Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Necessity of Sheltering Orthodox Children

Beyond BT is my favorite blog about the mirror experience of going off the derech.

When the Secular Little Cousins become Teenage Cousins
Fresh from my annual time share vacation with the secular family, I want to write for the Beyond BT readers on a topic that I think needs some further exploration and discussion.

Logic says that the longer we are working things out with our secular family, the easier it gets...

I wasn’t prepared for how DIFFICULT it becomes when the little cousins who once played with each other on the floor, and talked about barney and sesame street, now talk about “hot” boys, my space, and IPODS. When the kids were little, the differences between all of the cousins was not as pronounced, and other than making sure that the kosher kids only ate the kosher food, it wasn’t much of a problem.

Now – my girls aren’t supposed to do mixed swimming anymore, and I caught a conversation between my oldest daughter and her teenage cousin who couldn’t quite believe that my daughter has never had a boyfriend. Now the teenage cousins bring their computers and IPODS and videos to vacation, and none of it is Jewish. Now my 10-year old son’s eyes can easily be diverted by his teenage cousin’s non-tnius dress, or lack of dress.

In the beginning of the week, my kids think their cousins are weird. But after only a few days, they start looking fascinated, and that’s the biggest problem. I don’t think it has ever gotten to the point where they’d want to trade places, but one never knows what can happen when that thought is introduced for even a day or two. And, what really bothers me is that I want my kids to feel really privileged and lucky to be frum Jews. I worry when the “other side” starts looking attractive, and our way of life seems to be making them “miss out.” (Yes, of course we can give the speeches to our children about how the secular kids are really the ones missing out, but hey, kids are normal, and some freedoms in life look very delicious at times to them).


If teenagers know what their options are, they're less likely to choose Orthodox Judaism.

31 comments:

Margo said...

Knowing the options definitely means that you're more likely to choose one of the options. When I was an Orthodox teenager, any rare mention of non-frum people was accompanied by some display of repulsion, be it disgust, fear, pity, etc. They took great care to make the other options seem as undesirable as possible.
Since I am who I am, I decided to look into them anyway, and decide for myself how terrible or wonderful the options really were.
Even after I decided to be secular, religious people whom I vaguely knew from the community would call me up just to warn me, in a very "friendly" way, about the horrible, frightening, and disgusting things that go on in the secular world.
This is their barrier; this is what keeps them on safe territory, and they know no other way.

Holy Hyrax said...

Well, regarding the discussion AT HAND, this doesn't say much about the "secular option." I mean, what they are being attracted to is the materialistic stuff (ipods, nintendos, parties). Well duh! Eye candy is always appealing.ESPECIALLY, to teens. BUT, if they were attracted to the other aspects of secular life that are non materialistic, than you would have an argument.

Baal Habos said...

On a related issue see this

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/23608/Montreal+Frum+Schools+Unhappy+With+New+Government+Mandated+Religion+Course.html

Orthodoxy has a difficult time competing in the open market

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"If teenagers know what their options are, they're less likely to choose Orthodox Judaism."

And teenagers who are shown the options of drug use and underage drinking are also less likely to stay sober through childhood. What exactly is this supposed to demonstrate? Orthodoxy freely confesses to being less attractive superficially.

Baal Habos said...

>And teenagers who are shown the options of drug use and underage drinking are also less likely to stay sober through childhood

Not if they're also shown the repercussions of drug and alcohol use.

Holy Hyrax said...

BH

I remember in high school, they would bring crashed cars to show the affects of drunk driving. Kids still drank and used drugs. Frat parties were FULL of kegs of beer. Drinking, getting drunk and taking advantage of the girls. EVERYONE of these people KNOW the repercussions of drinking and drugs. They just don't care. They simply wanted to have their fun.

Holy Hyrax said...

Also, do you think it is easy explaining to your kids why certain movies, or music is not that healthy for them? It's not. They just want to do it cause others are doing it and its the latest thing.

Ezzie said...

Exactly what HH said and Orthoprax said. Teens are easily attracted to superficial things that aren't great for them. Hence the difficulty.

Holy Hyrax said...

And they are attracted to them no matter the repercussions. Let alone explaining to them that certain things are not just a physical issues, but just a bad influence to their development

Baal Habos said...

>Kids still drank and used drugs.

