An Uncooperative Bar Mitzvah Boy and a Budding Rapper

By Catherine Pearlman

May 12, 2018 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My son is scheduled to have his bar mitzvah next year, and it's a very important event for our family. Unfortunately, he doesn't see it that way. He never practices; he drags his feet to Hebrew school; and he has said repeatedly that he doesn't care about Judaism. What can I do to change his attitude? — Kosher Pickle

Dear Kosher: This is a tough one because it involves faith and family and so many things you clearly hold dear. However, you're pretty limited in what can be done. I'm guessing you've explained why his bar mitzvah is an important event. He likely knows the significance of the ritual and the history of the Jewish people. And yet, none of that has swayed him. At this point, you have two choices. You can continue to beg and bribe him until he finally makes it to the event. But you can't complain if he doesn't wow the crowd. The other option is to do absolutely nothing.

Bar mitzvahs are supposed to be meaningful, and if they're not, what's the point? Why force him to work toward something that means little to him? Why spend all that money and all that time planning an event?

If you back off, your son might decide he is actually more interested. And if he doesn't, then there's a possibility he will decide to follow the tradition and have a bar mitzvah as an adult. At that point it would be significantly more meaningful. Force-feeding religion often backfires because it feels more like a punishment than a gift. So give your son time, and exercise patience. I know it's not ideal, but it may well work out better in the long run.

Dear Family Coach: My daughter is 16, and she's decided she wants to be a professional rapper. At first I didn't take this very seriously, but I recently came upon several notebooks of her rhymes. They're profane and gross, and they make no sense. She has played a few local shows and insists her music will be her ticket to an amazing life. What can I do to stop this? — The Fresh Mom of Despair

Dear Mom: Your daughter is 16. That's the heart of the age when teens experiment with their voice, their wardrobe, their thinking and their behavior. Sometimes teens have crazy fantasies about their adult life-to-be. It doesn't mean it will all stick. So for now, let her rap. Let her write awful lyrics; let her curse; let her perform and do shows. She's expressing herself, and that's not such a bad thing. Even if you don't approve of her vehicle of expression, she is probably better off letting it out than keeping it in.

If it's even remotely possible (aka it wouldn't embarrass her), try going to see her in action. Even if you think she's terrible, find something you admire. Be proud of her charisma and confidence to stand before people and express herself. She will likely be overjoyed you showed an interest.

Truth be told, this is a real opportunity for you to deepen your relationship. Talk to her about her music. Ask her about the lyrics and what inspires her. Make clear that as long as her grades stay up and she doesn't lose focus on academics (keeping her options open), you will support her. Who knows? Maybe the next Nicki Minaj is living under your roof.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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