Mesorah (Jewish stuff) · Motherhood

Why I’m Indoctrinating My Children (And Why You Are Too)

My boys, excitedly anticipating the Pesach Seder.  That's been instrumental in Indoctrinating children for thousands of years
My boys, excitedly anticipating the Pesach Seder. That’s been instrumental in indoctrinating children for thousands of years

In the comments section of a juicy leaving-my-religion article, a commenter shared his opinion that it isn’t “fair” that religious people raise their children in a strict environment like Orthodox Judaism.  It’s child abuse to brainwash them the way we do!  Why don’t we just raise them without religion and then let them choose what works for them when they are adults?

Setting aside the impracticality of that idea in the context of Orthodox Judaism, which is basically a full-day full-body life experience, I would like to propose that everyone indoctrinates their child.  Even if they don’t mean to.

Our children learn about the world, about morals, values, everything from us.  They look to us to understand how the world works.  Someone who is a wholehearted secularist is going to be passing on those values to their children, even if they are not intentionally doing so.  If children are taught, through witnessing their parents’ choices and reactions, that the world works randomly, without any Divine intervention, and without any pattern or ultimate meaning, that is how they will view the world.  And it will either work for them, or it won’t.  And if it doesn’t, they’ll shop around for a worldview that does.

Same thing with raising a child within a religious structure.  Not everyone who ostensibly observes the rules of religion is a great parent, and so you can have a beautiful religion like Judaism, and yet have a parent (or other authority figure) who doesn’t support the child emotionally, or makes decisions that are harsh, capricious, and likely antithetical to Judaism.  Under those circumstances, that child is probably not going to have a high opinion of Judaism.  That may even be the least of their concerns.  You know?

Years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room to get a sonogram during my second pregnancy.  Next to me was another pregnant woman with an energetic two-year-old girl.  This little girl was climbing on the chairs, happily bouncing around, chattering and full of energy.  You know, like a normal two-year-old in a waiting room.  The mother spoke to this child in such vile language that I was really shocked.  I’m not saying that parents should just let their kids run around willy-nilly, but there’s no reason to use that kind of language with a child, ever.  And I thought about how this child is going to grow up with the experience of being verbally abused for typical toddler behavior.  And how her mother was probably treated the same way.  She may have been indoctrinated into a worldview where hate, anger and violence were the norm, and was now passing this along to her child.

It’s really heartbreaking.

So, yes, I’m indoctrinating my kids.  I’m “forcing” them to say please and thank you.  To say excuse me before speaking to an adult.  To wait their turn when another child is playing with a toy.  To clean up after themselves.  Fine, everyone will likely agree that those are good things to instill in any child, religion notwithstanding.

But I’m also indoctrinating them religiously.  To give thanks to G-d before and after eating food.  To use refined language.  To eat kosher food.  To refrain from turning lights on and off on Shabbos.  To stand up for their parents.  To treat adults with respect.  To think of the needs of others.  To give charity.

Will my children make their own decisions about life as adults?  I certainly hope so!  Do I hope and pray that they will find Judaism as beautiful and fulfilling as I do?  Absolutely.  At this formative stage, it is my responsibility as their parent to provide them the context to navigate the world and life in the way I think will give them the best shot at happiness and success.  And this is the way that I think is best.  

though maybe raising them as pirates would work, too
though maybe raising them as pirates would work, too

A practical example:

My husband and I have decided to only play Jewish music around our kids (classical music being an exception).  Initially, this seemed a little extreme to me.  I mean, I understood intellectually that everything kids hear has an impact on them, but was it really that big of a deal?  I occasionally listened to NPR around the kids and they weren’t quoting Steve Inskeep or anything.  Then again, I do recall Little Man singing the iconic theme to All Things Considered

The other day my two-and-a-half year old was singing to himself as he played.  Happily, I had a chance to eavesdrop.  I heard something which sounded like “Omar Rab Kiva.  Omar Rab Kiva. Hafta Reyka Mocha.”  It took me a minute, but I realized he was singing “Omar Rabbi Akiva,” which was on the Uncle Moishy CD we have on current rotation in our car.  I hadn’t realized that he knew the words, and I spent an awe-struck moment contemplating the wonders of human development.  When did he get so big?

