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Dear Shimmy,

Our family attends synagogue every Shabbat. I did growing up, my husband did as well, and as a family it has always  been very important to us that we all go to shul together each week.  Recently, my 14-year-old daughter decided she's had enough of it.  She'd rather sleep in, she says, since she's tired from high school, and her friends don't go (or so she says--there are plenty of girls her age at our shul), so she thinks she should just be allowed to stay home and sleep in.  My husband and I think that's ridiculous--she can nap in the afternoon--and we're worried that she's setting a bad example for the younger kids (ages 8 and 11).  Each Shabbat morning now is an ordeal, with me standing watch over her while she gets out of bed and gets dressed, dawdling and whining like you wouldn't believe.  What should we do with her? How can we make her realize how important it is?

Another frustrated parent of a teen

Dear frustrated,

First, I find your commitment to attending shul as a family to be very beautiful. Personally, I have always felt shul attendance on Shabbat to be very important for the entire family. Going to shul is both an opportunity for an individual to connect with G-d through prayer and an opportunity to be part of the broader community. In our fast-paced world, Shabbat is a gift that allows us to connect with our family, friends, and community in a way that seems less possible when the TV is on, the phone is ringing, and the high-speed Internet connection is at work.

That being said, I recommend that you not attempt to force your daughter to go to shul. Your description of her resistance to going to shul is not that of a rebellious or out-of-control teen; rather, you seem to be describing a young lady who simply wants to make her own decisions. Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, in an article printed in Jewish Action magazine, offers an incredible analogy. Parenting young children, he says, is like managing workers: the parent makes decisions, gives instructions, and offers rewards and punishments so the child does what he or she should do. Parenting teens, however, is quite different. No longer, says Rabbi Shapiro, are parents like managers. Instead, it is as if they've been transferred out of Management and into the Sales Department. I believe that parents that continue to function as managers can do serious harm, not only to their relationship with their child but also, when it comes to religious issues, to their child's outlook on Judaism.

At the same time, teens do need limits, boundaries, and guidelines. Research on parenting styles has shown negative outcomes for both overly authoritarian and overly permissive parenting approaches. So practically speaking, what can you do?

Here is what I recommend: First, because your daughter's desire to be in control is so clear, I would urge you to give her some control over this discussion. Let her know that you and your husband realize that the situation with shul on Shabbat is not working out--for her or for you--and ask her when, in the next day or two, she'd be available to speak with you about it to hopefully work out a mutually acceptable solution. Together with her, make a time when you can sit down, without distractions, and discuss the issue.

When having the discussion, listen to her concerns and remind her of yours. Before the meeting, come up with two possible compromise (or what I call, "win-win") solutions. Perhaps you'd be willing to let her sleep late and come to shul for Mussaf, or perhaps you'd be willing to let her sleep in every second week provided she comes with you on the previous Shabbat. Offer her these options, and ask her if she has another solution that she thinks could work for everyone. Let her know, however, that you're not willing to have her sleep through shul every week; this is an important family tradition, and as you noted, her participation can influence the other children as well. Hopefully, she'll feel the shift in your approach, and will then be able to both "make her own decision" and "do the right thing."

P.S. I highly recommend the article that I referenced by Rabbi Shapiro . It's entitled, "What Can a Parent Do? Preventing Teenage Rebellion in Your Family," and it can be downloaded from the Orthodox Union web site at  http://www.ou.org/publications/ja/5759summer/parenthelp.pdf.