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Op-eds

Manners maketh parenting

  • Howard Feldman 2018
I am aware that any column I write in which I complain about the behaviour of children at shul will paint me as an old kvetch (persistent complainer). And whereas I might be, I need to disclaim the following:
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Jun 20, 2019

I love the fact that children are in and around shul; and I enjoy the fact that they happily play, laugh, and make a noise – even if it’s so loud that I can’t concentrate on the conversation I’m having.

But last week, in a shul that will remain nameless for the purposes of this column, it made me a bit mad.

And I don’t blame the kids at all. I blame the parents for what is an appalling lack of parenting.

This kiddush was a special occasion, which meant there was biltong, dry wors, and all sorts of other goodies.

But as soon as kiddush was said, the children surged forward and grabbed as much as their filthy little hands were able to. They heaped their plates with so much of the “good stuff” that there was hardly any left for an adult.

I witnessed one of these 10-year-old pirates weaving through the crowd with his booty piled so high, that it was genuinely quite perplexing. His gleeful expression and evil chuckle, along with smug victorious expression, was bone chilling.

For good order’s sake, I don’t blame the miniature scoundrels at all. They are programmed this way. Hard wired to forage. They hunt and they gather like the uneducated hillbillies that they are. They cannot differentiate between this and the excited collecting of sweets when they are thrown at someone called up to the Torah. Not without their parent’s guidance.

For further clarity, I certainly wouldn’t have won any parenting awards when our children were young. However, I do believe that teaching children to be sensitive to the fact that they should be aware of the other people in the community is a lesson that goes well beyond the shul brocha.

Recently at another shul, a four-year old child escaped from the brocha and thankfully, was found in the street by one of the security guards who returned him safely to his parents. The parents saw fit to berate the security guard and the shul security team for not being on the lookout for roaming children.

The parents also failed to understand that protecting a shul requires one to stand with one’s back to the shul – at most shuls anyway – as the threat comes from the outside.

The “brocha lady” at the shul I was at on Shabbat told me that she was lambasted by some parents for setting up a coffee station at the back of the hall because of the danger it posed.

When she queried why the parents were not able to supervise or teach their kids about heat, she was told that she was not being sensitive to their needs.

This is significant because to not teach a child about the dangers of heat, but rather to choose to guard the hot-water urn, is to disempower that child. To not teach a young one that there are other people around, all of whom need to share the food on the table, is to raise selfish, entitled adults.

To shout at a security guard for allowing a little one to run further than you would like is to deny taking any responsibility or ownership. In none of these cases will a child learn anything.

Shul is a great place to spend a Shabbat morning. It’s also a great place to teach children how to function in society.

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