He's really growing so fast!
He’s really growing so fast!

As I listened to my little boy singing these words, I was so glad we made that choice about music.  The actual words are “Omar Rabbi Akiva, v’ahavta l’reyecha kamocha, zeh klal gadol baTorah.”  They mean, “Rabbi Akiva said, Love your neighbor as yourself.  This is the greatest principle in the Torah.”   My son was imbibing these profound words.  Did he understand what he was singing?  Probably not.  But it’s making an impression on him, nonetheless.

And would I rather have him singing this?

I don’t know about you but im feeling 22
Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you
You don’t know about me but I bet you want to
Everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22, 22

It’s just a song, Rivki, calm down, you might say.  Sure, sure.  I hear that.  But when my children are still so impressionable, why not shape them in the best way possible?  Why even introduce concepts like finding “solace” in hooking up at a party?  Do I think all secular music is bad?  No, no.  Do I judge other parents who let their children listen to a wider variety of music?  Definitely.  Of course not.   When my kids get older, they’ll listen to what they want anyways.  I’m happy to choose what concepts are going into their head while I still have the chance.

So, yeah, I’m indoctrinating my children.  I’m imparting to them that the world is a beautiful, amazing place.  That life has meaning and purpose, and that they matter.  That their decisions have an impact on the world around them.  That love is more than one-night stands and haphazard relationships.  That even when they make mistakes, there is always the chance for redemption.  That everything comes from one ultimate source, which is a loving, omnipotent G-d.  

Trapped in the confines of religion!  Poor thing!
Trapped in the confines of religion! Poor thing!

What do you think?  Do you consciously indoctrinate your child?  Am I a crazy extremist?

69 thoughts on “Why I’m Indoctrinating My Children (And Why You Are Too)

  1. Very well said. There seems to be a growing feeling that raising your child in any religion that has a specific set of standards is somehow hurting them.

    If teaching your children is indoctrination, then yes, I’m guilty. I teach my kid that there are things you should and shouldn’t say. I teach my kid to show love and be kind. I make conscious choices about what he sees and hears (which sometimes means making those choices for myself, too.)

    Isn’t that a good thing?

    (Great post!)

    1. There seems to be a fascination with leaving-my-religion stories. I’ve heard at least half a dozen on the radio in the past half year. But I have yet to hear one finding-religion story. It’s just not a topic that people are comfortable with, in part because it’s a very personal thing. And also because of the “I’m right, you’re wrong” that can come with it.

      If, as parents, we all focus on what we are teaching our kids, and consciously do it, then that’s definitely a good thing. Well, depending on what we’re teaching them I guess. Thanks!

  2. I was one of those kids whose parents felt it was of great importance to have NO religion whatsoever.
    You know what? It didn’t work out for me. As an adult, I felt lost. Now I find it very important to “indoctorate” my family with religion. Every night when I sing the Shema with my kids, light candles on shabbat, skip to chabad for torah tots or hear my kids speak hebrew with hubby, it brings me great happiness and fills the empty spot left over from my childhood. Not going to lie, sometimes it’s a little bittersweet.
    Really great post! Thank you :)

  3. I agree with this post three milliong percent. Everyone is indocrinating their children in some way. Seculars who claim they are not indocrinating their children are “indocrinating” them that they must go to college, take ballet, etc.

    I am with you one hundred percent on non-Jewish music and culture in general. Much of that music is depressing- all about how unhappy one is with their life, how their latest relationship has ended in sorrow, how they seek revenge. It’s mostly so negative and depressing. And I’m not even familiar with violent and abusive music like rap. And then talk about movies- I grew up watching movies, and only later did I realize how I absorbed much of my ideology from that.

    This semester, my speech class classmates have focused on a lot of social issues, and I realize how the culture is just sooooooo unhealthy for children. Media promotes and teaches this negative culture. It teaches mean behavior to other children, disrespect to authority, negative body image, bad relationship expectations and behaviors…. There is so much that makes me so angry.

    I am SOO appreciative that I can move to an Orthodox Jewish community where the kids won’t grow up with any of that, where they will be surrounded by a healthier lifestyle and will be taught proper life skills.

