OP-ED: The Dangers of Excessive Discipline in Yeshivos




    Springfield Banner

    OP-ED: The Dangers of Excessive Discipline in Yeshivos

    The strict discipline often imposed in yeshivos can have negative effects on the mental and emotional well-being of the bochurim, hindering their spiritual growth and connection with hashem. In this op-ed, Moshe Hertz explores the importance of finding a balance between discipline and autonomy in order to create a supportive and nurturing environment for spiritual development • Full Article

    By Moshe Hertz

    As a society, we place a great emphasis on education and the spiritual growth of our young people. However, in many Yeshivos, the focus on strict discipline and external obedience may be doing more harm than good.

    It is no secret that the Hanhola in many Yeshivos can be quite strict, often imposing strict rules and harsh punishment for infractions. While discipline is important, it is crucial that we recognize the potential for these practices to cause trauma and anxiety in the Bochurim.

    In the Torah, education includes the use of punishment. However, the guiding principle for discipline for Jews is “The Left Hand Pushes Aside, While the Right One Brings Closer.” This means that punishment should be used sparingly and with the goal of ultimately bringing the individual closer to the desired behavior or understanding, rather than pushing them away.

    Research has shown that excessive punishment and a lack of autonomy can have negative effects on children, leading to decreased motivation and increased feelings of powerlessness. This is particularly concerning in the context of spiritual growth, as a rigid, fear-based approach to learning may not allow the Bochurim to truly internalize and connect with their studies. 

    The foundations of effective education are trust and love. When a teacher has a strong belief in and love for their student, they can use disciplinary measures effectively. This means that the more a teacher brings a student closer with care and trust, the more effective it is to use punishment sparingly to push the student away from undesirable behavior. 

    Practically speaking, when a teacher shows trust in, and love for, his students, discipline problems usually do not arise. As such, love and trust really preempt discipline problems; if such problems do on occasion develop, however, punishment can be discreetly and effectively used.

    To effectively address common discipline problems, it is important to identify the root cause of the behavior. This may involve examining factors such as a lack of self-confidence, lack of interest, a desire for attention, exhaustion, lack of motivation, or the student’s position in the class.

    A good strategy for addressing these issues is to use a chart to track the Bochur’s attendance, attentiveness, relationships with other Bochurim and teachers, and other relevant factors. It is also important to speak to the Bochur and try to avoid punishment whenever possible.

    For example, if a Bochur is talking during Shiur, it could be because they are bored or because they have already learned the material. In this case, a harsh approach may damage the teacher’s relationship with the Bochur, so it is important to be cautious and sensitive to their needs.

    In other cases, a Bochur may chatter because he does not understand, and has simply lost his train of thought. It may be better for this latter type of pupil to go to sleep; each time he talks, you can punish him, but when he sleeps, you do not. (He’ll understand on his own which behavior is more feasible!) This, of course, is an ad-hoc solution.

    As I mentioned earlier, one must make every effort to discover the reason for the given behavior and to deal with the problem seriously. Sometimes, a Bochur will sleep in Shiur simply because he was used to sleeping many more hours when living and home, and not in a yeshiva dormitory. Alternatively, he may be experiencing intellectual or emotional overload, and his way of dealing with the pressure is to nod off.

    Ultimately It is important that we find a balance between discipline and autonomy in our Yeshivos. By creating a more supportive and nurturing environment, we can allow Bochurim to focus on their learning and spiritual growth without the fear of punishment hanging over their heads. This will not only improve their mental and emotional well-being, but it will also allow them to approach their service to God with a sense of authenticity and passion.

    It is our responsibility to create a positive and healthy atmosphere for the spiritual development of our young Bochurim. Let’s work towards creating yeshivos that prioritize the well-being and growth of their Bochurim.


    Tags: , , ,

    Add Comment

    *Only proper comments will be allowed

    Related Posts:

    OP-ED: The Dangers of Excessive Discipline in Yeshivos