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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys

It is nice to see that this yeshiva is working on the issue of boys from the school jumping fences, going onto the rooftop, and breaking the neighbor's windows. And perhaps the surveillance cameras will do the job (so the boys can be expelled) . . . . .

But, pardon me for having an opinion, but this entire approach to raising boys of "boys will be boys"---therefore we shouldn't give them a proverbial kick in the tuchus from the get go, lay down the law, and follow through with consequences when the behavior pattern has yet to be ingrained into the psyche--is completely flawed approach, and one I continually run into. I've heard this excuse too many times from neighborhood parents and educators. And I protest!

Bad behavior (especially behavior that violates the basic foundation of Torah--i.e. do not destroy other people's stuff) should never get a free pass. Many of our boys* need more exercise, more space to run around in, an educations better suited for their energy. But when you get to the point of vandalism and even having to install surveillance video, a generation of young men has been failed. Expulsion is a band-aid after parents and educators haven't done their jobs. What a pity.

We demean boys (read: future husbands and fathers) when we write off their behavior to their gender and give them a free pass--only to let that behavior hurt them later--rather than embracing their characteristics and channeling them appropriately.

*and girls too for the record


Anonymous said...

Do you expect outrage? There is as much bad behavior among the Orthodox as any other ethnic group.

synators said...

I agree completely. But we are also doing something wrong when we insist that young boys (or girls) behave like miniature adults.

Orthonomics said...

I don't expect outrage. I'm just tired of the boys will be boys, therefore we should give a free pass.

Expecting some basic standards of behavior such as don't climb someone's fence isn't asking kids to be "minature adults."

Anonymous said...

To me, "boys will be boys," should be taken to mean "we should not be too terribly surprised when boys do something which is { stupid | destructive | mildly violent }" - it should NOT mean that there is no punishment for those actions, but rather merely that we shouldn't be surprised.

Examples: while playing an improvised game of stickball, boys will knock a ball onto a roof, attempt to jury-rig a way to get the ball down, causing damage to the roof in the process. Appropriate punishment there is something like "grounded, plus pay for repair."

There does need to be some kind of outlet for young male shpilkus, and I do not have the sense that the Orthodox community does a good job of this - there is limited physical activity, and pursuits of the mind are emphasized to the exclusion of pursuits of the hands.

Anonymous said...

After reading the article, let me amend my statement - "boys will be boys" is a reasonable explanation of *accidental* destruction via youthful foolhardiness. The article mentions "rock throwing" - I do not know in what world that isn't a criminal act, and those youths who are doing something that intentionally destructive and dangerous are setting out on the path of sociopathy.

JS said...

I don't understand why, but it's pretty much accepted that young kids (boys or girls) should be allowed to tear around the schools and shuls and destroy them in the process. This has been going on as long as I can remember.

I can't even imagine what the maintenance budget looks like at these institutions - the kids run around like vilda chayas destroying everything in sight. Recent announcements at our shul include kids running around outside and almost running into traffic, kids standing on brand-new kiddush tables and breaking one of them, the fold-out changing table in the bathroom being hung from and broken, and kids playing hide and seek in the cabinets under the bima and around the aron kodesh. I wish I was making this stuff up. And I know my shul is in no way unique, I've seen this exact behavior in every shul I've ever been in both as a member of the community and as a guest elsewhere.

The most apropos remark I've heard on the phenomenon is that when the kids go to shul or school they become orphans. The implication being that they no longer have parents. The parents turn a blind eye and couldn't care less if their kids destroy the shul or yeshiva. When the shul president or rabbi makes the announcements above every parent looks around as if to say "Who me? You're talking about my kid?" So it all starts with the parents who don't teach their kids better, don't discipline them, and simply don't care or have something better to do than be a parent (such as schmoozing outside or going to the kiddush club).

So, I don't think it's a lack of exercise or not having a proper outlet for all that energy. It's just boys being boys, it's more likely a case of men being boys or rather fathers being boys.

It all starts in the home.

JS said...

I meant "It's NOT just boys being boys, it's more likely a case of men being boys or rather fathers being boys."

As an example, see the comments on that article:

"I personally thing that at least part of the stories are made up."

"this is a big lie from that stupid neighbor that is walking up and down the street all day long and searching for problems..."

"As far as rowdiness, go near any school in the city, private or public, and you'll see kids running around making noise... I wonder if he also complains about the jackhammers of construction crews..."

"WOW! making noise during the day so people cant sleep??? 1 rock thrown ???? Boys jumping over the fence??? LET GIVE THEM THE DEATH PENALTY!!!!!! WHY DOESNT THE FAIR "REPORTER" GO TO A TYPICAL BLACK PUBLIC SCHOOL, AND SEE WHAT HE WILL FIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The neighbor calls the kids "animals" for this behavior. Anti semitism, pure and simple."

mlevin said...

I am sick and tired of the excuse "it's not just Jewish kids, other ethnic groups do it too." Just because other people's children behave badly, doesn't excuse the bad behavior of your own children.