    1. There is a lot that I unknowingly absorbed from media. Now I’m more aware of the messages I see, but that also comes with age. Kids, and young adults, are just so impressionable. It’s really a big responsibility.

      1. Adult culture is not for children. It`s meant for adults. You don`t have restrict yourself to purely Jewish music to find appropriate music and media for children. Though I can understand how such music wold appeal to your children since they are so constantly immersed. Much of what we listen to is Jewish or music from my own childhood. I don`t collapse everything into Jewish equals good and mainstream equals bad. I`ve seen some really distressing and very immoral Jewish children`s products and media. I tend to eschew mainstream media meant for children because it`s bent on selling toys. But some of it is good.

        1. I agree with you; there’s a wide range of media for children, thankfully. While we’ve chosen this whole Jewish music thing for our kids, we still read plenty of books from the library, and go to museums (with dinosaurs!), and watch DVDs. Blues Clues has been a hit over here. And you make an excellent point that not everything Jewish equals good and not everything mainstream equals bad, and, I hope, this is something we are transmitting to our children. We’re not telling them, “oh, this music is good and that is not,” we’re just being selective with what they listen to while they are still small (my oldest is four). Jewish media doesn’t have carte blanche in our house. We screen everything to make sure it resonates with the values we’re teaching our children. As they grow, I’m sure they will discover their own tastes and preferences.

          I can see from this post that it may come across that we are fairly immersed or sheltered, and in a comparative world, I suppose we are. But we don’t restrict our children’s exposure to only Jewish things. I just thought that example went well with this post. And it was cute to hear him sing the song!

  4. Thanks for this. It reminded me of either a poem or song or something that went something like this you’ve got to be carefully taught……

    You are so right. The kids are little sponges you have no idea how much they soak up every second.



    1. Sometimes I forget how spongey they are, and then they will use a phrase that I know they heard from me, and I’m reminded. It’s a good lesson, you know, to be careful how we speak.

  5. Great post. I’ve been saying this for years, since I started teaching small children and my liberal college friends wondered how I could brainwash small children to believe in Judaism. Where’s their freedom? Well, “lack of indoctrination”, in my opinion, is also a worldview, it’s also a method of indoctrination. Skepticism, cynicism, agnosticism – these aren’t freedom from specific paths of though, but rather a specific set of thought patterns on their own. You are either teaching your child something or you’re teaching them the lack of it, there’s no such thing as Not Teaching.

    That said, in my anthropology course in college I vaguely recall some (horribly inhumane) experiment done where a child was raised without any human voices, languages or sounds. Everyone who had contact with him were completely silent (no sign language either, no communication at all). And yet the child still learned to babble nonsense sounds, and even laugh, he just didn’t understand how to use these noises to get what he wanted or to communicate with his caretakers.

    As I recall, the ultimate message the professor was trying to make was that a lack of input still creates noise, just without direction.

    Great post!

  6. I think you are right on all counts. As your children get older, if they are given the freedom to do so, they will make their own choices and look back on Mom and Dad and remember how smart they were.

    A man who I worked with at one time was a devout Hindu therefore he was a strict vegetarian. When he and his wife were expecting their first child, I asked him if he was going to allow his child to eat meat. His response was basically the same as yours that he would encourage the child to eat vegetarian but if he/she was at a friend’s house and hot dogs were being served, he/she wouldn’t be chastised for eating one. It would be their decision.

    As usual a great post Rivki. Also, very handsome young men.

  7. Beautiful post, beliefs, concepts, actions, philosophy, actions and kiddies. Completely agree with you. Your children will grow into well adjusted, respectful, grateful and satisfied adults.

  8. When people use the word “indoctrination” I don’t think they are referring to teaching children social niceties. They are referring to teaching children dogma and in addition, preventing them from being exposed to the cultures, ideas and ways of life of others. It is not all the same. Not all parents choose to teach their children that there is only one way to live a good life and that it is based on a dogma that has a monopoly on life’s truth. Some parents value diversity, offering children choice by exposing them to all sorts of ideas and encourage their children to create their own path. They may teach them that social now cities include please and thank you of course but it is not the same as teaching a child life’s one and only “truth” with an expectation and hope that they won’t go astray. The term off THE derech says it all. A child finds another path, he is off THE path, that is what is being crucified, not teaching children manners.

