If you’ve ever been to a Bar Mitzvah party you know that the event has two separate components. There are adults congratulating the parents on their son’s wonderful performance and on the spectacular food. These people are generally well behaved.
Then there are the kids.
Oy vey, the kids.
At my bar mitzvah, the kids threw soda bottles agains the wall outside the hall in the hope that they would explode. Mind you, my father was the dean of the school, so this would be the most well behaved of the bar mitzvahs parties. When we were well behaved, in brief bouts, we were still mischievously pouring salt and pickle juice into our classmates’ cups filled with soda in the hope that they would gag or spit out their drinks. Ahhh, memories.
Anyway, it seems that the adults were on to us the entire time. Now they are getting serious and want to put a stop to the shenanigans. The NY Times is reporting that across the spectrum of Modern Orthodox to Reform Judaism schools and parents are teaching manners and etiquette so that the kids will act like mentschen. This is a great idea.The more right wing kids need to work on this as well. The only problem is that it assumes that the kids don’t behave at the bar mitzvahs because of a lack of information. The real reason kids misbehave at bar mitzvahs is because of a lack of caring.
But the programs have spurned a new debate. Who is responsible to make sure kids behave and learn good manners? Is the parents? The schools? Both?
This is a huge topic and I think it applies to the right wing orthodox Jewish institutions as well. How much of a child’s education falls on the parents and how much falls on the schools? When children are not successful, is it fair for parents to blame schools? Is it fair for schools to blame the parents?
Obviously, the answer is highly case specific and on a continuum. However, the question is a valid one.
In my opinion schools should focus most of their attention to education. A child who is learning well and succeeding in school is far less likely to act out. Students who are floundering are the usual suspects when it comes to misbehavior. In my experience these two things are related. If schools are doing a good job providing an education to their students there will be far fewer students with behavior issues.
Of course there are exceptions. But as a general rule, I think behavior follows academic satisfaction.
Similarly, in my limited experience, parents who are involved in their child’s education and take an active role in parenting, have fewer behavior problems with their children. So if parents want well behaved children, the key is not to “teach behavior”. The key is to be a good parent.
Then again, bar mitzvah kids are 13. Let’s not get carried away with our expectations of their behavior either…
Anyway, that’s what I think.
Link: NY Times