but fall asleep in class. A teacher who really grabs your attention can get you to want to learn stuff you never had any interest in before. You'll also want to earn their approval.

Anyone who starts a teen minyan and keeps it going gets a first class ticket to Shamayim, as far as I'm concerned.

*This rabbi had a very defiant teen son, who caused all kinds of trouble in the family. Eventually he started going to the teen minyan, and now he's a very serious bochur in a good yeshiva in Yerushalayim.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 9:07 am
I really like all the posts on this thread.

I wanted to discuss the idea of when a kid should start shul as was mentioned. My husband and I are totally of the mindset that kids do not belong in shul if they can't sit and need to play. It's really hard when your kid can sit and everyone else is playing, that's been a huge detriment when we moved to where we are.

But we don't believe a kid should start only when he can sit the entire time. We think of it as muscles that need building gradually. So instead of going for hours and getting bored, a young boy might go at the end of mussaf and stay in shul until davening is over. That gets extended so that by the time a boy is chayav in tefilla b'tzibbur it's not as hard and negative.
It's worth it for parents to discuss with their chinuch mentors which approach is best for them to take.

I will say adults also struggle with this. I know many men with a sefer or book to use during davening so they don't have to leave the shul when they're getting antsy. Right or wrong, that's the reality.
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 2:29 pm
The question of what to do when a teenage boy doesn't want to go to shul on Shabbos is just a symptom of a larger problem. What do you do when he wants to hang out with other boys that he shouldn't be? What do you do if he is smoking/vaping? What do you do if...?

One can always answer don't force him because you won't get anywhere (which is probably true a large percentage of the time). But where is the limit to giving in? Are we to just let our teens do whatever they want because we can't force them?

I don't have the answers but I can assure you that if you haven't built up and worked on the relationship since the time they were born and he is now 15 - your 15 years too late. If you haven't explained work ethic and responsibilities since he was a toddler your probably too late. If you and your DH don't lead your life by example the way your expecting your child to live he won't. If you have done all the above than you may have a fighting chance.

One of the issues IMHO is that there are not enough high schools that cater to the middle of the road boy. It seems most of the boys HS (talking American Yeshiva(ish)) are trying to educate the next Gadol Hador. While we need those Yeshivas for the boys that fit that mold, and we need the Yeshivas that cater to the "OTD" boy. But what about the good boys in the middle who maybe have a really hard time understanding the depths of Gemora or just doesn't have the desire to apply themselves at the age of 14 or 15 to sitting for over 12 hours a day? 

I would argue that there is a fair percentage of boys going through the routine (some maybe more successful than others) who are completely uninspired, burnt out and unhappy. So of course when Shabbos comes along or it is their "off shabbos" from Yeshiva they have zero interest in going to Shul. (Not going to Shul is just an example, there are many other ways that they can express their displeasure).

The answer isn't having "Youth Minyanim" where they can feel part of something exciting with a nice kiddush after davening. The answer is having "Youth Yeshivas" - where teenagers can be teenagers in a healthy environment, where they are encouraged and gently proded to learn and daven, and to have responsibilities while being held accountable for their actions. A Yeshiva where there is ample time given to sports, music and other activities. A Yeshiva where effort is celebrated and appreciated as success. A Yeshiva where loving Rebbaim can explain how special our Mesorah is not just explain the "rules". Do we really expect that the average boy can sit and apply himself for over 12 hours a day when the only real down time is during English where they can make a chilul hashem in front of the poor public school teacher trying to make a few extra bucks? 

Sorry for the long rant but if you think the answer is to just let your teenager do what they want than scroll over to the Shalom Bayis forum - kids who are allowed to live without accountability turn into adults without accountability. 
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Post Mon, Oct 04 2021, 5:12 pm
There are several yeshivos off the top of my head that I can think of that meet your vision.
But a boy entering such a Yeshiva won't magically go to shul nicely every shabbos just because he's now in the right environment. It's a growth process and a bochur entering 9th grade looks very different than a boy leaving 12th.

Of course things should be discussed throughout a boy's life but not all boys actually meet their responsibilities like they should even though it's been part of their chinuch. There are kids who don't do homework or brush their teeth as often as they should. Some things have easier to see consequences: poor grades, cavities... But this is a much more abstract concept that takes longer for children to connect with. And since it's so important to us as parents we have to treat carefully to not push them too far away.

I've actually spoken to a pikeiach on this and I think it's imperative parents who find their kids struggling with these types of things find a chinuch mentor. I've heard some parents advised with different roles for the mother and father in this dilemma. Some yeshivos will take a tougher stance but guide parents to be softer at home. It's all about balance and finding what works for each bochur. Some want more encouragement, some resent it. There's no one size fits all. But there never is in chinuch 😉
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Post Tue, Oct 05 2021, 3:14 pm
My son stopped going to shul around bar mitzvah (he didn't stop being frum, just not going to shul and staying home to read, etc). My husband and I did not say a word - and I mean, not a word. A few months ago he turned 16 and one shabbos morning I thought he slept late, but turned out he went to shul. On time too! Now he goes every week. I have no idea what happened, but knowing his personality I'm sure if we had fought with him about this he would never have started going again.
Parenting is just one long strategy game. You need to be ok losing multiple battles in order to win the war (with Hashem's help).
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Post Thu, Oct 14 2021, 5:35 pm
amother [ OP ] wrote:
Thanks for the responses everyone. Seems to be a consensus not to force. I think I agree. It might get him there that day but he is more miserable and hates davening and shul even more.

Read Rabanitt Mizrachi last week 'in Ami magazine I think it was, mentioned this very issue..' something along the lines If I do Vitur on his Tefila this week, I wont have to do Vitur on many tefilos later'
Just validating the majoroty consensus not to force ...
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