    1. So nice to see you here! I thought of you when I wrote this post, actually. You are right about the term, it definitely refers more to a worldview, or dogma, than just manners.

      My point was that we are all teaching our kids that our way is “the” right way. Even teaching diversity is teaching that diversity is better, or more right, than a more narrow worldview. If your kids grew up and decided to be Chassidic or something, and decided to eschew internet and all the trappings of society and send their kids to cheder, that would be kind of off the derech for you, yes?

      I think people in general believe that their path is the best one, and sometimes the only one (especially where religion and politics are concerned). Maybe because I was raised one way and chose another I’m a little more moderate. Maybe it’s a combination of how I was raised and my personality. I don’t know.

      In general, I don’t really think we can expect anything. We don’t know what’s going to be with our own life tomorrow, much less with the choices our children make when they are more independent. But as parents, I think we all try to impart the values that we think are right and best, and then we see what happens. I’m sure you’re doing a great job. Thanks for commenting, I’m really glad you did.

  9. Yes – we are all conditioned by our parents. the argument you make is that you brand of conditioning – orthodox judaism is fundamentally good and helpful. You blindly make this decision based solely on your belief – not (it seems) on logic, science or child psychology. you are giving your children a nonsensical filter through which they will view the world (a conditioned lense) This filter often includes the removal of logic and free thought, creates painful feelings that go against basic biological impulse and raises them to feel inherently different to others. Inherent to any religious belief is separation from others – you are teaching them this separation blindly and this “beautiful judaism” you piously tout is layer upon layer of confusion. You abuse your children with guilt and the effects of blindly following hours of mind numbing ritual. You do realize that you physically, violently assaulted your children when they were just a few days old (circumcision without anesthesia?) – only blind belief makes this practice perfectly ok – “a wonderful day of celebration”
    Is there a better way to teach a child than through the lense of orthodox judaism?- a sensitive, reasonable, loving, caring relationship with life and a clear understanding of consciousness? Teach your child to have an open view. Teach your child to look carefully at he wonders of science and art and philosophy, teach your child to be sensitive, smart, kind and self aware.
    An important goal of the rational, sane adult is to shed the pain and baggage of conditioning and to find the self determined path, Belief blocks us from seeing ourselves and our experience with clarity. “proper life skills” are not taught in isolation or separation from humanity. “It is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” (J Krishnamurti) It is also surely no measure of good health to be well adjusted to isolated, divisive, iron age belief. Orthodox judaism is a very clear, structured, mind numbing path – the simple path given to us in this way is never the correct one.

    1. Hello RG, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear that you have such a negative viewpoint of Judaism. It’s clear that you have very strong feelings on this subject.

      It’s possible that you don’t know my background, so I’ll share that I shed the conditioning I was raised with and searched around, rather logically, actually, for a belief system which I found suitable. I spent many, many years in agnosticism, read my fair share of philosophy (though I found existentialism to be extremely depressing! whoa!), spent time exploring Buddhism, nature-worship, and a few other things. But it wasn’t until I came across Orthodoxy, very unintentionally, that I found a path which appealed to me on many levels.

      I find that now, through the not-so-mind-numbing path of Orthodoxy, I have had an increased appreciation at the wonders of science, art and philosophy. I have become more sensitive, smart, kind and exponentially more self-aware. My life lens is full of love, caring and clear understanding of purpose. More so than in any other path I ventured on. If this hasn’t been your experience, I’m truly sorry.

      I don’t know many parents who choose their parenting styles in an overly logical sense, or scientificall-based, and I would venture to say that the vast majority of parents are not child psychologists (though we certainly all learn our fair share in our on-the-job training).

      I would be interested in continuing this conversation with you, but I must ask that it be in a respectful manner. If subsequent comments include personal attacks, I won’t publish it. Thanks, and thanks again for commenting.