You mean all secular teenagers are irresponsible, drink, do drugs, goof up? Of course not. There will be some. But put an OJ kid in a secular environemnt and they're sure to start questioning their whgole way of life.

Laura said...

This is true of any ideology though. I had a friend in high school whose parents were staunch Athiests and forbid him to join a religious youth group. Bottom line - your kids can't ever be used to clone yourself. Let them develop their own opinions in a healthy manner, and they'll be fine.

Freethinking Upstart said...

JA,

>If teenagers know what their options are, they're less likely to choose Orthodox Judaism.

I think what teenagers are less likely to choose is a real good benchmark for goodness and truth.

They are also less likely to choose good music like Floyd, Zeppelin, or the Beatles, choosing instead, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Blink 182.

They are also less likely to choose healthy foods preferring pizza, cheeseburgers and fries.

Now I know what is true and good. Thanks!

I'm gonna start trying to sell bracelets that say WWTD? (what would teenagers do).

G said...

If teenagers know what their options are, they're less likely to choose Orthodox Judaism.

So much for staying level headed on the topic.

Do you really believe that statement? Do you really believe that most of the teens staying orthodox in today's world are not aware of what their "options" are?
Do you really believe that most of those who do in fact leave orthodoxy do so because of said "options"?

--note I said staying orthodox, that means they started in that environment.

jewish philosopher said...

JA, would you have a problem with your teenage kids hanging out with cousins who are heavily into cocaine or methamphetamine? Why? If they know their options are they less likely to choose sobriety?

So I have a problem with my kids hanging out with sex addicts.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

BUT, if they were attracted to the other aspects of secular life that are non materialistic, than you would have an argument.

What argument? I'm just pointing out a fact. And I'll also note that your casual dismissal of ipods, nintendos, and parties as "eye candy" is a little silly. What's wrong with enjoying music, games, and friends? Why is that "materialistic?"

g:

Do you really believe that most of the teens staying orthodox in today's world are not aware of what their "options" are?

Did I say that? I just said those who are aware are more likely to leave. I can't see how that's controversial.


Orthoprax:

And teenagers who are shown the options of drug use and underage drinking are also less likely to stay sober through childhood.

No argument here.

What exactly is this supposed to demonstrate? Orthodoxy freely confesses to being less attractive superficially.

It's just to show another part of the "brainwashing" required to raise an Orthodox Jew.

At what age do you stop deciding for your children which parts of life are "superficial" and which are not?


FUP:

I think what teenagers are less likely to choose is a real good benchmark for goodness and truth.

Agreed.

They are also less likely to choose good music like Floyd, Zeppelin, or the Beatles, choosing instead, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Blink 182.

In your generation, parents were bitching about teens choosing Floyd, Zeppelin, and the Beatles.

They are also less likely to choose healthy foods preferring pizza, cheeseburgers and fries.

But do you raise them in such a way as to shield them from the fact that pizza, cheeseburgers, and fries exist? Or do you let them have the (kosher) stuff in moderation? I'm not sure why "ipods, nintendos, and parties" are any different.


G:

Do you really believe that statement? Do you really believe that most of the teens staying orthodox in today's world are not aware of what their "options" are?

I didn't say that. I said something that's incontrovertible. Kids who know their options are more likely to take one.

Do you really believe that most of those who do in fact leave orthodoxy do so because of said "options"?

As opposed to what? Even those of us who left for intellectual/theological reasons left because we found a better "option" -- options (DH, etc.) that our schools did everything they could to hide from us, by the way.


JP:

JA, would you have a problem with your teenage kids hanging out with cousins who are heavily into cocaine or methamphetamine?

Yes, of course. I just don't see how videogames and ipods and parties compare.

So I have a problem with my kids hanging out with sex addicts.

The problem is that you define "sex addicts" as anybody who enjoys or thinks about sex.

jewish philosopher said...

"The problem is that you define "sex addicts" as anybody who enjoys or thinks about sex."

I would define it as anyone who enjoys sex irresponsibly, just like I would say an alcoholic is someone who drinks irresponsibly.

Holy Hyrax said...

>But put an OJ kid in a secular environemnt and they're sure to start questioning their whgole way of life.

What way of life are you talking about? Believing in God? Keep it to the topic at hand. The post is not talking about intellectual issues but materialistic ones. And yes, put ANYONE in a toy store and they will want the toys.

