The Matzav Shmoooze: Dear Mechanchim and Teachers – Corona Showed Us How to Deal with Children

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Dear Editor,

As we all know, during these months of ‘lockdown’ when the Chadorim and schools have been closed there have been major changes in all our lives. At first, Mothers worried how on earth they would manage, how would they cope with their household tasks and responsibilities with a houseful of children around 24 hours a day?

Many were concerned and anxious but wonder of wonders, as the weeks have gone by I am hearing that not only are they coping well but it much easier than they ever imagined. They are even enjoying it and see enormous benefits: · No pressure to dress quickly, have breakfast, and catch the school van. · No pressures of homework. · No rush to get the washing and ironing down · No need to look at the clock – meals are leisurely, time to chat & laugh. · No nagging sleepy bachurim to get up early. · No rush to catch an early minyan · No Simchas, no events, so parents aren’t in a rush to go out in the evenings. · No rush to get the children to bed. · More time to enjoy the family, more time to talk, more time to listen. · More time to look at the flowers, the ducks, the tortoises in the parks, the stars. Before Corona, no one had time to do anything.

Now we have all the time in the world.

Children are skipping, skating, running, jumping on trampolines, playing ball – all good healthy stuff that our children don’t get enough of. This is all wonderful but the best is yet to come…

I am hearing from Mothers who are blessed with ‘difficult’ children (children who always argue, who are always krechzing & complaining & uncooperative; children on Ritalin; children who can’t get to sleep at night etc) that their children have changed sometimes dramatically. They are more relaxed; easy-going; co-operative, stopped arguing & fighting; they concentrate for longer and are easy going and happy.

Parents have also seen physical improvements like one child who has had a runny nose for several years, had many courses of antibiotics, and had his adenoids & tonsils removed – with no improvement. Since corona, all his symptoms disappeared completely, like magic.

Shouldn’t this all be telling us something: Our children are under too much pressure. · Children don’t have enough time to relax, play and have friends · Cheder hours should be shorter with organized games & sports in break time. · Homework should be abolished. Girls need to have time to help their mothers, have fun with their family and friends, and be available for Chesed projects.

Aren’t we trying to bring up a generation of Yerei Shomayim, sensible people with good Midos, reasonable people who can calmly discuss differences of opinion without arguing?

I claim that children brought up in a more relaxed environment, grow up relaxed and reasonable and healthy in mind and body.

When I was the Director of the Light & Sound Therapy Centre, many, many local children came for treatment for poor concentration, learning disabilities, behavior problems, social difficulties, and depression. In every case where my advice for structured exercise and sports was followed, there were very significant improvements. Hakodosh Baruch Hu gave us unlimited fresh air with unlimited oxygen. Most of the oxygen we breathe in is used for our brain. Lack of oxygen causes brain injury. Whenever your child gets ‘out of breath’ and breathes deeply, his concentration, his mood, his behavior, his learning, and his physical health improve.

So if we want our children to have the best opportunities to shine in every way they need to run, play ball, swim, jump.

Now Corona is hopefully coming to an end. Let us try to help our children by less pressure, more activity, more exercise, and no homework.

Signed,

Mrs. Z. Landau

North London, England 

{Matzav.com}

26 COMMENTS

  1. Shout this from the rooftops! My friends and I have noted this as well. Please, is there anyone out there who can make changes?

  2. Sounds like a nice summer vacation, but quite silly as a full year plan. How will your children learn to deal with pressure if they never had the opportunity to experience it as a child? How will they learn to be responsible adults if they didn’t have HW/tests as children.

    Life has pressure, face it.

    I’m not saying we cant alleviate some of the work but the blissful picture you paint isn’t conducive to training young adults for an adulthood with hard work & large families.

    I’m sure you can get a school to try this methodology. I wonder how many parents would send.

    • The letter writer didn’t say that this is the way yeshiva should be run from now on. All he is saying is that in many yeshivos there are many pressures. Pressure to punch a clock, pressure to perform this leads to pressure from the student’s parents etc.. In addition in many yeshivos students have no outlets. All they can do is run around and play “galach” In mesivta you can’t even do that. Too many children ch”v get burned out or break in this system. Something has to be done not to lower the standards or even the schedules, but to lower the temperature in the pressure cooker.