      1. Actually he said “orthodox judaism” in your complete collapse of that into “judaism” you proved his point.

        1. So, by me using the term “Orthodoxy” in two other places in my comment, did I disprove the proving of the point? ;) But seriously, in a subsequent comment, RG clarified that his (or her) issue was “with those who follow a conditioned belief system blindly, push these beliefs on their kids and are disconnected from seeing and fearful of debate.” Which I happen to agree with.

          If you would like to further contribute, that would be great, but I do ask that it remain respectful. Thanks so much!

  10. I love you for writing this post! I don’t know that I agree about the music, but I am floored when my kids sing something in Hebrew or they remember something we taught them about Judaism. I think it is important to raise a child with the parents’ beliefs. We don’t know what they’ll do in the future, but we can only hope that they enjoy it enough to carry it along to future generations. My SIL (whom you met) was raised Orthodox and she continues to carry those values and passes them along to my nieces and nephews. It’s really wonderful to see that.

    1. “We don’t know what they’ll do in the future, but we can only hope that they enjoy it enough to carry it along to future generations.” Exactly! It’s beautiful when a chain a tradition continues. Hatzlacha to all of us!

  11. I apologize if you took my comments to be personal in any way – I admittedly know nothing about you or your personal story and hold no judgment of you. By “you” i was (perhaps poorly) referencing “orthodox belief”.
    I have seen and experienced with clarity the incredible pain and confusion that belief (all religion – I am not implicating just Judaism here) has caused. I also see and I understand some of the different levels of appeal for religious people. I appreciate you publishing my first post and taking the time to write a clear, ego free response – I would venture a guess that it is because your self determined path led you to orthodoxy,that you can see your choices with some clarity. my issue is with those who follow a conditioned belief system blindly, push these beliefs on their kids and are disconnected from seeing and fearful of debate. All the best.

    1. Hello again, glad to see you’re back! I completely agree with you that pushing a conditioned system blindly onto children can cause pain and confusion, and to be fearful of debate or of deep thinking is not the best way to live. I would like to add that this is not exclusive to religion. I have seen similar behaviors in political ideology, where those holding opposing viewpoints are villainized as stupid, evil, debauch, bigoted, etc. The same with science versus religion, where all religious people are depicted as simple, non-intellectual, closed-minded, and so on. That was certainly my perception of “religious people” when I was college-aged.

      Yes, great damage can be, and has been, done in the name of religion, but other beliefs, or ideologies, are also susceptible to corruption and atrocities. Fascism and Communism come to mind pretty readily. May you always have clarity and joy in your life. All the best.

    2. Anything followed blindly or pushed onto people by fear is not healthy. I too chose a different path than the one I grew up with..I was raised in a completely agnostic home where Judaism was irrelevant… and I chose to become observant and have it be a huge part of my life. I came to the decision through learning, logic, evidence, etc. I am all for finding a balance between raising my future children with the beliefs and values that I hold dear while at the same time exposing them to diversity and cultural awareness…. still figuring out that exact balance but I have time.

  12. I absolutely love this article! I think you made SUCH a good point about your children growing up listening to Jewish music- it’s giving them the roots to grow up with culture and the wisdom HaShem gives us. Your children are beautiful! Also, quick question- how do you pronounce “nebach?” The only part I’m unsure of is the “ne” part- is it neh or nee?

  13. Initially reading or thinking about only playing Jewish music around ones children seemed a bit “too frum” for me. But as I continued reading, it’s like a lightbulb went off and your choice made perfect sense! I don’t have children yet, and I’m not quite there yet either, but having read this post, and having insight into how much children take in – it just seems like the best way to do things when your kids are such an impressionable age! Incredible insight, huge shkoyach – and thank you.

  14. I have made this point many, many times to people who consider themselves quite enlightened but who are really being terribly simplistic. Everyone has some sort of ideology. If you parent your children at all, you communicate your beliefs about what is right and wrong. When I tell my daughter that it is more important to be smart than pretty, and more important to be kind than smart, I am repeating exactly what my secular atheist culturally-Jewish mother taught me. The fact that it happens to be compatible with Orthodox Judaism is a win-win.

