A: Rabbi Brezak gives the following powerful suggestions for getting our children involved and interested in this auspicious time of year. I have heard incredible feedback about his method, even from parents whose children were not very interested in anything religious at all. It entails having a series of three discussions with the children over a short period of time, either at each Shabbos seudah on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, or during the week, whenever is best for you. For each discussion, you should be prepared with a special or big treat they don’t usually get, which you will give them when they are all sitting. The health-conscious can give a healthy treat, but it should be a special one.
In the first discussion, tell them that they have given Hashem so much nachas this year. Start “counting” it up with them, approximating. (If this is done during the week you can use a calculator.) How many times did they daven this year? How many times did they say Shema? How many Shabboses did they keep? How much Torah did they learn? As each word of Torah brings tremendous nachas to Hashem, it’s pretty much impossible to count. How many brochos did they say? How many Amens did they answer? These are all things you can get some sort of number for.
After this, tell them that all that doesn’t even take into account all the times they were respectful, kind, thoughtful, and caring… Neither does it include the times they refrained from speaking lashon hara, the times they told the truth… Tell them that all this brings Hashem so much nachas, and that He is so proud of them. Finish by saying that they have also given you (the parents) so much nachas, and that you are extremely proud of them.
For the second discussion, tell them that now that we’ve counted how much nachas we’ve given Hashem, let’s count how much Hashem has done for us.
Ask them how many taffies did they have this year? How many sour sticks? How many gummies? Cookies? Ice cream? Pizza? Hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries? (Here too, the health–conscious can substitute.) Move on, and ask how many presents they got this year? How many new toys, books, games? How much new clothing, shoes? How many trips did they go on? Did they play in the snow? Did they go swimming?
Now — time for a fun exercise! Choose one child (they can all have a turn if they want, of course) and give him a task to do, such as turning on a light, drinking from a water bottle, picking up a toy from the floor….without using his hands! Have fun. When they’re done, start counting again. How many times did they use their hands this year? The number could be in the thousands — just in one day!
Describe the blessing of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, feet — a body that works without them even having to think about it or do anything! Conclude this discussion by saying how thankful we are to Hashem for giving us all of this good.
Start off the last discussion with a question. We say Ki laShem haMelucha, u’moshel bagoyim, “To Hashem is the Kingdom and He rules over the nations”. What is the difference between a king and a ruler? Let them offer their suggestions, commending them for their thoughts. Then tell them the answer. A king is someone who is crowned — the people desire that he should lead them. A ruler is someone who rules people that don’t want to be ruled — they are not willing participants. We Jews chose Hashem, and He chose us. We love Him, and He loves us. We want him to be our king. The other nations refused, they didn’t want to accept Hashem, and so He rules over them without their consent.
Explain that the biggest thing that we can “do” for Hashem is to crown Him our King. How do we do that? By trying our best on Rosh Hashanah to be nice to our family. By davening, even a little; even without a siddur or machzor, just using our own words. We can do this by thinking, before we perform our good deeds, that we are doing them in order to make Hashem our King willingly and lovingly. Children’s prayers are particularly powerful. Tell them this, and tell them to daven hard for what they want. And ask your children to please daven for you as well.
I wish all of you a kesiva vachasima tovah, and that you may see much success and satisfaction in your parenting this year.