Q: My son is 12 years old and still doesn’t get to shul on time. He doesn’t like it when we — his parents — wake him up; however, he first rolls out of bed around the time he should be leaving the house to go to shul. It sometimes takes him almost half an hour to get ready, and he usually arrives in shul so late that he only gets approximately 35 minutes or less to daven. Then he rushes out to have breakfast and prepare a few things for school. I have tried offering rewards, but they don’t seem attractive enough for him to agree to start his day earlier. Very often he lies and claims that he arrived in shul earlier than I know he did. He does not have much cheshek for tefillah. I wish the schools would teach the meaning of the words of tefillah. I do not know how he will be on time once he becomes bar mitzvah.
What do you advise?
A: In order to answer your question more specifically, I would need to know more about your son — his interests and what motivates him.
But in general, the avodah of tefillah is difficult in our generation. An over-abundance of inflated self-confidence causes many people to attribute much of their success to their own efforts and often lose sight of the bigger picture.
Inspiration in davening can be achieved by delving into the gadlus haBorei. One or both parents should make time to sit with their children and really “see” the greatness of Hashem’s creations — be it the amazing workings of the human body or the unfathomable vastness of the galaxies. By doing so, a greater appreciation of Hashem’s continual hashgachah becomes a reality. The book Judaism Q&A, quoting the works of Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, published by Simchas Hachaim Publishing, reflects these concepts, and they can be discussed with your son.
Thinking about these ideas for two minutes before davening cannot help but improve the quality of any person’s tefillah.
Is your son late in general, in other areas of his life? If this is more of an across-the-board issue, it needs to be dealt with from a different focus.
Helping to problem-solve this issue, consider the idea of hergel naase teva sheini (our habits form our general personality). A parent has to work on possible ways to deal with perpetual lateness. Though there are those who go through their life with this tendency, it often creates very problematic consequences.
Your son needs to think of ways how he has motivated himself to get up on time in the past, and how he can utilize these thought patterns and techniques for the future.
As parents, you can suggest ideas that you have successfully worked out in areas of self-discipline (including the challenges that come with this personal self-development).