    Whatever you believe: your politics, your social beliefs, your ethical beliefs, it all goes to your children. Whatever strong ideologies a parent holds, a child will parrot them until they grow up and start thinking for themselves. Religion is, in terms of parenting, a very convenient vehicle through which to teach one’s values, but it is not the only way. People ask me what I will do if my children go off the derech. I say that if they do, that is their choice. I hope I can model the importance of traditional Judaism well enough that they will not want to.

    1. Don’t you love it when the values you were raised with coincide with the values you’ve chosen? That’s great! May you have a lot of ease in raising your children, and may the Judaism you present to you children be completely compelling to them.

  15. I call this “front-loading.” and I believe it is VERY powerful. It leaves a kind if imprint on our children, so they don’t know WHY they say please and thank you, they just do it. Or — if we are speaking religiously — they keep kosher just because. Or, if Christian, they have faith in Jesus, etc. But yes. Yes. And I know my menschy 13-year-old son has been soooo front-loaded because when people ask him what he’s doing in the sumer he says: “Summer means I get to go to Jewish camp.” Wow, um, those were my words exactly. (Just change the pronoun.)

    1. I like the the term front-loading. It conjures an image of me placing values into a bulldozer and depositing it in my kids’ consciousness. Though maybe a bulldozer isn’t the best picture…you can tell I have boys!

      Yes, I hope that the imprint I am placing on my kids will lead them to perform the mitzvos, and when they are old enough to reflect upon them, and on why they are doing them, that they will want to continue to do them.

      And yay for Jewish camp in the summer!

  16. My children can never go off the road unless they reject my fundamental view that others are to be respected. That is the only road of life. The only road of happiness.

    1. And I hope that your children grow up happy and healthy. For sure. I must ask, though, do you respect me, and my decision to raise my children in this tradition, which I view as an excellent way to raise happy, healthy children? I don’t know you, and we are only interacting through this forum, which is obviously not the ideal way to have a conversation, but I get the impression that you don’t feel a great deal of respect for me here.

  17. Thanks! I loved this article, I’m not a mother (yet!) but it’s on my mind a lot. I’m Latter-day Saint (Mormon) & in my own life & discussions with others growing up I was shocked by the amount of people that would tell me I only believed what I believed because I was “indoctrinated.”
    I’m in my late 20’s now & my faith is much different than what it was when I was younger as back then I relied so much on my parent guidance (…and I am eternally thankful for it!)
    I’m glad my parents gave me the tools to see the spiritual parts of life so that as I grew I could make my own decisions & find my own faith & strength in what I had already been taught.
    I truly believe your children will be thankful for your decisions.

  18. Rivki,

    It is so clear you mother from a place of love and warmth and heart. Your kids will be blessed no matter what music you decide they should or should not listen to, of that I am sure! :)

    I agree that however we parent is indoctrinating our kids. But there is a different between parenting style and brainwashing. To raise your kids in a home you feel s the best, is good. To raise your kids in a home that is terrified to let anyone or anything else in is dangerous. It teaches kids that “we” are good and “they” are bad. I don’t like that idea at all.

    That said, it isn’t the choice we have made for how we raise our kids. To be honest (don’t bash me) I don’t find all that many Jewish artists to be that musically talented that it fulfills my personal need. That isn’t to say some are not talented–but there isn’t a lot of variety and once you’ve listened to it 100 times, you listened to it 1000 times. Basically, it gets old. (To me anyhow. Not everyone is going to feel the same, and not everyone really cares for music in the same way). I try to strike a nice balance between secular and Jewish music. That said–I would never play something with vulger lyrics around my kids. I think it’s a big jump to make that it’s either OJ music or classical or vulgar. Musical inspiration comes from listening to variety, and that’s important to me. But so is having good middos.

    At the end of the day we have decided that (given our circumstances in particular) that to only allow them overtly Jewish experiences make too much of a “them” and “us” feel. While I want my kids to have a strong Jewish identity, I want it to come from strength in who they are, not in who they are not.

    1. Hi! Thank you for this very thoughtful comment. I completely agree with you on the dangers of an “us” versus “them” approach. I also don’t think it works, because as soon as kids start to interact with “them,” and they see that “they” are also good, intelligent, kind, and so on, then the whole foundation of that educational “method” crumbles. I love that you want them to find strength in who they are, not in who they are not. That’s beautiful. I want that, too.