>What argument? I'm just pointing out a fact. And I'll also note that your casual dismissal of ipods, nintendos, and parties as "eye candy" is a little silly. What's wrong with enjoying music, games, and friends? Why is that "materialistic?"

I am not dismissing those things. I enjoy them myself. But in OJ, the idea is to not focus on those things and not get kids heads stuck in watching these things. My teenager sister is a good example of a person with her head just texting her friends. All these things are eye candy. Sure they are nice and needed at times. But in the secular world, it is mostly seen as "no big deal." In OJ I believe they try to aspire to not get seduced by these things.

Holy Hyrax said...

>It's just to show another part of the "brainwashing" required to raise an Orthodox Jew.

What brainwashing? I know of secular parents that have rid themselves of TV and in the same time video games because of the influence it can cause. Its called being a parent.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"It's just to show another part of the "brainwashing" required to raise an Orthodox Jew."

Which part is that exactly? Not promoting boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in middle school? I don't know what the author thinks the big deal is with the likes of myspace or ipods, but I'm guessing the point is a guard against materialism. I don't know where you see brainwashing in the quoted section.

"At what age do you stop deciding for your children which parts of life are "superficial" and which are not?"

Until the point that I think they know enough to make the choice on their own. It depends what we're talking about.

Taking one thing at random, I likely wouldn't let my kid put a television in his bedroom until he hit his high school years or so. Younger kids are more likely to abuse television to the point that it could damage their sleeping habits or negatively affect their schoolwork - not to mention keeping a measure of content control.

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

But in OJ, the idea is to not focus on those things and not get kids heads stuck in watching these things. My teenager sister is a good example of a person with her head just texting her friends. All these things are eye candy. Sure they are nice and needed at times. But in the secular world, it is mostly seen as "no big deal." In OJ I believe they try to aspire to not get seduced by these things.

Yeah, I need to do a post about all the things Orthodox people abstain from because they're scared of getting seduced by them.

What brainwashing? I know of secular parents that have rid themselves of TV and in the same time video games because of the influence it can cause. Its called being a parent.

We're not talking about not owning a television. We're talking about being scared to let your kids play with their secular cousins.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Yeah, I need to do a post about all the things Orthodox people abstain from because they're scared of getting seduced by them.

Ya. It's called parenting. Some things, depending on each family, you totally abstain from it. Would you let your kids watch certain TV shows on TV like Gossip Girls?


Forget about orthodoxy for a sec. Would you have reservations about your kids playing with their cousins if they did something that went against what you taught them?

Jewish Atheist said...

HH:

Ya. It's called parenting. Some things, depending on each family, you totally abstain from it.

Oh, I agree completely. I just take issue at WHAT Orthodox Jews make their children abstain from.

Holy Hyrax said...

To a large degree I agree with you, but then again, I also see their point. I think the digital age has brought a whole new challange to the way kids are brought up these days.

If I were my parents, I would never have gotten my sister a brand new phone with texting capablities.

Comrade Kevin said...

It sounds as obsessive as the fundamentalist children and the Mormon kids I grew up around, if not more so. Those were the ones who always had so many problems.

ProfK said...

This seems to be something of a marketing problem: do you spend all your time telling consumers what the other product doesn't do or do you spend your time telling consumers what your product does? Grew up so far out of town that one step would put us in the Pacific. We were a tiny handful of OJ and every one of the children of those few families remained OJ, married OJ and have kids who are also OJ long past being teenagers. Why? Our parents didn't spend all day ranting against the world we were definitely a part of; they showed us the benefits and beauty of being OJ. Darned if the positive marketing didn't work.

Mr. Darcy said...

The question is, why don't orthodox parents want their children to be integrated into the general population. Why set up such high boundaries between the Orthodox world and the outside world? It is this precise factor, of separating jews from everyone else, that led to historical antisemitism. Starting with the ancient greeks, jews were always known as the ones who don't eat like the rest, don't sleep like the rest, and don't breathe like the rest. You can't be a cult and expect others to like you. Tora is the reason Holocaust happened because jews were known to separate themselves from others for 2500 years.

TikunOlam said...

If you think that OJ teenagers are not boy/girl crazy, you have never been an OJ teenagers, never parented on, in fact, probably never got to know one.

