Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Disciplining Other People's Children II

Here I posted about a topic that interests me based off of numerous experiences I've had that have lead me to believe that I am in the minority when I say that I don't mind when others discipline (i.e. give correction) to my children. I firmly believe that children need to learn to accept correction from authority figures. While certain types of correction and punishment are better administered by parents, my life experience tells me that those who accept discipline best, tend to have parents who did not shield their children from discipline from others, and ultimately even from themselves.

Comments on the last thread have been mixed, but it seems that I am not alone when it comes to other parents not taking kindly to disciplining their children. There are so many incidences that I could recount, but I will only recount a few. I'm sure you all have a myriad of stories you could tell.

While disciplining other people's children is not something I enjoy doing, I find that when I have had occasion to discipline/reprimand/correct another's child it revolves around four categories:

1) Physical protection of a child. This is by far the most common scenario. It isn't easy to go through other means of disciplining when hitting, kicking, or biting is happening or is about to happen. Worse yet is when a toy is being used to do the hitting. However, just as often, this situation can involve a child, older or younger, who is endangering himself either through negligent behavior or self-destructive behavior.

I have asked middle school/high school students (Jewish and non-Jewish) to cross at the light or crosswalk, rather than dart across a busy street in front of drivers. They were none too happy. But, I don't want to find them under my car or anyone else's car either..

2) Preventing property damage. This too is a fairly common scenario that authority figures run into whether they are hosting other children, teaching in school, running a business, shopping in a store, or in their own shul. I can think of many examples, but this category is very self-explanatory.

3) Middot: I expect my own children to speak respectfully and politely to me and I expect other children to do the same. I think it is healthy for children to know that adults expect to be treated with respect and I have asked for that respect and see no reason adults should not ask for that respect. Children (and young adults) need to know that basic respect is expected.
A post on DAG's blog brought back a memory of a rather unpleasant outing that I had at a New York Toys R' Us. On my trip, two frum children who were running around wildly crashed into me and nearly knocked me over. After waiting for what I hoped was a forthcoming apology, and not receiving one, I asked for one. Not only did I not get an apology, but the mother shot me the "die now" look, gathered her children, and grumbled about me under her breath. No wonder the children had no sense of common courtesy!

4) Child is taking something that does not belong to them or something they are not allowed to have at that moment.

Often this scenario happens during a kiddush or seudah shlishit that I am manning. The children are grabbing at the food and taking before the time. Usually I make a brief statement such as "all children must wait until the Rabbi makes kiddush to take." Believe it or not, there have been occasions where I or another have stated the rule and a parent then proceeds to take food for their children, sending just about every message that should not be sent.

It seems that my style and halacha are not residing in different planets (baruch Hashem). A new commenter, "Rabbi Dr.," posted this comment, which offers a new dimension to the discussion:

And now for a little halacha.
See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayyim siman 343 and the Mishna Brurah there se'if katan 7- when it come to Biblical prohibitions everyone is obligated to stop any child from violating them. When it comes to rabbinic prohibitions only a father (and according to most the mother also) is obligated to stop his own child.

For example, if you see your own child climbing a tree on shabbos, which is rabbinically prohibited you must stop them. However, if you see someone else's kid climbing a tree you are under no obligation to stop them.

However, if you see a child trying to rip off a branch from the tree, which is Biblically prohibited, you must stop them, whether they are your child or someone else's.

Now if it seems obvious to me and see the Mishna Brura ibid. se'if katan 2, that hitting, name calling, lashon hara, and almost any behavior relating to bad middot is prohibited Biblically and as such any adult in the vicinity must stop the child in question.

Now this all applies to a child who is "higi'a le-chinuch" which means they
are of an age that they can comprehend the concept of "no." Under that age there
is really no obligation of chinuch.

So to bring this all home, if a two year old his pushing your kid, you should protect your kid, but you are not obliged to give the kids a lesson because they are probably too young to really understand the implications.

However, if you see a 6 year old hitting another child or hurting their
feelings- you are obligated to step in.

(One caveat- Sfardim may have different standards in this area).** In any
case, next time another parent gives you a hard time, tell them it's the halacha
and if they don't believe you tell them to ask their rabbi.

One more caveat (wisdom is the necessary corollary of all chinuch
questions. So regardless of any formal halachik obligations or lack thereof, one
must consult the 5th chelek of the shulchan aruch).