      I’m grateful for your comment because it’s giving me a reason to reflect further on what we do and do not let into our kids’ lives. We read tons and tons of books from the library, so there’s that. Also, we love museums and science centers. And there’s the DVDs (oy, that’s another post in the making). But music, for some reason, maybe because of its potency, stays, for now, on the Jewish-only path. My kids are still very little, though, and we will see what happens as they grow older and develop their own tastes.

      May you have a lot of success in all your endeavors, and thanks again for the great comment!

      1. You know, I was thinking about this over dinner, and I want to amend my opinion a bit. I don’t think that an “us” and “them” mentality is inherently dangerous. When it becomes “us” versus “them,” that’s a different story. Or when “us” is the only good and the “them” is always bad. But there’s a beauty in celebrating difference and uniqueness, and it’s possible to do this without being derogatory toward the “other.” That’s all. Thanks! I’m enjoying all this thinking about things.

  19. Love this article and totally agree–we ALL teach our children our own set of beliefs, be they religious or not. And I think parenting with intention is so important, rather than just focusing on what’s easy or convenient at the moment. Great post:)

  20. Seriously– you rocked this. I think you should do a version of this post for Kveller. Maybe they’d be interested? Would YOU be interested?

    I think it’s such a fair point that we are all “indoctrinating” in some way!

  21. Hi, I just came across your blog so I apologize for jumping into this conversation late. Other than being Christian I could have written this post! Thank you for standing up so eloquently for a sometimes unpopular point of view. We have a little guy who just turned two last week and we pray with him all day (waking up, meals, when we get in the car, when we do things throughout the day, bed, etc). On his birthday, when he was in bed I said it was time to pray and was getting ready to recite our standard evening prayer. Before I could start, he started saying his own little prayer that he made up; “Dear G-d, thank you food, thank you Nana, thank you Mommy. Amen” I was speechless and crying. It was so pure and sweet and simple. You can never underestimate how much they absorb, where they hear things and how it will make an imprint on their tiny, beautiful souls. Thus, it’s so important to model early on in life the blessed, compassionate path we want for our little ones. In popular North American culture, sometimes it seems acceptable to be/do just about anything other than be the kind of parents (I think!) you and I ascribe to be. Want to throw a party and invite 13 yr. old over to drink? You’re a cool parent! Want to allow your 10 yr. old to dress like she’s 25 and at a club? You’re a trendy parent! Want to teach your children they don’t have to follow authority? You’re a fun parent! Want to teach your kids to be kind, share, turn the other cheek, love G-d, respect their parents, give to the poor? And society says you’re “harming” your child by brainwashing and/or that you are raising a “weak” child (especially if you have a boy). I just don’t get it.

    1. Hi Rachel! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your lovely comment! I love that you are teaching your son the characteristic of gratitude. It makes such a huge difference in life! It does sound like we have a very similar worldview. Best wishes to you in your parenting adventure! All the very best.

  22. Thanks for the kind response. One thing I forgot to mention is that we too try not to expose our little guy to secular music. One thing we really enjoy apart from Jewish, Christian and classical music is finding world music that’s just instrumental. That way, he’s exposed to African drumming, Latin American salsa, etc. but without any questionable lyrics. Take care!

    1. Oo, world music is great. This isn’t exactly world music, but you might check out Ast by Pachora. It’s one of my favorite albums, and has a world music kind of feel.

  23. I read your blog with interest and dare to put in my view:

    I also (more or less) teach “my” religion to my children, as, indeed, everyone does. I try to keep in mind that it’s something that works well for me, but not necessarily for them. I.e. I do my best to watch carefully if they like what I tell them, if they can relate to it, if they like certain rituals (if not, I don’t force anything on them). And I make sure they learn about other religions/ways of thinking as well (which isn’t difficult in the place we live ;-) ). Will they find a good way of their own? I hope so – (that’s all we can do… ;-) )

    1. No, definitely not. It’s so thoughtful of you to even consider that cultural sensitivity! I’ve been very interested to learn about other people and other cultures, even, that also wear scarves for comfort, or for religious reasons, and so you will have company in your choice. Enjoy your tichels! All the best.

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