Second, these kids do need an outlet. They are forced to sit still or walk in orderly fashion from sun up to sun down. They are human beings not robots. They need free time. They need running time. Other ethnic groups give their children play time, why can't the Jewish kids get free time too?

megapixel said...

ah well, boys will be boys

completely true1
schools in my heighborhood need cops to come by and break up riots.
I live across the street from a boys yeshiva so I get to witness some pushing and shoving, but no riots

Miami Al said...


I particularly like how the the Orthodox community likes to defend itself talking about the "black public school kids." For a variety of reasons, the black family and communal unit has been devastated, and there is a total disaster there. Without a doubt, black Americans in black neighborhoods form the underclass of American society.

How did any group of Jewish people set their goals so low as to wanting to compare themselves there.

The Reform Jews more or less compared themselves to Episcopalians and other wealthy Protestants in America. The Conservative Jews compared themselves to the Catholics. Can we at least hold ourselves to the standards of Evangelical Christians?

Enough with the low standards. If you weren't frum, you kids would be secular Jews, not fatherless black kids in an inner city. If you want to defend Orthodoxy, make sure your kids are BETTER than the secular Jews, not better than impoverished kids from single family homes.

ProfK said...

For this particular instance let's leave the parents out of the equation. The boys are in school. That means that the school administration is serving in loco parentis for the time the boys are there. How is it that a group of boys can be in the school yard, jumping fences, throwing rocks and not one single adult supervisor from the school is present to monitor behavior and oversee what is happening? Where was the adult on playground duty?

Parents, and yes, neighbors too, have the right to expect that their children in school will be watched--and no, not only so they don't indulge in destructive behavior, although that is certainly important, but so that there will be an adult present in case of accident or injury. Had one of those boys climbing the fence fallen and injured himself the parents would be justified in blaming the school and expecting the school to kick in for the expenses incurred in treating the injury.

Installing a camera? And will it be monitored every minute that school will be in session? Or will someone look at the film only if a neighbor claims damages? And if there is someone available to monitor the camera at all times, then why isn't that someone outside providing the monitoring where it might do some good?

Years back I taught in a boys elementary school. During every single recess there had to be 3 teachers minimum on outside supervisory duty. In bad weather when the boys used the school gym for recess the same number of adult supervisors had to be in the gym.

When you are talking about a school setting then saying boys will be boys doesn't explain or excuse the situation. In truth this was about men not being/acting like responsible people and not monitoring and supervising the students entrusted to their care.

Anonymous said...

"Many of our boys* need more exercise, more space to run around in, an educations better suited for their energy."

Yes, (and of course true for girls too). Four year olds are TOO YOUNG to sit all day. It's not physcially or mentally healthy. If you think it was healthy in that paradise known as the shtetl, consider that everyone arose early and contributed to the household with manual labor.

It's hard to daven in my shul for the sound of kids running around in the hall! Parents say: the kids are cooped up in class all week. Well mothers, you are not obligated to be in shul; take your chayos outside and let them run off steam, and agitate your yeshivos to treat little kids like little kids, not bochurim!
Signed, a mother who brought kids to shul when they could sit and daven

JS said...

"For this particular instance let's leave the parents out of the equation. The boys are in school. That means that the school administration is serving in loco parentis for the time the boys are there."

You can't take the parents out of the equation since the parents are the very reason the kids act like vilda chayas. You have a two parent home, but you probably have two absentee parents. The parents don't monitor what their kids are up to, don't discipline them, don't spend time with them, don't teach them, don't guide them, don't act or function like parents. There are loads of reasons why this may be the case from parents who believe that kids should be kids and can therefore do whatever they want, parents who are overwhelmed and tired don't have the energy to be parents, parents who are always off doing something else, or just parents who never really wanted the responsibility of parenthood to begin with. But either way, the problem starts at home and it can end at home.

In my shul it's very easy to see which kids come from homes with good parents. The kids are respectful, don't run around, don't trash the place, sit quietly in shul next to their parents or go to groups, don't push adults out of the way to grab kiddush, don't throw food all over the place, etc. It's not some kind of mystery or miracle that some kids are well-behaved and other are complete animals. You think the kids from homes with good parents are jumping fences and throwing rocks and breaking windows?

This is exactly what I was saying above about kids going to shul and becoming orphans. It's always someone else's job to discipline, be role models, and be parents. When they're in shul it's the rabbi's job. When they're in school it's the menahel's job or the rebbe's job or the teacher's job.

Enough with this "in loco parentis" nonsense. How about some "actual parentis."

Orthonomics said...

JS-I couldn't agree with you more re: "actual parents." Many people have told me that some of the worst trouble makers are simply "untouchable" even by those who do supervise. Either you can't cross the parent and the parents are somehow prominent (either status or $). I don't know what type of shul you go to. We've been members and attendees of centrist and more right wing shuls and repairs/maint caused by damage (not wear and tear) gets its own line item in the budget. I can think of some very costly damage I've seen incurred over the years.

Miami Al said...

The Minyan that I was a regular at has slowly become more Rightwing. The last time I was there, I was stunned how all the old regulars left at it was all the kids from our local "jacket and hat" Yeshiva and their parents.