  3. As a rebbi for the past ten years in a cheder, i would like to think that the many hours i spend teaching Yiddishe kinderlach and all the skills i am giving them is the best thing that i could possibly do for them. however if i look past my need to feel important and teach, and look at what the children need for a healthy future it seems that what is written in this article is absolutely 100 percent true . Children need school . and children need to learn . they need structure and skills , but we are overwhelming and overburdening kids and families with our curriculum . it negatively impacts relationships between children and parents , children and themselves, and children with their mechanchim. I hope that we will approach the work load we are putting on kids and families in a more balanced way going forward.

  4. She’s right! For years I complained about the pressure caused by children’s homework, but of course got nowhere! One odom godul said: when moshiach comes, the first thing he’ll do will be to close down all the schools!

  5. Yes that is why camps and the old style Bungalow colonies are so important to children’s and adults health and Physical spiritual and emotional development

  6. Mrs. Landau, while on the surface you might be right, it is just surface!
    The generation who has not worked hard has not achieved much! Do you think children who have time to play with their siblings and tortoises etc. will get to become lawyers doctors or Rabbanim? Don’t their brains need to be put to work? When they grow up will they also walk the streets in hoodys and their pants from Macys – half off.
    While I concede that school is a necessary evil, it is an evil that unavoidable. Endurance, serious concentration, self esteem, courage, not giving up are all very important skills developed under the umbrella called school. Where would their Yiraas Shamayim and other Torah skill be developed? Where would their love for Torah and Teffila come from It’s not at all just a babysitting service by cruel melamdim who couldn’t gain employment at other sectors.

    • “The generation who has not worked hard has not achieved much” It is true that hard work is required to succeed, but unnecessary stress leads to heart attacks, not success. The schedule we expect from children today is unrealistic and completely ridiculous. I have time for an 8 hour workday, supper, mincha, maariv, and a shiur, and I’m still spending less time out of the house than I did in mesivta! No one said reduce yeshiva to 2 hours a day and make the world a hefker velt- just don’t work students so hard that the average child nowadays has as much anxiety as a patient in a mental asylum in the 1950s (that is not me trying to make a point- it is an actual APA study: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/12/anxiety). We can afford to give up some unnecessary overwork to make our children live happier, more fulfilled lives. Someone who never eases off the throttle will eventually run out of steam.

      Do you think children who have time to play with their siblings and tortoises etc. will get to become lawyers doctors or Rabbanim?
      Ummm… Yes? I do think children who have time to develop relationships with their siblings and learn how to navigate those relationships will be better at the complex relationships that make up a lawyer’s workday. A child who has time to relax and appreciate the niflaos haborei will have the peace of mind and appreciation for the world which will allow them to learn better when learning time comes, becoming a better rav. There is no virtue to overworking yourself 24/7 and never taking a minute to relax.

      Your child needs to primarily be learning concentration, self-esteem, courage, yiraas shomayim, and other Torah skills from you, it should not be outsourced to a yeshiva or mechanech. No one is saying all these horrible things about melamdim- it’s just that children, like everyone else, need time to relax and let their brains recharge for a little every day.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with this. My kids are so happy, so much BBC loser with each other, and so much more relaxed. They get physical activity, which they NEVER get in school (at least my girls.)
    The older ones are still learning a lot, but are not crying over too much studying and work.

    We’d have to be crazy to go back to the way it was.

  8. My difficult children are not doing any better under the circumstances. They need the stimulation of school so badly.

  9. Yes. i also feel that my children really gained from having a lighter schedule and easier work load. I hope menahalem will also be able to have this perspective and make some practical changes. Kids are natural learners and they can learn a lot without so much assigned work. however if your child will be using that time glued to a screen then i would keep the schooling the same.

  10. 100 percent disagree to this. My kids are worse off. Everything is not relaxed. And everyone is super stressed with no outlet. my kids medicines have been doubled. Therapies minimized etc….

