The story is told about a rabbi who had just completed an impassioned forty-five minute sermon when he was approached by a rather restless individual who recently joined his congregation. “Rabbi,” he said, “I am a radio producer and that outstanding speech you just gave would be perfect for the huge audience we have each week.” The rabbi was understandably flattered and said that he would accept the offer.
The fellow then asked if the rabbi could condense all the beautiful content of that lecture into a three-minute clip which he would pass on to the management of his radio show. When the rabbi responded that this could easily be done, the congregant asked him, “So; why didn’t you do that when you wrote your speech the first time?”
One need not be an educational expert to notice that the attention span of children and adults is plummeting nowadays, due in no small part to the exponential increase in the pace of our lives and the rapid-fire nature of digital communication. Ignoring this very real fact on the ground will, in all likelihood, increase the risk that we ourselves may be ignored. When the eldest talmidim in Yeshiva Darchei Noam, where I serve as Dean, began reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah seven years ago, I made it my practice to limit my speeches on those occasions to ten minutes. Recently, I lowered that and never go past a firm five minutes as I’ve noticed that people’s minds wander when I go beyond that time frame.
With that in mind; I was pleased that the editors of Hamodia accepted my offer (I kept all our conversations very brief) to run a regular parenting column that will be geared to those among us with shorter attention spans. Some of these mini-essays will be serious in nature while others will be a bit light-hearted; but it is my hope that they will all have meaningful, take-away chinuch lessons that will help you parent your children in these challenging times. The message of these lines is a mathematical formula that I wrote especially for this column: “The effectiveness of the guidance you give your children (especially your teenagers) is inversely proportional to the length of your presentation.”
I named this series of columns “Reflective Parenting” as so much of the chinuch our children absorb is a reflection of our own actions and because reflecting on our parenting techniques is of such paramount importance.
As I sat down to write this first article, I was reminded of an adorable poster that a friend of mine shared with me several years back. It shows two fellows walking in a park and one remarked to the other, “Well, I have A.D.D. and that’s why I often … HEY; look at that squirrel!”
I hope you find these columns meaningful, and I welcome your comments and thoughts.
© 2010, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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