Fact is, MOST secular children with solid families who teach them responsibility, right from wrong, have good parent role models, etc, don't get into much trouble with excessive risk taking behavior in adolescence either. Look up any research based article on predictors of problem behavior in adolescence and "being torah true" is not on the list (though strong involvement in a spiritual community of any kind is there).

It is not being "OJ" that predicts fewer problems in adolescence, it is the strong families that most OJs have ( as well as CJs, Christians, Muslims, Buhddists, and seculars who raise their children to feel a part of something bigger than themselves whether it is a religion, volunteer organization, environmental group, boy scouts, etc.) - and these strong families exist just the same in the secular world. Just as dysfunctional families in both the OJ world and the rest of the world, is a predictor of problems.

Holy Hyrax said...

A lovely comment by Mr. Darcy.

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Darcy,

"Tora is the reason [the] Holocaust because jews were known to separate themselves from others for 2500 years"?!?

The German Jewish population was so assimilated at that point and Jews were integrated into every aspect of German high society. True, the Nazis wanted to wipe out the Polish observant peasantry as well, but they didn't care if you observed 'Tora' or not, or if you had a beard and a bekkise or not- only that you had "Jewish blood"; and their definition of Jewish blood was broad enough to include even less than one quarter paternal Jewish ancestry.

I agree with the poster who said it is a marketing issue. WHen you make something 'verboten' you increase its appeal. The trick is to exercise restriction in moderation, and not to make it a religious issue but a developmental or cultural one. Limit television and cultural exposure not because "it's assur" or "it's against the Torah, but because it's crap; and then substitute better alternatives. And 'limit', not forbid; People, especially kids, always want what they can't have. As soon as they are old enough to do things for themselves, they'll go overboard when they no longer have the constraints of their parents.

Mr. Darcy said...

Nice jewish guy,
The phenomenon of anti-semitism didn't start with the germans but with peoples of ancient times. Had there not been a historical tradition of hating jews the germans would probably not have come up with that idea. Throughout history anti-semitism was aroused by the Torah even though in the case of Holocaust it was not, which didn't actually matter because the tradition of jew hatred was already set up by that time.

Re: limiting
The caveat is that orthodox judaism is hostile to ALL expressions of goyish culture. The spirit of torah calls for much more than mere limiting.

Vernon Malcolm said...

Now that the anti-science, superstition-based initiative presidency ends, we need several public works science Manhattan projects to make us great again and boost us out of this Grotesque Depression. First we must provide free advertising-based wireless internet to everyone to end land line monopolies. Then we must criscross the land with high speed rail. Because bovine flatulence is the major source of greenhouse gases, we must develop home growable microbes to provide all of our protein. Then we must create microbes which turn our sewage and waste into fuel right at home. This will end energy monopoly by putting fuel in our hands. We must address that most illness starts from behavior, especially from parents. Since paranoid schizophrenia is the cause of racism, bigotry, homelessness, terrorism, ignorance, exploitation and criminality, we must provide put the appropriate medications, like lithium, in the water supply and require dangerous wingnuts who refuse free mental health care to be implanted with drug release devices. CHurches should be licensed to reduce supersition and all clergy dealing with small children should be psychiatrically monitored to prevent molesting. Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh were the ultimate superstition based initiatives. Widen navigation straits (Gibraltar, Suez, Malacca, Danube, Panama and Hellspont) with deep nukes to prevent war. In order to fund this we must nationalize the entire financial, electrical and transportation system and extinguish the silly feudal notion that each industry should be regulated by its peers. Technology mandates a transformation of tax subsidies from feudal forecloseable debt to risk sharing equity. Real estate and insurance, the engines of feudalism, must be brought under the Federal Reserve so we may replace all buildings with hazardous materials to provide public works. Insects, flooding and fire spread asbestos, lead and mold which prematurely disables the disadvantaged. Disposable manufactured housing assures children are not prematurely disabled and disadvantaged. Because feudalism is the threat to progress everywhere, we must abolish large land holdings by farmers, foresters or religions and instead make all such large landholding part of the forest service so our trees may diminish greenhouse gases. We must abolish executive pay and make sure all employees in a company are all paid equally. We must abolish this exploitative idea of trade and monopoly and make every manufactured disposable cottage self sufficient through the microbes we invent.