*My own note: I plan to do my own research into this area regarding Sephardi vs. Ashkenazi. My own gut instinct is that there will not be any significant differences. On a social note, in our Sephardi circle, which is not particularly learned, disciplining (i.e. correcting/guiding) other people's children just comes with the territory. I doubt anyone has sat around and analyzed it; it is just "what is done." And, it seems to work. Not once has one of the kids in this group ever mouthed back, "you can't tell me what to do. You're not my mother."

It is truly sad that we have come to a point in society where issues of discipline are so touchy. Instead of ending up with more effective discipline, it seems we have ended up with very little discipline. I decided to Google "Disciplining Other People's Children" and ran into some great pieces on this subject. . . . . . . . but more articles and insights will have to wait for post III. I've been busy disciplining my own all day and I'm too tired to continue an already lengthy post.


Neil Harris said...

Great post. I was thinking today about your previous post and was glad that you followed up. There probably is no easy answer, except being consistent. Consistent with your own kids and keeping that consistency with other parents kids. I think that if people know that you don't put up with certain behavior, b'klal, then it's easier if you end up playing police officer to children that are not yours.

Neil Harris said...

Great post. I was thinking today about your previous post and was glad that you followed up. There probably is no easy answer, except being consistent. Consistent with your own kids and keeping that consistency with other parents kids. I think that if people know that you don't put up with certain behavior, b'klal, then it's easier if you end up playing police officer to children that are not yours.

Anonymous said...

SL is right on the mark here. These last two posts have been excellent.

We know that derech eretz kodmoh laTorah. Derech eretz must be taught and enforced. What kind of sane 'frum' parents would object to you helping them with such a vital task ?

Shlomo hamelech, the chochom mikol odom, wrote in sefer Mishlei, 'Hochach lichochom viye'ehovecho - al tochach letz pen yisnoecho' - meaning 'Rebuke (or maybe better to write correct, as rebuke has acquired a negative connotation over the years) the wise man and he will LOVE you - however, don't rebuke the scoffer, lest he hate you'.

I suspect that some, if not all, of the parents, who so vehemently object to others disciplining their 'little angels', are the type that don't take well to correction themselves.

Is this what the 'frum' world has come to ? Hashem help us.....

Anonymous said...

The Torah tells us 'viayir pereh odom yivoleid' - a person is born uncivilized, like a wild donkey. Although some children are better by nature than others, humans must be taught certain things.

Chazal tell us that beikivisa demishicha 'chutzpah yisgei' - in the period of the footsteps of Moshiach (im yirtzeh Hashem), brazenness will increase. This is part of brazenness - to hate people who offer correction. Plain old brazenness. We know that Az ponim ligehinnom - the brazen faced are headed to Gehenna - but nevertheless some 'frum' people have become azei ponim and think they are still fully 'frum'. These people causing terrible damage to the image of frumkeit. Just like there is an expression 'white trash', describing people, who are lacking in refinement, I think there is, G-d help us, 'frum trash', types of people who outwardly follow rituals, but act coarsely and brazenly, and are severely lacking in derech eretz. May G-d help us outlast and turn back such types of people, who may be from the 'erev rav', before it might be, chas vesholom, too late.

mother in israel said...

I responded on my blog.

Orthonomics said...

Welcome Litvak. I keep picking up great commenters and am learning more and more. :)

Mom in Israel-I'll check out your post.

Jack Steiner said...

It is a fine line that you have to walk. Situations 1 and 2 are pretty straight forward, but I can see how 3 and 4 might create some touchy situations.

Orthonomics said...

Interestingly enough Jack, I've found all four situations equally as "touchy" although it defies logic.

There are some parents that are fine when you tell their children no, and some that just go nuts. And, it doesn't seem to matter if they just nabbed a cookie while the kiddush was being set up, or if they just kicked your child and you stepped in.

Anonymous said...

Plenty of parents have one specific, consistent approach to disciplining their children---never to do it! I'm not talking about whipping anyone into line, I'm talking about everyday verbal discipline. So when parents like this are in shul on Shabbos, their little darlings are somewhere outside the sanctuary yelling, crashing into each other and others, leaving a trail of food; you name it. I've seen shoe marks on doors, ripped chairs, and other physical damage, too.

I suppose we adult observers should be relieved when these kids get older, and, while they still avoid the davening (religiously!), they quietly play cards or toss footballs around.

Orthonomics said...

I've seen shoe marks on doors, ripped chairs, and other physical damage, too.

How about thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs due to damage from unsupervised children? Personally, I don't think my shul dues should have to pay for the damage inflicted by the children of negligent parents. But, naturally, we all end up paying for the negligence of others.