Parents Ditching Religious School and Headphones in the Car

By Catherine Pearlman

September 24, 2016 4 min read




Parents Ditching Religious School and Headphones in the Car

Dear Family Coach: My kids attend religious school every Sunday. Every now and then the school requires parents to join a service. My husband and I feel that we did our time in religious school, and we really don't enjoy attending the services. We find a way to skip them. The kids are beginning to catch on. Are we being bad role models, or is a little hooky warranted? — Sick of Hebrew School

Dear Sick: I feel your pain literally every Sunday. Unfortunately, most children don't enjoy religious school, especially when secular school is becoming increasingly demanding. When the children who hate religious studies grow up, they usually want to pass on those lessons to their children. But they often sign them up for the dreaded school because of feeling unequipped to teach them themselves. Not surprisingly, many of those parents aren't interested in reliving the experience.

Making religious education enjoyable and exciting to children is a daunting task. Schools around the world try various methods to help the children stay engaged, and to help families internalize some of the traditions.

I'm guessing that you didn't sign your kids up just to torture them. You probably care about transmitting knowledge, values and traditions to them. While it may not be particularly fun for you, if that goal is truly important to you, then you must stop avoiding the family services. Playing hooky only on the days you are meant to attend sends mixed messages to your children. The result will likely be ramped-up efforts to ditch the school completely.

Maybe instead of sitting it out or sulking in the last row, try speaking with the leaders of your institution to find more enjoyable ways to achieve the goals.

Dear Family Coach: My 13-year-old daughter likes to listen to music on her phone almost all the time. She puts on her headphones in the car when I am driving. I try to talk to her, but she can't hear me. Is it unreasonable to ask her to take off her headphones when we are in the car together? — Ignored

Dear Ignored: Nope, it isn't unreasonable. Teens often get a pass from maintaining the same standards of living as every other member of society just because they are hormonal. But that pass becomes ingrained. If young adults are permitted to behave in unacceptable ways, they see no benefit in trying to do better.

I cannot imagine driving in my car with someone plugged into headphones and pretending I don't exist. Common courtesy requires people to at least make small pleasantries when in the company of others. Starting this practice in childhood allows children to perfect it by adulthood.

Those headphones are a ruse and a cope out. You are letting your daughter off easy. And you are wasting an opportunity by allowing her to zone out. When children are in the presence of their parents but aren't sitting directly in front of them, and there aren't other possible activities, they are much more likely to open up and talk about their lives. Don't continue to let your daughter off the hook. Sure, there will be plenty of pushback. She will not like the change. Hang tough, and give it a week. She will be chatting it up in no time.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. 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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