My pre-school aged son asked why the other kids were pushing at Kiddush. He also left the learning/groups/playing room and came an joined me in the main minyan because the other kids were being bullies and mean to him.

Bizarre, terrible behavior. But they all wear jackets and white shirts and big black hats, that way when they are running in the parking lot and disrupting people going about their business, everyone can see that Orthodox Jewish kids behave like animals.

tesyaa said...

I see that many commenters are associating poor behavior specifically to RW children. Can this be caused by the fact that the RW tend to have much larger families than the MO, and that maybe, just maybe, people are having more kids than they can effectively parent?

I do know RW people who have tried to excuse their own parenting because they have many children, or have asked for special favors because they have many children. Folks, having a large family is a CHOICE. If you can't handle it, don't do it.

(I speak as a parent who has a lot of kids, and I can barely handle it, and my boys' behavior is far from perfect).


Nothing will excuse the recent situation in which a neighbor's yeshivish preteen kids threw rocks at an older MO teenager, calling him "goy"; to his credit, the MO teen did not beat the crap out of them, but called the cops instead.

Miami Al said...


And when the embarrassment of the behavior subsides, the next plan of action will be to ostracize the MO teen for daring to call the police on a Frum Yid.

JS said...

Well, I, at least, am not limiting this to a RW thing or an MO thing. The shul I attend is centrist to LW MO if I had to put a label on it. My previous shul was centrist to RW MO. Same story at both shuls. Same story in the shul I grew up in and the same story in every single shul I have ever visited for Shabbos.

There's a parenting problem plain and simple.

Regardless of MO or Yeshivish or Chareidi or LW or RW or what have you, it's a major embarrassment and a major chillul Hashem that a story like this is broadcast on the local news.

Orthonomics said...

I see that many commenters are associating poor behavior specifically to RW children

Count me out there! I'm fairly sure that if you talk to shul administrators from the left to the right, they will all tell you about damage inflicted that really should not have been inflicted.

Mike S. said...

The "miniature adult" comment was mine. I wasn't excusing the behaviors mentioned; I agree they are inexcusable. I was thinking of things like expecting small children to sit still for 3 hour shabbat morning davening (or 5 hour Rosh Hashana services) or study through 10 hour school days without a chance (or several) to go out to the playground, run around and play ball and the like. And I am far mor in favor of not putting them in such situations that putting them in and either tolerating or punishing the inevitable misbehavior.

Anonymous said...

great unknown said...

If the kids are thirteen or over, then they can be taken to a din torah and made to pay: if they lack money currently, the debt stays with them in perpetuity. And yes, a goy can take a Jew to a din torah.

There was a lecture at the Young Israel of Hillcrest about two years ago Shavuot where the speaker pointed out that, for many reasons, "Jewish Chinuch" was neither "Jewish" nor "chinuch." One of the arguments was that the Torah designates a thirteen-year-old male and a twelve-year-old female to be sufficiently mature to be fully responsible in all civil transactions and damages, and be subject to physical and capital punishment to the same extent as an older adult.

This is what Hashem expects "Jewish Chinuch" to produce. The eternal Torah makes no allowances for "modern society", "boys will be boys", etc. How many products of "Jewish Chinuch" meet this level of maturity?

If one wishes to argue that nature has fundamentally changed in this respect, then let's start deconstructing the rest of the Torah. Isn't that the argument of Conservative Judaism? Is the difference between Orthodoxy and Conservatism only in the specific selection of the "accommodations to reality"?

conservative scifi said...

Great unknown,

I think there is no doubt that the difference between conservative and right wing orthodoxy is the choice of accomodations.

Conservative Jews deemphasize ritual commandments, with 90% deemphasizing kashrut and shabbat. So while only 10% of the membership will be expected at Shavuot services, more than 50% will attend a "Mitzvah" day which is social action oriented. The children will be well behaved in synagogue (but pry the ipod out of their hands before you go). The parents will donate to civic causes, both with time and money. They will parent their 1 to 3 children and have high expectations in secular subjects at school. They will, almost exclusively, pay their taxes fairly, honor debts, deal honestly in business, and ethically in life.

The right wing modern orthodox emphasize ritual commandments, to the point of elevating custom to commandment. Black hats are the beginning, but in every way, ritual rules not found in chazal are rigidly enforced by the chareidi community. They will not miss a prayer, a segulah, or an opportunity to show their devotion to the Holy One. However, the parents understandably have trouble watching all of their 6-8 children and ensuring proper behavior. They don't care about secular subjects at school. I have personally observed a gang of orthodox boys throwing rocks at each other on a synagogue playground during Yom Kippur. Based upon observation, there is less concern by some (though clearly not all as Orthonomics herself demonstrates) for business ethics, and for honorable dealing in other aspects of life.

Given the choices made by the communities, whether to emphasize mitzvot ben adam le Makom or to emphasize ben adam le Chavero, I'll go conservative every time.

Anonymous said...


For the record, I attended a public high school in Chicago that was 80% black, and I don’t remember anything of this sort going on. Of course, my school might not have been “typical”, but I doubt that the people who make this kind of comment really know what a “typical black public school” is, either.