  11. As a parent and teacher I couldn’t agree with you more. I will tell you where I think the problem lies. This is my own personal opinion. I would hope one person in charge would read this and understand what an outside observer sees. I write this as a chasidisha person myself. I used lived across for a chasdisha mesivta I used to watch them when they had a break. These kids had nothing to do. They’re not allowed to play ball. read a book or ride a bike. I think break time was more torturous then sitting in shiur. The buchrim are expected to be waiting 6:30 am for the bus to go to far tugtz and don’t come home till after night seder. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this schedule except as you wrote so well we saw in the last three months children, teenagers, and even adults were more relaxed without the pressures. I hope someone reads this and realizes that too many boys ch”v break under the rigorous pressure they are under.

  12. as it is said 1 DAf GEMARA BSIMCHA IS LIKE 100 DAF NOT BSIMCHA LETS KEEP OUR KIDS BSIMCHAH AND THEY WILL WANT TO LEARN AND WILL LOVE TO LEARN AND WILL STAY ON THE DERECH LOVING HASHEM AND HIS TORAH WHITHOUT SOME KIDS FEELING LIKE THEY ARE BEING PATROLLED EVERY SECOND

  13. the problem with this article is it makes a blanket statement.
    some kids obviously would do better under pressure while some will do better with the breaks pumped a bit. not everybody fits in the same box

  14. I think you are forgetting about the countless children who are spending hours and hours behind screens while their parents try to hold their jobs down. Maybe it works for some but school/ camp cant start soon enough.

  15. shallow & superficial analysis ; we all are pro exercise & oxygen ( practically most ny mosdos dont have the space )
    true many survived nicely and for some percent of kids ( the add adhd ones ) enjoyed 3 months of freedom , reduced regulation late sleep late morning , semi davening / shul….eating at all hours..
    BUT TO THINK THIS IS NORMAL !! or ok as a lifestyle is hefkerus.
    to the parents screaming about too much pressure / homework… its not EVERY SCHOOL its YOUR choice of SCHOOL , there are plenty of mosdos with an easier academic load , but you dont want to send there , and maybe with good reason , if your daughter plans on college…
    TRAUMA – corona & the media have taught the therapists that our kids are virtually unaffected despite seeing horrible clips in real time from shomrei adas bodies to burned nypd vans .. from no school, lockdown to looting and life goes on keep playing my play station & munch on sushi ma how many dead in nyc today gov said “ONLY 400”
    LACK OF TRAUMA ( some exceptions)… more points maybe later

  16. Yes yes yes!
    But can change be accomplished?
    There are organizations for professionals, for mechanchim, for doctors, for rabbonim… but not for parents of school age children-
    Aside from peripherally under the umbrella of some fabulous organizations. But peripherally.

  17. I couldn’t agree more with the letter writer. The schools are so focused on their curriculum they lost sight of our true goals of raising happy emotionally healthy children which will translate into emotionally healthy productive adults . I do think that the mechanchim and mechanchos are too entrenched in the system to be able to see objectively and make change. We need a strong leader to speak out strongly on this topic.

  18. Interesting point and i think there is a lot of validity. however, as some pointed out, ‘chilled’ people generlly arent the most successful. As a rule, a significant majority of successful people are the ones that put in an insane amount of hours, at least initially. Will children raised this way be up to the task? thats the question that we need to answer.
    Another point.
    How old are these children? does this work for teenagers, who are not quite as content with simply skating and jumping on a trampoline? One could argue that the author of the article is just reiterating an already commonly understood concept, namely, that younger children should be given more play time and less instruction. But as they grow older, is that a sustainable model? Thats the second question

    • Teenagers should be treated like adults and perhaps they would behave as such. Chilled people are rarely overachievers, but if you remove excuses from the boy, many will study with a passion rarely seen in school. The rest will realize it’s not the path for them and do something else productive with their lives.

  19. This letter is spot on. I did an informal poll on my end of the ocean as well. The large majority of parents agreed that their children are much calmer and doing so much better in this aspect.
    Sure it is not a permanent solution, but it would be great if we can learn from this experience for the betterment of the yeshiva system. Let’s see what worked well during Corona and implement the change that was not working until now.
    As I heard from a therapist (said with humor) “Now that school is closed, I don’t have that many children in my practice..!” This was said in a joking manner, but there is truth to it.

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